Entertaining with Alexis Swanson Traina

Gracious Napa Valley hostess (and Lonny November feature subject) Alexis Swanson Traina shares her strategies for three different party scenarios, from a whimsical birthday fête to a casual fall tasting.


Wine Tasting with Friends
 
“Because wine tasting can be fussy, I like to serve casually, using stemless Riedel glasses or crystal-glass Dixie cups,” Traina says. “For fall, I’d put out a cheese platter or pair my newest red-wine obsession with a slew of exotic bars of dark chocolate. For summer, I’d serve a dry rosé with fried chicken or deviled eggs.”


Grown-Up Dinner Party
“I live to entertain with a nostalgic spirit—I love old-fashioned music and cocktails. I’m a fan of all-American menus, so I serve dishes such as meatloaf, potpies, crawfish, and crabs. I’m always on the hunt for intriguing ways to resurrect old recipes. From there, it’s about adding charming entertainment: an accordion player, or a pianist on an old upright piano. For ambience, I’m a sucker for candlelight—preferably from candelabras.”


Birthday Gathering for Family 
“Cakes are such big business in our house—and we work with Perfect Endings, the most amazing bakery. They can create anything. We’ve had quirky, elaborate birthday cakes in the shape of pirate ships, jewelry boxes, the Golden Gate Bridge, a favorite slipper, hardback books, baby bassinettes… Give my family any reason to celebrate and we’ll find the right cake for the occasion!”
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