When you get invited to a dinner party at Britt Maren and Derek Orrell’s Brooklyn apartment, there’s no need to even check your calendar: the answer is an immediate “yes.” Britt’s a successful model and passionate foodie/baker, and Derek was most recently the renowned executive chef at The Heyward, and is now in the early stages of developing his own restaurant (and together, they form what is quite possibly the world’s most beautiful couple.) Thanks to their shared love of football, the fall season offered the perfect excuse to invite friends for a game-day meal highlighting their favorite winter ingredients, and they let us stop by and spy on them as they prepped. Of course, we used it as an opportunity to drill Britt on their secrets to throwing a laid-back party with loads of style, so click through the slides for the 4-1-1. Hint: there’s not a hot wing or nacho in site.
*photos: Belathée Photography
How they met.
Derek and I met several years ago in Barcelona. He used to model before he transitioned into cooking, and we happened to share an agency while we were both spending a couple months living and working there. One day at the agency he met my parents who were visiting me. They introduced us and then we continued on to lunch and I didn’t see or speak to him again, although apparently he asked for my info from the bookers. Late that year, we met again through mutual friends in NYC and began dating a few months after that.
We’ve lived here for 3 1/2 years. We were ready to make a place feel like home, and it’s been so lovely to be in Brooklyn. We are still so close to all the craziness of Manhattan, but on weekdays here it’s still quite peaceful and neighborhood-like. I did most of the design myself, and ended up re-doing it after being here for a year and getting a feel for it. We both love the rustic feel of wood but like to mix in modern touches to keep it light and bright. We have a rooftop space with lovely city views where we grill, hangout, and grow a garden.
Sunday Afternoon Football Menu:
- Delicata squash and grain salad, toasted nuts, sage & feta
- Roast porchetta
- Beet chips with pumpkin hummus
- Bourbon maple ciders
Must-have entertaining tool.
A well-equipped kitchen is probably most important to us when entertaining.
Entertaining rule they rarely break.
Don’t get too caught up in making everything perfect that you can’t enjoy the party yourself! Grab a glass of wine and spend some time with your guests.
Click here to get the recipe for their Bourbon Maple Cider.
What scares them about entertaining.
Not much these days! We do it pretty frequently, and most of our friends are just thrilled when Derek offers to cook for them. Timing is definitely an important factor to consider though!
Always in their refrigerator.
We always have kale, lemons, almond butter, almond milk, apples, Sriracha and eggs on hand. Plus multiple types of sweets, grapes, and New Mexican green chile in the freezer, of course (Derek grew up in Albuquerque.) Fresh herbs from our garden help spruce up any at-home meal.
Signature entertaining dish.
Whatever is fresh at the market that day. We like to just go and see what is in season and jumps out at us. Derek gets inspired, and usually doesn’t plan exactly what he’s making until he’s actually cooking it. I typically handle the desserts, and lately have been loving crumbles- they are so delicious and have that beautiful rustic look. It’s easy to change them up based on the season too, whether it’s pear, sage & ginger in the fall, or blackberry & basil in the summer.
Here’s our dog Zeus (a puggle.) He’s 7 years old and we’ve had him since he was 8 weeks old. He’s typically always a part of any gathering as he likes to be involved in the action (or get extra attention).
Current favorite color palette for parties.
I tend to always love neutrals: grey, white, ivory, and nude, with pops of gold here and there. Our wedding had a similar vibe. Derek likes white plates for plating the meal, so the focus remains on the food. This time of year, I love adding in a deep plum or burgundy note as well.
The tastes they’re always craving.
I have a huge sweet tooth, so any dessert or baked goods. Carrot cake may be my favorite dessert of all time. Derek craves tacos on a regular basis, or anything smothered in New Mexican green chile.
The perfect dinner party playlist includes:
Some good soul music: Al Green, Otis Redding, and Aretha Franklin would be perfect. Soul pairs nicely with cooking and dining: it’s upbeat but doesn’t overpower the conversation.
The restaurant meal they’ll never forget.
New York has a ton of great food, but we recently had a fantastic meal at Betony. Derek says the pig’s head for two (which he had for one) was life-changing. I love the vegetable-forward menu at Semilla. It’s here in Williamsburg and just got its first Michelin star, which is exciting!
Click here for the recipe to Britt & Derek’s wild grain & winter squash salad.
Standard host / hostess outfit.
Derek is usually cooking, so nothing too fancy! He loves Hedley & Bennett chef coats and aprons. I will act as his sous chef, and then change into something a bit more chic yet still comfortable, like black leather skinny pants and a cozy cashmere sweater. Cool shoes and statement jewelry can spruce up an otherwise simple outfit.
Dream dinner guests.
Anyone who brings good conversation and lots of laughs to the table. Ideally a mix of our best friends and family, including those we don’t get to see often.
Click here for the recipe to Derek’s Roasted New Mexican Green Chile Porchetta.
Secrets to a great dinner party.
Prepping a lot before guests arrive, a sharp knife, and plenty of food and drinks!
Entertaining style in 5 words or less.
Seasonal, comforting, market-driven, simple yet sophisticated.