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A Colorful Birthday Party for Ellie, the Inspiring "Girl on a Mission"

What better way to live than in color? Here's one rainbow-bursting bash that raised a glass to life and one very special woman living hers to the fullest. 

It Began With One Big Idea...

Lynda Marren may know a thing or two about throwing great parties. As owner and founder of Just Add Salt, a company that creates memorable culinary experiences, planning was all part of the fun. But as her sister Ellie's birthday came closer, Lynda knew this year's celebration had to be extra (extra!) special. It was not because Ellie was topping her cake with a significant number of candles, but because she had spent the last year fighting cancer for the third time. Not to mention, as an oncologist, she's also been working to find a cure. Lynda realized in order to truly celebrate a colorful life, a colorful birthday was a must.

...And An Even Bigger Mission

Lynda knew she wanted to host the event in The Mission District of their San Francisco town as it is one "full of life and spirit, just like Ellie." Soon, event planner and designer (and friend!) Heather Ferrai of All Set stepped in. She coined the perfect party tag line: "Ellie. A Girl on a Mission," which inspired many of the themes to come.

Bringing An Idea To Life

From the invitations down to the cocktail napkins, Ellie's sunny spirit was the main muse. Graphic designers Robinson Paperie created the event's logo and invites, quickly setting the mood for one colorful affair. 

Finding Beauty in the Details

The night began with a bar and restaurant crawl, including a guided local tour, for guests to learn all about The Mission. After snagging flower crowns and custom "Ellie" tattoos (required party attire!) the crew soaked up local art and culture on the way to their main venue. 

Making an Entrance

Greeting guests as they walked in -- an actual rainbow (and photo opp that truly popped!) 

From the show-stopping 25-foot balloon garland by Zim Balloon Specialties to an eclectic mix of bouquets in turquoise pots and brass bud bases from Loop Flowers, the party nook looked like a dream. Central Kitchen's raw, industrial event space -- vaulted ceiling, cracked white cemet walls, massive paned windows -- had been transformed, inspired by the vibrancy of The Mission's murals and colorful street art. 

The birthday girl's favorite flowers, peonies, were overflowing from every vessel. 

Stay a While

As guests found their seats, they were welcomed with a tablescape featuring linens from La Tavola and the stunning California Collection from tabletop rentals company, Frances Lane. With a backdrop of live acoustic music by Jeremy Ting, everyone was ready to feast.

The Dinner Menu

Served family-style, the meal featured locally sourced ingredients from Northern California, culminating in a spread as colorful as it was delicious. 

  • The first main -- Fava Bean Tortelli -- included meyer lemon, morels, and pistachios.

  • Rainbow trout -- cooked with parsnips, cherry relish, and hazelnut -- and whipped potatoes topped with chicken cracklings and chives rounded off the savory part of the night.

  • Alongside braised short ribs with ramps and leeks, guests enjoyed roasted chicken with grilled lemon, calabrian chili and sea salt.

  • cocktail-on-table

    To wash it all down? Craft cocktails from Trick Dog: "The Optimist" -- a concotion of Absolut Elyx vodka, Grind coffee liqueur, earl grey, soy milk, thyme, and lemon served on crushed ice.

  • The first main -- Fava Bean Tortelli -- included meyer lemon, morels, and pistachios.

  • Alongside braised short ribs with ramps and leeks, guests enjoyed roasted chicken with grilled lemon, calabrian chili and sea salt.

  • Rainbow trout -- cooked with parsnips, cherry relish, and hazelnut -- and whipped potatoes topped with chicken cracklings and chives rounded off the savory part of the night.

  • cocktail-on-table

    To wash it all down? Craft cocktails from Trick Dog: "The Optimist" -- a concotion of Absolut Elyx vodka, Grind coffee liqueur, earl grey, soy milk, thyme, and lemon served on crushed ice.

Here's to Her: A Grand Finale!

With great music, eats, and overall ambience, Ferrai remembers everyone being moved to stand and raise a toast to Ellie and her accomplishments, as a mother, doctor, researcher and friend. "It was an inspiring night for all and one that will be remembered forever," she says. "Ellie is, in fact, 'a girl on a mission' -- a mission that will change the world. 

Credits

Event Planning & Design: All Set Events | @allsetevents

Client: Just Add Salt | @justaddsalt_

Décor & Design Photographer: Olive & Shay | @shayandolive

Portrait & Event Photographer: Arrowood Photography | @arrowoodphotography

Balloon Garland: Zim Balloon Specialties | @balloonspecialtiesbayarea

Florist: Loop Flowers | @loopflowers

Musician: Jeremy Ting | @djeremyting

Graphic Designer & Printed Materials: Robinson Paperie | @robinsonpaperie

Birthday Cake: Pretty Please Bake Shop | @prettypleasesf

Party Bus: Bauer's Transportation

Tabletop Rentals: France's Lane | @frances_lane

Linens: La Tavola Linens | @latavolalinen

Oversized Banner: Touchplate

Venue: Central Kitchen | @centralkitchen

Cocktails & Appetizers: El Techo | @eltechosf

Cocktails: Wildhawk | @wildhawk_sf

Cocktails: Trick Dog | @trickdogbar