Hosting Tips

Forage + Fodder

By Jenn Rose Smith

After Camille met Danielle Locklear at a friend’s baby shower a few months back, she couldn’t stop talking about her. “She’s just the nicest person I’ve ever met,” Camille gushed about the blogger behind Forage + Fodder. Danielle and her husband Austin (along with their adorable daughter, Ruby) totally live up to the hype when I arrive at their door for this story. They are incredibly warm and genuine people. “Can I make you a drink?” Austin asks straight away as I enter their cozy ranch-style home in North Austin. The couple is relaxed, laughing together in the perfectly renovated kitchen, putting the finishing touches on their holiday table. But the first year of parenthood isn’t always so picturesque — Danielle and Austin confess that the transition has been a challenging one, and that today’s meal is all about expressing gratitude to the core group of friends who have supported them over the past months. “From the day Ruby was born, our friends have been essential to the well-being of our family,” explains Danielle. “I’m pretty sure we didn’t cook a meal for the entire first month of her life, and every conversation ended with ‘how are you doing and how can we help?’ It’s been a gift to feel so much love and support, and although most of our friends don’t have kids yet, they’ve never stopped pursuing relationships with us. The transition into parenthood is tough, messy and beautiful all at once, and we wouldn’t have made it through those first few months without the people coming here today.”

Five friends arrive in festive spirit, and with Sam Cooke spinning on the record machine the celebration begins. It’s quickly clear that this is an extended family of sorts, with genuine love for one another. As they fill in around the large oak table I can’t help but smile as they pass wine, bread, and a laughing baby between themselves.

photographed by jessica attie

What’s on the menu for today?

A winter burrata salad, rustic savory galettes (one with braised brussel sprouts, bacon, and gruyere and one with potato, rosemary, caramelized onion and goat cheese), and a citrus olive oil cake for dessert!

Always in your fridge:

Greek yogurt (I use it in so many recipes), lemons, and seasonal produce. But most of our staples don’t live in the fridge actually – we are never without fresh garlic, herbs from our backyard garden, and a good bottle of wine.

What (if anything) scares you about entertaining?

When we first started entertaining, before we’d really established our community, my ultimate fear was that no one would show up, haha. I’ve long since ditched that nonsense, and take a pretty laid back approach to hosting these days, because the people who show up at our table are the ones we share life with. I think there’s comfort in the imperfection of our hosting style — the meal may not be served on time or be magazine-worthy, but you can bet it’s going to taste damn good and you’re going to have a good time at our table.

Your standard hostess outfit?

Anything I can get down and eat in! And nothing that’s going to get in the way of prep, so usually jeans and a perfectly oversized top, or a freeform dress. Most of our gatherings go long into the night or we all end up sharing a night cap on the couch, so it’s got to be something comfortable.

Your signature entertaining dish:

These rustic galettes have been my go-to dish for a few years now. The dough can be made ahead of time, and works for savory or sweet galettes, so the options are limitless. I usually fill them with seasonal produce, so they work anytime of the year. We’ve also done more of a ‘build-your-own’ dinner party where guests go to roll out the dough and I had a variety of toppings for everyone to choose from. You really can’t go wrong!

The entertaining rule you never break:

Always have music on when the first guest arrives! I think music really sets the tone, and most people don’t love being the first person to arrive at a party, so if they walk into a silent home, it gives the message that we’re not ready for them yet. An equally important rule is that we try to avoid the television at all costs when hosting (unless it’s a Game of Thrones watch party,of course). I think TV kills genuine conversation. Guests end up looking at a screen instead of at each other, and it makes it harder to connect.

One the best meals of your life that you’ll never forget:

When we decided to finally discuss if were ready to grow our family, I requested we do it over the chef’s tasting at Uchiko, seeing as I may not be eating a ton of sushi in the near future. Over sake and an incredible 10-course meal that lasted a several hours, we discussed the past, present and future of our family. It was a pretty unforgettable evening, and two months later we were pregnant with Ruby. Uchiko was also our first date night after she was born!

Best entertaining advice:

Hone in on what you do best (for me that’s food and cocktails), and can call upon the experts for the other details. I had my friend Samantha at Bricolage Curated Florals create this amazing centerpiece for today’s lunch.

A sweet touch: Danielle used the back of her handmade place cards to write each guest a short note thanking them for the help they’ve given over the past year.

Your dream dinner party guests:

I’m sure there are a handful of famous people that would be fantastic, but my first choice would be grandparents and great grandparents that I never really got to know, or even meet – specifically my dad’s mom (I’m a 5th generation Austinite on his side) and my mom’s grandparents who immigrated here from Italy. I’d just love to hear more about our family’s history, and of course pick up a few family recipes.

Your entertaining style in five words or fewer:

Casual, communal, focusing on flavor.

Danielle and Austin served guests this delicious winter salad with pomegranate seeds.

Read the full recipe for Danielle’s Winter Burrata Salad here.

Your perfect dinner party playlist:

We’re a big fan of old blues and soul music in this house, so most often you’ll hear a lot of Sam Cooke, Louis Armstrong, Etta, and B.B. King. But depending on the mood, we’ll mix it up with artists like Joe Ely, TV on the Radio, Civil Wars, Ryan Adams, and you can’t go wrong with Lyle Lovett.

Your must-have entertaining tools:

A good welcome cocktail. We love to greet guests with a simple cocktail (or beer) that sets the tone for the meal, and then to keep us out of the kitchen and in the conversation.

The taste you’re always craving:

Sweets, without a doubt. I have the ultimate sweet tooth.

The hardest part of being new parents:

Probably the renegotiating of priorities. We don’t have time for all of the things we used to do, so we be sure to make time for the important stuff… That and the lack of sleep of course!

The qualities you value most in friends:

A person that can be their candid and genuine self around you invites you to do the same. We like to surround ourselves with friends who aren’t just around for the good stuff, but will walk alongside us through the messiness of life as well.

Danielle and Austin greeted guests with a fun bourbon-based winter cocktail served with a clove-garnished orange peel.

Read the full recipe for Danielle’s Maple Old Fashioned here.

Guests were surprised (and deeply touched) by the heartfelt notes on the back of their place cards.

Your current favorite color palette for parties:

Almost all of my barware and linens are thrifted or vintage finds, so I tend to stick with mix & match neutrals (white, cream, and wood) – basically anything that allows the food to be the star of the show. We do our best to live with less, so I have my favorite entertaining pieces that I’ll pull out time and time again, rather than buying new items for each party.

What you love most about Austin (the husband, not the town!):

He is an incredible father and knows the value of raising a well-rounded little girl. He can’t wait to teach her how to fish, take her camping, and won’t shy away from an afternoon tea party either.

A guest pours herself a glass of wine from Danielle’s carafe.

Who do you usually invite when you’re entertaining? How many people? What do you think about when you’re creating a guest list?

Honestly, we like to keep most gatherings small (4-6 people), just because the conversations tend to be much richer. Once or twice a year we’ll go all out with a coursed out dinner party and invite 10-12 guests though. It’s the larger parties where we’re more intentional about invitees and seating arrangements, because we want to encourage people to meet someone new or get to know an acquaintance better.

Pass the bread… or the baby! Austin’s friends are happily hands-on with Ruby.

What you love most about Ruby:

She is unapologetically herself, and I hope that never changes. That and her endless curiosity for the world around her — she’s always studying faces, sounds, textures, and loves being outside.

The thing you’re most thankful for this Christmas:

Seeing Christmas through Ruby’s eyes has given me an entirely new level of appreciation for the little things — twinkling lights, the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack, dancing around in pjs. I’m just thankful for the chance to get to introduce her to some of my favorite things.

 Happy holidays Danielle, Austin, and Ruby. Thanks for giving us a peek into your world!


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