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athena calderone
How to Entertain Beautifully Every Season

How to Entertain Beautifully Every Season

In this excerpt from "Cook Beautiful," Athena Calderone, the celebrated interior designer, cook, and creator of EyeSwoon, shares her favorite entertaining touches to add a seasonal feel to your dinner table -- and to give your guests sweet memories to take home. 


Pretty Little Things

Let fall’s rustic vibe inform even the tiniest touches on your table. Use simple leather cord or twine to tie your napkins, tucking in a few foraged elements like pinecones and wheat sprigs for texture. And while place cards can often feel fussy, kraft paper brings them down to earth. Use your prettiest script for a bit of juxtaposition.

Herbal Essence

In fall, there’s almost always a baking sheet of veggies roasting in my oven. Herb-infused olive oil gives them a little extra oomph -- and makes a perfect take-home gift for guests. Just add a few sprigs of hearty, full-flavored herbs like rosemary, sage, and thyme to your favorite extra-virgin variety. Clear glass, cork-topped bottles like these are easy to find online.

Give Thanks

Spark meaningful conversations -- and add a handmade touch -- by printing simple brown paper lunch bags with your favorite quotes about gratitude. Expressing thanks puts a beautiful meal with loved ones in perspective. Guests can read the quotes aloud at the table, and then bring the bags home filled with candied nuts or other sweet treats.


On the Menu

There are few things more festive than handwritten menus -- even when they’re not actually written by hand. Rather than hiring a calligrapher, select a scrolling script font and pop some pretty paper into your printer. Here, I used watercolor paper, tearing the edges and dabbing on watered down ink, which bleeds to form a subtle, organic pattern.

Well Seasoned

During citrus season, I love to flavor sea salt with a blend of zest and herbs. It not only livens up roast fish or poultry, it also serves as a mouthwatering memento of the meal for guests to take home.

Spice Things Up

Whole spices like nutmeg, allspice, star anise, and cinnamon are too beautiful to keep hidden away in a drawer. And, especially during the holiday season, their sweet, warm scents feel festive without being overpowering. Here, I used the sculptural little gems to decorate a side table, alongside spicy sachets that guests can use at home to simmer mulled wine.


On the Rocks

Spring’s swoony beauty can, in fact, be frozen in time. Edible flowers and herbs, preserved in cubes of ice, are the prettiest additions to just about any spring cocktail.

The Divine Vine

Sometimes the best vase is no vase at all. Here, I laid delicate spring-y vines directly on the white linen tablecloth, weaving their leaves and tendrils between a row of simple, hand-glazed candlesticks.

Plant Your Place

This time of year, when herbs and microgreens are so abundant, it seems only natural to include them on the table, as well as in the food. Dainty ceramic pots planted with delicate sprouts serve as chic place card holders and thoughtful parting gifts.


Share the Love

I make berry crostata for just about every summer gathering -- and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked for my recipe. A handwritten recipe card -- along with a pint of local fruit -- serves as a sweet takeaway for guests.

Clip, Snip, and Forage

I appreciate the artistry that goes into fancy floral arrangements, but more often than not, I forgo the florist shop and head into my backyard with a pair of clippers instead. Some of my favorite trimmings are sprigs from my blueberry bush -- they’re almost more beautiful when unripe -- which I display in earthy ceramic vessels.

Catch Some Rays

Don’t overlook the power of the sun. Textured glassware filled with water sparkles in summer’s early evening light, reflecting dappled, dancing shadows on an outdoor table. Meanwhile, everyone’s favorite summer wine, rosé, casts the prettiest pink glow.