As I read through Tarica Navarro’s interview answers, I’m reminded why we launched our “Entertaining With” series to begin with. Raised in Thailand (arguably one of the planet’s top culinary destinations), Tarica’s been a foodie most of her life. But it wasn’t until a fortuitous dinner in India that she realized the value of sharing in a meal with others, and also the importance of your dining surroundings. The realization made such an impact that Tarica now spends her days running her Austin shop, Kettle & Brine, where she curates and sells “goods for feasts and gatherings.” The store is a dream, not just because of the gorgeous tabletop pieces it houses, but also because of how beautifully it encourages gathering around a table with loved ones (or strangers, for that matter).

Not surprisingly, Tarica knows how to throw one heck of a dinner party. She invited us over to her home to show us how it’s done, while Wynn Myers snapped the gorgeous photos…


What (if anything) scares you about entertaining?

I have a funny habit of trying out new recipes for dinner parties, then holding my breath for my guests’ reactions. It’s a little scary, but also quite exciting to bring your guests along on your kitchen adventures. I don’t necessarily recommend this to everyone, but something about the atmosphere of bringing friends together makes me feel rather experimental. Sometimes it’s a new dessert, at other times, it’s a twist on one of my tried and true dishes. For me, it gives us something to discuss, and opens up the conversation allowing the guests to really taste and talk about the food.


Current favorite color palette for parties:

Soft hues and cool tones, mixing various textures and materials of wood, speckled hand-thrown ceramic, and gold toned accents to create a nice backdrop and let your food sing.


The taste I’m always craving:

I was raised in Thailand where condiment caddies sat on every restaurant and dinner table. Because the culture encourages one to season their own dishes, I grew up exploring the delicious art of balancing opposing flavors. Combinations of sweet and savory always reminds me of home.


The perfect dinner party playlist includes: 

Top of my list currently includes Leon Bridges, Mac de Marco, Beirut, and sometimes when the mood calls for it, some good old Fleetwood Mac.


My dream dinner guests:

Alice Waters, Dan Barber, Michelle Tam, Danielle Walker


My standard hostess outfit:

Loose fitted comfortable clothes made of textured linen evoke a sense of calm and casual, and can be dressed up or down with some jewelry.


The entertaining rule I rarely break:

I like to keep the centerpieces and tablescape simple and engaging. Large oversized pieces can sometimes be distracting rather than facilitating connections, which is what gatherings are all about. As a general rule of thumb, I try to make my tablescapes a functional backdrop for the meal by including pinch bowls and platters to enhance the shared experience.


My must-have entertaining tool:

Hand made wooden serving boards and platters of various sizes are indispensable tools in both the kitchen and on tabletop. They not only lend such warmth to the ambience, but also encourage guests to connect over a shared dish, whether you’re transferring a roast to be carved at the table, or setting out small finger foods. A well cared for wooden board also ages so gracefully to become heirloom pieces.


My signature entertaining dish:

Braised short ribs. Braising is a very forgiving method of cooking. They’re easy to prepare with little fuss, yet always yields a robust and flavorful dish sure to please.

 

 


Click here to get Tarica’s braised short ribs recipe!

Always in my refrigerator:

Seasonal greens. They are so easy to sautee down as a side dish, add to a breakfast scramble, or used fresh as a salad.


The restaurant meal I’ll never forget:

I went to India with my sister for 2 months and we asked our rickshaw driver to take us to his local dive while we were in Mysore. We were seated with another family, 6 people cramped onto a two-top, and were served our meal ladled onto a banana leaf with no utensils to be had. Textures came to life before food even entered my mouth and became a vital extension of the dining experience.


cont. from slide 12 

… There I learned my appreciation for the tactile qualities around us, the people we share our meals with, and how all of that informs us about our surroundings and atmosphere. The food was wonderful that day, but sometimes the best part of a meal is the people you are sharing it with. That meal left such an impression on me that back home, serve ware then became functional objects of art, not to be taken for granted. Their form and function adding to the overall experience of storytelling through a joint meal.


My entertaining style in 5 words or less:

Simple, engaging, understated sophistication.


Get the recipe for Tarica’s dairy-free Mexican Pots De Crème here!

11 comments
  1. 1
    Libbynan | January 14, 2016 at 9:47 am

    Thank you, Tarica. Most pros always say not to try new recipes on guests. I have always done that. Often it was my excuse to have a party. Maybe I was just confident in my ability to pull off any recipe or to judge if it would be a crowd-pleaser. Anyway, I never had a failure and I appreciate finding out that someone else does this, too.

    Reply
    • Laura | January 16, 2016 at 12:57 pm

      This is my mom’s cardinal rule that I always break. I love the excitement of trying a new recipe with friends. It’s a bit of a discovery together. I say to go for it!

      Reply
  2. 2
    Molly {Dreams in HD} | January 14, 2016 at 2:29 pm

    Such a great read. I completely agree about trying new recipes on guests, it’s an excuse for me to have a dinner party! Also, Tarica your home is GORGEOUS!

    Molly {Dreams in HD}
    http://www.dreamsinhd.blogspot.com

    Reply
  3. 3
    A Capitol Contessa | January 15, 2016 at 10:15 am

    Living on the edge! Couldn’t agree more with Tarica about trying out new recipes. Maybe not if you are having your boss over for dinner but if you can’t experiment on friends who can you on?? Love her kitchen as well – Alex of acapitolcontessa.com

    Reply
  4. 4
    Tarica Navarro | January 16, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    Thanks everyone! My personal take is that it depends entirely on your comfort level in the kitchen, as well as your comfort level with your guests. Most of the time our dinner parties consist of friends or family, where the gathered experience can be enhanced by trying out new dishes together, and the pursuit of perfection is not the goal. I also take chances knowing I can adjust mid-course if needed. Of course there are times, when there are other unknown elements involving the setting or guests where tried and true may be best 😉

    Reply
    • Laura | January 16, 2016 at 7:02 pm

      Hello from Houston, Tarica! Can’t wait to go to Austin and visit your shop!

      Reply
      • Tarica Navarro | January 17, 2016 at 8:49 pm

        Can’t wait to welcome you in to our shop Laura!

        Reply
  5. 5
    Lisa | January 17, 2016 at 5:00 pm

    Beautiful! I’d love to know where those pendant lights above the dining table are from… Thank you!

    Reply
  6. 6
    Claire | January 31, 2016 at 3:04 am

    Hi, I would love to know where your floor titles are from trying to source tiles for my kitchen at the moment….love them

    Reply
    • Tarica Navarro | January 31, 2016 at 8:09 pm

      Hi Claire, I ordered them through cementtile.com but you can also find similar patterns at granadatile.com.

      Reply
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