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Elizabeth JamesAs I walked into the Belle Meade Starbucks to meet with Elizabeth James, I couldn’t wait to talk to her. Having experienced her magic and extraordinary taste at multiple well planned events, I knew on a personal level she had to be a consummate entertainer.

So, when I poised the question, “If you were going to throw a late summer tete-a-tete, where would you start?”

She didn’t hesitate: “Go seasonal!”

When she’s not planning an event on the weekend, her first stop is the Franklin Farmers Market on Saturday morning.  She has found everything there from bunches of basil and gorgeous heirloom tomatoes to antlers for a centerpiece.  Breads, cheeses, flowers – it is all there in one stop.  The Nashville Farmers Market open seven days a week also yields some unique seasonal delights: everything from berries GALORE for a cobbler to the little known fresh cantaloupe juice sold through the Market’s resident Mexican restaurant .

Elizabeth James offers her ideas on the ideal summer gathering:

The Setting

Bring the inside out, and don’t hold back!  Drag your dining room chairs, candelabras, silver pieces – even if they’re in storage – outside to create a unusual party setting.  Other fun ideas are to mix up your china and silver patterns, be creative, buy a linen and burlap fabric with summer tones and add splashes of color EVERYWHERE.  Don’t hold back on lighting, especially when it comes to scented candles around your home and bathrooms; unscented are a must for your dining table.  Let’s face it we ALL look better when the dimmer switch is ON and a candle’s glow casts gorgeous shadows.


ejranunculusWhat’s great about summer is there are so many choices, from a bunch of Queen Anne’s lace gathered from a field, to varieties of marigolds, zinnias and sunflowers.  Elizabeth mentioned one of her preferred is a bunch of Ranunculus, which means “you are radiant with charm” (no wonder they are Elizabeth’s fav) especially arranged in a lovely silver container – be it mint julep or hand blown vase.


Plan the music to set the tone of your party.  Aren’t we lucky to be able to program our iPods so easily to help create the mood for our party?  Elizabeth loves to go to the Iron Gate in Franklin and scour their music turn-style for CDs from groups like Pink Martini, Hotel Costas, Carla Bruni.  Her absolute fave, hands down, is the soundtrack from the movie “Somthings Gotta Give”.  Another suggestion is to check out Gwenyth Paltrow’s blog GOOP for her favorite play-lists. (we list goop on our blogroll- we love it!)


To serve or not to serve?  Do we ALWAYS need to hire a bartender and wait staff?   According to Elizabeth, if you can enjoy the party, TRULY ENJOY IT – as if you are a guest – without hired help, then save your money.  Stack the dishes when your guests have gone with sweet dreams.  BOTTOM LINE.  This is your party too!  If you need to hire help to enjoy, it’s worth the money spent.


Summer food should be light, seasonal and easy.  Elizabeth has a share in the CSA/Arugula’s Star Farm so lots of her food choices are dictated by what’s in her basket.   Together with her sister Jeannette (the wonderful and lovely), they pride themselves in creative menus with a certain je ne sais quoi.

Here is one of their quick menus for the PERFECT evening:

Cocktail:  Lemon Verbena Vodka Cooler  Image courtesy of

Cocktail: Lemon Verbena Vodka Cooler Image courtesy of

Appetizer:  Summer Borscht (inspired by Jeannette)

Appetizer: Summer Borscht (inspired by Jeannette)

Entree: Tomato Pie, Corn Stuffed Tomato, Cantaloupe & Pan-Fried Tilapia

Entree: Tomato Pie, Corn Stuffed Tomato, Cantaloupe & Pan-Fried Tilapia

Dessert: Easy and Delicious Berry Cobbler

Dessert: Easy and Delicious Berry Cobbler

OK, now that you are totally salivating and saying to yourself,  “I want the recipes,” You’ll GET  THEM.  Only one caveat: it comes in the form of delayed gratification as we are posting those tomorrow.  After meeting with Elizabeth, I went directly home and made her famous Tomato Pie.   Delicious.  Tune in tomorrow.


Outstanding in the Field:  A Farm to Table Cookbook by Jim Denevan
Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten
Fresh Everyday, Great recipes from Foster’s Market by Sara Foster
Charleston Magazine
And hand’s down, Elizabeth’s sister Jeannette.

To contact Elizabeth:  [email protected]

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