When Natasha Lawler admitted to us that friends from all over the US fly in to attend her annual Saint Patrick’s Day party, I have to admit that even we were a bit skeptical. We love a blowout as much as the next person, but seriously, who travels across the country for an event that’s not baby- or wedding-related? The answer: anyone lucky enough to make the guest list for Natasha’s epic bash. The mother-of-two and PR maven goes all out for Saint Patrick’s Day… and if you think you’ve seen the Irish holiday done a hundred times, trust us when we say, you’ve never seen it like this. Imagine vintage McQueen meets antique candlesticks, combined with a show stopping invitation suite and a menu like you’ve never seen. If you planned to brush past this year’s Saint Patrick’s Day (it’s on March 17th, by the way), you might want to think again — Natasha proves that the holiday is full of party potential.
How do you approach entertaining?
One of my favorite quotes is from Alexa Brazilian: “Going shamelessly over the top (and over budget) when throwing a party is one of my favorite bad things to do.” I know it’s too kitschy or college for some, but I live and die for a good theme party. Sometimes it’s super overt like a Saint Paddy’s or Chinese New Year party, but a lot of times it’s just a theme or inspiration in my own head that I use to pull the food and décor together — it could be a new serving bowl or being inspired by the colors in an invitation.
We love that! Go big or go home. Besides for at Irish pubs, Saint Patrick’s day isn’t celebrated nearly enough…
This is our sixth annual Saint Patrick’s day party. It started when we lived in Hong Kong as a way to share our American culture with our friends from all over the world. My husband is Boston, Irish Catholic and I went to Notre Dame and my college girlfriends usually fly in for it. Now our second son is named Patrick, so we’ll have to make this year’s extra special!
pictured here: Natasha’s homemade wreath is a combination of this baby’s breath garland tutorial and this shamrock tutorial. You make a clover wreath out of this flexible floral wire, then bundle little sprigs of baby’s breath and wrap up the stems with thinner floral wire. Then you attach the bundles to the larger frame, and hang it up with a pretty ribbon!
Your standard hostess outfit:
Barefeet and a new apron just before guests arrive. I like a solid black one so there’s not a pattern competing with my outfit underneath. Short sleeves so you can toss that salad with your fingers, plate quickly and wash dishes as needed. For St. Pat’s, obviously something green. This year I’m wearing a vintage tartan McQueen that I found.
We love having an annual bash that we can invite everyone in town to – no one is left out, from our best friends to our contractor and everyone in between. March is also a pretty quiet time of year so people can usually make it.
pictured here: this year’s invitation by Momental Designs
Your dream dinner guests:
Thomas Keller, Martha Stewart, Darcy Miller, Ruth Reichl, Christopher Kimball, Yotam Ottolenghi, Nigella Lawson, Jeff Bezos, Megan Ellison, Robert Redford, Kate Middleton, my husband and my Aunt Steph who taught me how to cook and entertain.
This is without question the most chic Saint Patrick’s day table we’ve ever seen. Tell us about your beautiful china:
The Bernadaud Constance is my wedding china — the same china Charlotte had in Sex in the City, by the way. I love it because it’s great for our favorite party of the year, but is also super Christmas-ie on top of a red tablecloth. And with pastel flowers can be very Easter. I think it’s important to think about when you are actually going to use your china and it’s mostly those big occasions! As our St. Patrick’s Day party has grown, I’ve added Royal Crown’s Derby Green Panel dinner plates as I think they mix and match perfectly. Every year I buy a few more plates for new friends. Smiths China has amazing china prices (despite an antiquated website).
pictured: menu card by Hello Hailey
The perfect party playlist includes:
Live music! Charlottesville is a college town so there are lots of students happy to share their skills. Gigmasters.com is another great resource. For St. Patrick’s Day, I love a lyre player, bagpiper or fiddler. This year we have a babysitter/Irish step dancer performing with her friends.
The restaurant meal you’ll never forget:
The French Laundry.
Current favorite color palette for parties:
For this upcoming St. Patrick’s Day, I am doing solid green and lots of white flowers with a bit of lace.
Gina Langford and Jodi Macfarlan are two dear friends I met at church and they collaborated on all the day-of pieces. I think they are both infinitely talented! Gina is know for her crests and I love how she came up with one for Saint Patrick. And Jodi has such a classic, but also modern hand.
My signature entertaining dish:
I love to have at least a couple of dishes that you can make ahead so you can actually enjoy the party… Moussaka, because you can freeze it and serve on a moment’s notice – and it’s a lot more special than lasagna and enchiladas! And on St. Patrick’s Day my corned beef, of course, which I brine myself three weeks out. It’s a labor of love… making gallons of brine, turning the raw meat daily for weeks… my sister is scared to death of my basement refrigerator in the weeks leading up to St. Pat’s! But it really is so much better than anything you can buy! You can also cook it the day before.
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I always make my Notre Dame friend Kelly’s Irish Soda bread. This year, I’m serving a Kale Cesar salad as well because Kale is such a sturdy lettuce it holds up well over a long night. It’s not very Irish, but it’s very green!
Always in your refrigerator:
Ketchup, homemade pesto, Parmigianino reggiano, Rose petal jam from the Mandarin Hong Kong, white miso, maple syrup.
Click here to get the recipe for Natasha’s Irish Soda Bread!
The taste you’re always craving:
Salty, followed by “Umami,” (Porcini mushrooms, Miso, etc.) followed by slightly charred – It’s taken me a long time to be a confident enough chef to cook things to that just barely blackened state. Everything is better like that – from broccoli to filet.
Click here to get the recipe for Natasha’s Irish Kale Salad!
Your kitchen is an absolute dream. Did you redo it recently?
Our house was built in 1929 and the kitchen was original when we bought it… so we took it down to the studs and had to boil water for Francis’ bottles and survive on a hot plate and microwave like college kids for 6 months, but it was so worth it! I spend so much time in here with the boys and cooking for family and friends.
I worked at Williams-Sonoma in college and they sell La Cornue, so that has been my dream oven since age 18. Ironically, the two ovens aren’t really big enough for a turkey so we added a third oven in the island. But I honestly use all three ovens pretty often and they are critical for this party — dinner for 90 would basically be impossible without them! I came across the Ann Sacks pinwheel marble backsplash on Pinterest and the rest fell right into place. I really feel like the house’s age and character dictated a lot of my choices… for example, we kept the original butler’s pantry and matched the new cabinets to them, but tried to add a little modernity as well.
My must-have entertaining tool:
My husband. He calms me every step of the way and always gives guests a good cocktail when they walk in the door, while I’m usually upstairs putting a kid to sleep and doing a lightning shower and wardrobe change. When we first got married I would get insanely stressed before big parties and yell at him to do a million things at the last minute… he sat me down and simply explained that this wasn’t fun for him and we wouldn’t entertain if I couldn’t figure out how to be less stressed. I started planning way further out – doing something every day for the week leading up to a party – and it’s helped a ton. I can honestly say I never get stressed now while entertaining and sometimes even manage to wear my hair down.
Click here to get the recipe for Natasha’s Homemade Corned Beef!
If you had to give our readers one valuable piece of advice:
Putting a drink in guests hands the moment they arrive and a show-stopping dessert means that no matter what the guests will have a good time.
Click here to get the recipe for Natasha’s Irish-tini!
What (if anything) scares you about entertaining?
It has yet to happen, but I am always afraid the food just won’t turn out. My husband has promised me he looks forward to the day we have to order pizza. My other fear (that thank the dear Lord also hasn’t happened) is giving my guests food poisoning – thank heaven for my Thermapen!
And your go-to hostess gift:
Homemade muffins in a pretty muffin tin – vintage or from Anthropologie – wrapped origami-style in a new tea towel.
My entertaining style in 5 words or less:
Make it an experience.