Dr. Susan Kornstein and her husband, investor Lee Krumbein, had anticipated this evening from the time they broke ground on their French-Mediterranean-styled villa nearly four years ago. Theirs would be a house with spacious rooms, generous outdoor areas and a relaxed flow for entertaining. They would be able to receive guests at the front steps on the stone veranda, then sweep them inside to the marble hallway, the great room and dining room, and out onto the stone terrace with its pool and spa. Comfortable seating and stimulating objects d’art would be everywhere, all personally chosen to reflect their passions and interests.
Working with architect Michael Foltz and builder Tony Pitts, they created a dramatic, white stucco villa overlooking the James River valley in the community of Lockgreen.
Robert Rentz teamed with the pair to design the interior, which continues to develop as spaces are filled and treasures found on the couple’s frequent travels. “We didn’t want other people to decide for us what our home would be,” Kornstein says. “We had a real team, and they were just extraordinary in working with us.”
Kornstein is an internationally known researcher, author and professor with expertise in women’s mental health. She is editor of the first textbook on the subject, has won numerous awards for her research, service and leadership, and is, among other responsibilities, executive director of the Institute for Women’s Health.
It earned an important distinction as the party was being planned: the institute has been designated a national Center of Excellence in Women’s Health by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. As news of the sought-after award reached the MCV Foundation committee that was planning the benefit, it became clear that there was a new element to celebrate.
“What made the event so special,” Kornstein says, “was not only the debut of the house but the momentous occasion, the history of how the institute got here. It was a real feeling of celebration and this occasion made it doubly so.”
Planning began in late spring around the kitchen table. David Napier’s White House Catering came on board for food and beverage service, creating a detailed menu that avoided red wines or drippy sauces. (It’s a no-stain strategy to protect carpets and upholstery.)
Grandiflora’s Rick Bridgforth and Rick Lunsford envisioned an extravagant display of fresh flowers, orchids, palms and foliage for indoor and outdoor spaces. Invitations featuring a portrait in the home’s living room were created and mailed to guests, dignitaries and benefactors. Gift bags with notecards, chocolate truffles, brass bookmarks and literature were stuffed with gold foil and readied for each guest.
Napier and crew arrived two days before the event to set up tables and chairs, set up their work area in the garage and begin roasting tenderloins. By the morning of the party, Grandiflora’s team was massing orchids and palms throughout the house. Large, exotic arrangements sparked every table, serving as conversation pieces while enhancing the home’s vibrantly colored artwork and furnishings.
As guests arrived, Krumbein met them on the veranda with glasses of champagne. The serving staff passed appetizers, bartenders worked four beverage stations, and guests moved from room to room sampling Napier’s signature crab cakes and “the most delicious lamb chops I’ve ever eaten,” Kornstein says, grinning.
“The glow is still around me,” Lee Krumbein adds. “It was really a fun and elegant event. The guests were very gregarious and stayed late, and MCV Foundation helped pull everything together, so we had a great time.” They helped raise a significant amount for the Institute’s endowment and built goodwill among those interested in women’s health.
Sharon Larkins-Pederson, who helped spearhead the event, summed up the evening’s success: “God smiled on us.” HS
Petite crab cakes
Croustades with Gruyere cheese, cheddar-scallion and roasted pepper fondue
Cherry tomatoes with a feta, basil and pine nut stuffing
Grilled and chilled shrimp with champagne vinaigrette dipping sauce
Grilled petite lamb chops with apple-mint compote or Roquefort demi-glaze
Thinly sliced, medium-rare tenderloin of Angus beef with fresh horseradish and dinner rolls
Imported cheeses and pates and a vegetarian terrine
Imported brie baked in flaky pastry with raspberry glaze and roasted pecans
Marinated and roasted asparagus spears and seasonal vegetables, served with sweet bell pepper strips and a balsamic vinaigrette for dipping
Petite sandwiches of smoked turkey and havarti with maple mustard
Smoked whole salmon with smoked salmon mousse, garnishes and caviar
New potatoes with cream fraiche, chives and spicy Hungarian paprika
Praline cheesecake on shortbread crust
Cream-filled lemon bars
Knowing how to work with professionals keeps the party pumping.
David Napier of White House Catering suggests these guidelines for planning and staging a great event with a caterer:
Work with the caterer to develop a theme and determine your preferences. Themes make parties more lively, and special events or celebrations put guests in a festive mood.
The more personalized the party, the more memorable it will be for guests and hosts.
Use a checklist. The caterer should have one to determine who is responsible for what. Do you need table and chair rentals or tableware? Who will supply linens? Will the food be butlered (passed by servers on trays) or on a buffet table? The more functions the caterer must perform, the more costly the event will be. To save money, do more of the coordinating and let the caterer concentrate on food.
Determine how the caterer will have access to the house, and whether there is a side entrance and a place to park a catering van. For the Kornstein-Krumbein event, Napier and staff used the garage as a staging area for the food service, so that the kitchen would be available for guests to gather.
Caterers need to use the countertops, but not always the refrigerator. Clearing enough counter space or providing adequate worktables is essential to a well-run event.
During the caterer’s party preparations at your home, keep interruptions to a minimum. No dogs or cats, no children, no small talk to distract the caterer from the job: to make the food perfect. It’s okay to watch from the sidelines, but don’t expect a cooking lesson with commentary.
Plan to have six to eight items of food for an appealing table. “I usually try to have one red meat, one poultry and a seafood, then cheese with fruit, upscale vegetables (no carrots or broccoli) and a dessert,” Napier says. “That’s the skeleton, and then we might add a carving station for prime rib or smoked turkey, or more specialty cheeses. That way we can give everybody something they like, whether they’re vegetarians or on the Atkins diet or whatever.”
Each bottle of wine allows 5 or 6 glasses. A fifth of liquor makes 20 drinks, and a liter makes 30.
“Buy more vodka and bourbon, less scotch and gin,” Napier suggests. “Make it a simple, good highball bar. Get one bottle of tonic and one of club soda for each bottle of white liquor, then a mix of two soft drinks per person. For juice, if I’m keeping it simple, I use cranberry and possibly orange. But most people are asking for cranberry these days.”
“Or make a theme drink at the bar – a kamikaze or special daiquiri or cosmopolitan. Put that in pretty glasses and it gives the party a nice bump,” Napier says.
Plan to have fun. It’s a party, and if the hosts are relaxed and enjoying themselves, the guests will, too.