After returning from our trip to Italy earlier this month, we were all bitten by the travel bug, and it seems we’re not the only ones! Sisters Katie and Erin of MIRTH Caftans designed their entire Spring 2017 collection around a recent trip along the coast of India. Their line features some of the chicest caftans we’ve ever seen, made of breathable fabrics in gorgeous earthy tones. After one year in business, it’s no wonder their pieces are already stocked in stores around the world, including Anthropologie and Sunroom in Austin! We’re putting India at the top of our travel list after seeing this colorful dinner party the sisters threw for their friends in Erin’s Houston home, brimming with flavorful Indian dishes and fun traditions.
The entertaining rule you never break:
Candles always. Lighting can turn any space into one ready for a party, and too-bright lighting can ruin a setting. And they’re inexpensive and easy.
What’s the secret to a great dinner party:
Casual vibes, plenty of drinks and good music.
The perfect party playlist includes:
Stevie Wonder, Willie Nelson, Wilco, Rolling Stones
Your current favorite color palette for parties:
We’re currently designing for MIRTH Caftans Spring 2018 and just sampled a super soft handloomed cotton in “dune,” “casterock gray” and “praline” – earthy, calm clay tones that really compliment each other.
We think we know the answer to this, but what are your standard hostess outfits?
Katie: Caftans! What else? They are made for entertaining. When you have 4 minutes to get dressed and need to throw on something that looks great, feels comfortable and is no fuss, the caftan is the answer. You can eat all you want without having to worry about sucking in.
Erin: And bare feet.
What are you serving your guests here?
The blue paper cones are our take on an Indian street food called Jhal Muri — it is served like this in paper cones in India (usually newspaper).
Do you gals have a signature cocktail?
Not gonna lie, we’re both winos. But a recent trip to India introduced me to sweet rose water mixed into sparkling wine and I’m hooked.
What’s your go-to source for recipes?
Katie: I really like the kitchn for the stories and explanations behind the recipes and I feel they’re always well tested and edited. I also have an old copy of the legendary River Road Recipes (first published in 1959 by the Baton Rouge Junior League) and it is still chock full of the most flavorful dishes.
Erin: Goop is my go-to. Their recipes tend to have a healthful perspective and whole body connection.
What’s always in your refrigerator?
Erin: Almond milk.
Katie: Gruyere cheese, a habit from living in Switzerland
The restaurant meal you’ll never forget:
This is a tough. Either Peking duck in Singapore — the full tradition of tableside multi-step service — or Passeidis del Pep in Barcelona– no menu, no English, the food just comes and you sit back and eat. They put entire bottles of liquor on your table afterwards and you can sip to your heart’s desire. This communal gesture leads to joining your neighboring tables for the most fun evening.
What’s your must-have entertaining tool?
We’ve collected inexpensive brass pieces from every trip to India — bowls, trays, lassi cups, both old and new. They’ve become indispensable and we keep coming up with new ways to use them and mix them together, from desk accessories to flower vases to candy dishes.
pictured: Street food styled chaat masala cucumbers.
What scares you about entertaining?
Timing! I worry about cold food or an hour left on the oven timer when it’s time to eat. So when I discovered the French style of eating in courses, I’ve never looked back. A meal there is a drawn-out event and the cook gets to enjoy it instead of scurrying around the kitchen only to have the meal finished in 15 minutes. Cook a bit, bring it to the table to enjoy, take a rest, then back in the kitchen to finish preparing the next course — brilliant! It’s a more relaxed and more present style of entertaining that let’s you enjoy each dish and your time together.
What’s your go-to centerpiece solution?
A pretty platter full of monochromatic fruit with stems on, like Satsuma oranges.
And what’s the one guest behavior that drives you nuts?
Cell phones. Time to put them away and enjoy your company.
pictured: The quilts we used are vintage Indian Kantha quilts, brought back from our last trip to Jaipur. You find these all over and are made of old cloth that’s been repurposed and stitched together.
Where did you learn to cook?
Our grandmother grew her own vegetables and cooked from her garden, long before it was fashionable to do so. We loved watching her cook slowly all day. Our favorite is okra, which happens to be common on menus in India, although prepared quite differently (and it’s delicious!). Katie started cooking and baking from a very young age and still has her collection of kids cookbooks (and still uses some of those recipes). Erin started cooking as a way to keep a healthful and gluten free lifestyle.
pictured: Indian ladyfingers with riata, which is spice roasted okra with a cilantro mint yogurt sauce.
What’s the one favorite tabletop item you own?
Our sweet mom stitched our leftover handloomed ikat fabric scraps into cocktail napkins. We intended to only use them at our brand launch, but we use them all the time now. We’ve had requests for orders, so we might have to rope our mom into a new business.
The oyster plate full of what looks like colorful tiny candy is a post-meal tradition in India; it is usually placed at the door of a restaurant. It’s called Mukhwas and is meant to freshen breath and act as a digestive. Our version has candied fennel, toasted fennel, sugar crystals, sesame seeds.
Also pictured, a saffron scented basmati rice pudding. Click here to get the recipe!
Your dream dinner guests:
Lulu van Damme, the most stylish woman on the planet who is actually making me look forward to aging; Lauren Bush, a pioneer in conscious consumerism; Kathryn Hahn because every dinner table needs some funny and we just love her. Speaking of funny, Erin + Sara Foster have to be on the list. And they’re sisters!
pictured: We had a “face oil bar” — each guest got to choose a base oil (Jojoba or Almond) to mix with various essential oils as a take home gift. We had a menu outlining the benefits of each essential oil so everyone could customize for their skin needs. We also displayed a menu of oils that are good for each dosha (based on Ayurveda) to aid in selecting your ideal face oil.
Your entertaining style in 5 words or less:
Easy; thoughtful; never too serious.