photos by belathée photography
You likely saw photos of Haven’s Kitchen – and its founder Alison Cayne’s stunning home – on Pinterest before you became familiar with the cooking school / café / event space and immediately started looking up flights to NYC so you could visit. At least, that’s how it happened for us. And thus our longtime girl crush was formed on this entrepreneur and mother of five (!!) who has an incredible eye for decorating and the good taste to turn out exactly the kind of food we want to eat. We’re still dreaming about the rosé poached peaches with coconut cream she whipped up for us on her last visit to Austin, so we wanted to find out how Alison entertains when she invites friends onto her turf — which just so happens to be one of the most stunning townhouses in New York’s West Village. Read on for the interview that has us pinning every one of her spaces (that kitchen!) and planning to throw a pizza party just like hers this weekend.
Tell us about your house:
I have lived in a townhouse for most of my adult life and love it. Houses in the city are more work and maintenance but so worth it: I have a vegetable roof garden, a backyard where I can grill and my son can play soccer and all of my kids have their own space (I have 5).
This house in particular is so special because it has light flooding in from both the North and the South, so it feels airy and bright 99% of the time. Even in the rain it’s not gloomy. I moved in 9 months after doing some work opening up the kitchen and dividing the top floor to make two smaller rooms for my sons. I needed to upgrade the HVAC and fix the bathrooms, add some shelves and closets, but the bones were intact.
Must-have entertaining tool:
Honestly? Julia Child. I think of her every time I host people: They’re happy to be fed and cared for. They don’t need me apologizing that the lamb is overcooked or the salad didn’t turn out exactly the way I wanted it to. She had FUN and welcomed people with her big booming voice and open arms.
What scares you about entertaining?
I am a bit of an emotional sponge, so I guess my fear is that guests won’t vibe well with each other or the night won’t be fun for everyone.
The entertaining rule you never break:
I don’t start cleaning up until people are out the door. Unless I really want them to leave, ha!
What’s your standard host outfit?
I like being barefoot, usually in a blouse and jeans or a t shirt and a long skirt.
Do you reference any family traditions when you entertain?
Sometimes, if it’s a smaller dinner, we’ll play the game that my kids and I play every night at dinner: Rose, Bud, Thorn. The rose of your day is the best thing that happened, the bud is something you’re looking forward to, and the thorn was the bummer.
Current favorite color palette for parties:
I am super into deep jewel tones at the moment – probably because it’s root and citrus season. I can feel the greens of spring coming soon.
Signature dish for parties:
I have a few go-to’s for bigger dinners. I make a simple Asian-ish salmon fillet that can feed a lot and be served room temp. I serve it with coconut rice and usually a cabbage slaw or a roasted vegetable with a coconut/lime/parsley gremolata. In the winter, I’ll serve a big green curry (usually veggie) or some riff on the pan-roasted chicken dish from our cookbook: chicken, wine, stock. You get the gist.
For this gathering, Alison’s guests pitched in to make DIY Veggie Pizzas with Romesco Sauce. Click here for the recipe!
What’s your go-to source for recipes?
I work with about a dozen amazing chefs so I text them!
The perfect dinner party playlist:
A little Coltrain, Amy Winehouse, Chet Baker, Honne and Nina Simone.
What guest behavior is your biggest pet peeve?
I like my guests to EAT!
Always in your refrigerator:
Aside from the basics, I always have fresh herbs and olives in there.
Your go-to centerpiece solution:
I love herbs on a table – they’re beautiful and fragrant but not too florally and they never block the view at the table.
Dream dinner guests:
There are so many fascinating women I’d love to meet. That’s too tough!
Click here to get the recipe for Alison’s Chicory Salad with Hazelnuts and Meyer Lemon, Parmesan Vinaigrette!
The restaurant meal you’ll never forget:
Sushi in Tokyo.
What would we never find at one of your parties?
Pork and shellfish, I’m Kosher.
The secret to a great dinner party:
Your energy sets the tone. So enjoy yourself and give your guests individual attention!
Dessert was vanilla panna cotta with pomegranate granita. Click here for the recipe!
Favorite tabletop item you own?
I bought these GORGEOUS brass candle sticks from MARCH in San Fran.
Fill in the blank: “It’s not a party without ____________.”
Favorite after-dinner activity or game:
I love charades and rummicube. But usually we’re sitting talking late…
I love a good Negroni. And they’re so straightforward while still feeling a bit fancy. They’re strong though, so I serve them with ice, not the traditional way.
Alison’s entertaining style in 5 words or less:
Welcoming, casual, approachable, fun, warm.