This Dinner Party is Giving Us All the Coastal Vibes

By Carmen Collins
fresh veggie crudité

Cities like New York and Los Angeles are filled with stylish creatives, but it takes a certain perspective to leave the fast pace of the cities behind for considerably quieter Rhode Island. That’s exactly what Jess Ann Kirby and her boyfriend Craig did after five years of bouncing back and forth between those two cities. They moved to Newport and launched Jess’ blog that documents her classic sense of style, exciting adventures abroad, and everything else in between. And Craig? Well he’s the man behind the lens of every photo. This duo embraces the calm, cool Rhode Island vibes and are consistently delivering coastal visual inspiration that makes us wish we exploring the Northeast right there with them. They invited us over for an end-of-summer dinner party filled with happy hour-style snacks and a delicious champagne cocktail. Scroll down for a behind-the-scenes tour of the party — you might just decide to pick up and move up to the coast yourself.

photos by Craig Mackay

What’s your must-have entertaining tool?

I love collecting serving boards, wood and marble in particular. It totally changes the look and feel of your food spreads when they’re presented on nice platters. One of my favorite things to buy when we’re traveling is wooden cutting boards.

Where did you learn to cook?

My boyfriend actually does most of the cooking in our house and I’ve just recently started to get into it. I’ve always been more drawn to “happy hour cooking,” which in my mind is all about lots of yummy small bites and snacks, and of course cocktails.

Your go-to centerpiece solution:

Always lots of fresh florals, whatever is in season, usually multiple smaller arrangements, I don’t like anything too big.

The entertaining rule you rarely break?

I’m sort of a rule breaker by nature, but I always make sure my house is clean, we have plenty of food, and we’ve prepped ahead of time so we can actually entertain our guests and not be stuck in the kitchen.

What’s your go-to source for recipes?

I got the cookbook Good Clean Food on a work trip recently and it was actually what inspired me to start really getting into cooking (and eating a more plant-based diet). Lately I’ve also just been googling whatever ingredients I have in my fridge and going off recipes I find on blogs. I’m blown away by how many incredible food blogs there are out there.

The taste you’re always craving?

Anything salty, and Mexican food. I never get sick of Mexican food.

What’s your signature cocktail?

A spicy jalapeño cilantro margarita or a champagne cocktail with fresh fruit.


Jess’s Champagne Cocktail

  • champagne
  • fresh apples, sliced for garnish
  • cranberry apple mixer

Pour a shot of mixer into the bottom of the glass. Fill remainder with chilled champagne. Garnish with an apple slice.

What’s your standard hostess outfit?

Comfort is most important for me, so typically I’m in denim, a cozy sweater, and booties or flats.

What’s your signature dish for parties?

I make a really mean cheese plate. I’ve recently started to eliminate dairy from my diet, though I’ll still serve it to my guests of course, but I’ve transferred my cheese plate skills to a crudité platter.


Jess’ Vegan Arugula Pesto Dip for Crudité

  • 2 cups arugula
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 close fresh garlic
  • fresh sea salt & pepper

Blend arugula, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor until well mixed. Slowly add olive oil, lemon juice, and nutritional yeast and blend. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Current favorite color palette for parties?

I usually almost always stick to neutrals and add color with the food and florals.

Do you reference any family traditions when you entertain?

Whenever we have parties where there’s a cake and candles, every woman at the party has to put a ring she’s wearing around one of the candles and make a wish. And my family just loves toasts, even if it’s just a simple cheers, I love to do that.

The perfect dinner party playlist includes:

I love a mix of country, folk, and good ol’ rock and roll.

Favorite after-dinner activity or game?

My boyfriend loves making (and eating) dessert so that always comes after dinner. And we love to play games, usually something funny like Heads Up.

It’s not a party without _____.

Good music, a fun cocktail, and homemade dessert.

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

The entire Patriots football team (and my family would have to be there too!).

Your entertaining style in 5 words or less:

Casual, fun, fresh, relaxed.