Liberty London Girl

By Jenn Rose Smith
Trimming the tree... lovely!

If you’re scrambling to get your act together for this week’s big holiday meal, just imagine this: what if you were hosting that meal in a remote location? And no, we’re not talking the park down the street. We’re talking another continent. That’s just what Sasha Wilkins did last week, as she planned and hosted a meal in Brooklyn to celebrate the much-anticipated US launch of her book Friends Food Family: Essential Recipes, Tips and Secrets for the Modern Hostess. The UK-based journalist, stylist, and founder of the lifestyle site Liberty London Girl planned her entire event from across the pond and didn’t even break a sweat. Instead, she threw a ziploc bag of Maldon and a Japanese chef’s knife in a suitcase (yeah, you’re going to need to check that) and hit the ground running when she arrived in Brooklyn. Her good friend and fellow blogger Lola Gusman opened up her home for the party as a small group of magazine editors and friends gathered to celebrate the occasion. Sasha prepared a mouth-watering dinner for her friends featuring a midwinter salad, her signature chicken pie, and an apple blackberry trifle for dessert (all recipes from her new book). All that, and she still found time to iron the table cloth? Color us impressed.

photographed by belathée

What can tips can you give us about entertaining while traveling? It seems daunting to host a party in a town where you don’t live!

I’ve cooked meals all over the world, and as long as I have a sharp knife I’m all good! I do try to slip things into my checked case that I know will make my life easier in the kitchen. For this dinner I packed a lemon zester, a Microplane grater, a pair of tongs, a super sharp Japanese knife… and a Ziploc bag of Maldon Salt, which is my can’t-cook-without ingredient.

It definitely helps when a lovely friend is happy to let you use their home: it’s so much nicer to entertain in a space which feels personal, and then you’re not starting with a blank slate. I did bring some small vases and candlesticks with me tho so it would feel like my world on the table. My dear friend Lola Gusman and her family were kind enough to open up their home to me to host this special event.

Your current favorite color palette for parties:

I do love mixing reds, pinks and creams. It’s a great trans-seasonal palette to work with in flowers to anchor a scheme: you can pretty much always find roses all year round to start the idea, and in winter you have beautiful dahlias to work with. I also love ranunculus for the huge range of colours across the red and pink spectrum.

Your entertaining style in five words or less:

Relaxed, happy, no napkin origami!

Your must-have entertaining tools:

I always have flowers on the table: they break up the space, make it look more welcoming, and are wonderful in photos! They don’t have to be fancy; I often use drugstore roses, cut down and placed 2-3 together with a bit of greenery in small vases or preserve jars all down the centre of the table.

The taste you’re always craving:

I love salty foods – roast potatoes with a scattering of sea salt, hot buttered toast, a dish of spaghetti with oil and garlic. Mmmmmm.

Sasha with friend Laura Bindloss.

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

I’m lucky enough to spend my life travelling and eating, so it’s usually the people that make an event for me. This past August I rented a large white clapboard house by the English seaside in Mevagissey, Cornwall and invited my closest friends to spend four days there to celebrate the end of a wonderful summer. In the evenings we grilled up a storm, and I made so many wonderful salads and dishes of local vegetables, along with blowsy cream filled pavlovas filled with local stone fruits, which we ate by candlelight on the stone terrace overlooking the harbor, watching the lights of the houses on the hillside twinkle in the dusk. Friends, food, family (and dogs): my perfect way to spend my time.

One of your most memorable nights of hosting guests:?

My friends at Ralph Lauren hosted my British book launch at the Old Bond Street store.  I was wearing the most beautiful Ralph Lauren black guipure lace dress, and everyone that I loved, who had supported me on my journey throughout my career, was there in a packed room helping me celebrate. That was a glorious evening.

What (if anything) scares you about entertaining?

I think all cooks worry that there’ll be a disaster in the kitchen: you can’t legislate for ovens breaking down, or weather conditions: for example, humidity really affects meringues and, of course, if it’s unexpectedly hot things can melt that aren’t supposed too. Mind you, I did Easter Sunday lunch for fifteen people last year with my broken oven door propped shut with a kitchen chair, and only two gas rings. My motto is: there’s a solution for everything!

Your perfect dinner party playlist:

I like playing Stevie Wonder’s 1973 Innervisions album in its entirety: it’s got a great beat, it sounds good low and mellow over dinner, and then cranked up after dinner for dancing. It’s also pretty sexy.

Lola Gusman, James Bremner, and son Max.

Your usual process for deciding the guest list:

My London kitchen table seats ten people, if two are sitting on stools, and I love squeezing people in: it feels fun and down to earth. I like a good mixture of people; I have friends from fashion, food, design, town and country, so it’s great to put together people whose paths might not necessarily cross in their day-to-day lives. Then hopefully they won’t just feel entertained by great company, but maybe they’ll be useful afterwards too.

The one entertaining rule you never break:

Get a drink – hard or soft – in the hands of your guests as soon as possible after they arrive. Then they feel looked after, and can start relaxing. (Even if you are not!)

Your dream dinner party guests:

Interesting, funny people with ALL the stories! I couldn’t care less if they are well-known or successful. I just want people around my table who are kind, thoughtful and lovely to be around.

Sasha’s beloved blackbird pie funnels — see how she uses them with her signature chicken pie recipe here!

Your signature entertaining dish:

It’s definitely the pie I served for this dinner: everyone likes pie, right? And my entertaining philosophy is all about delicious, simple food that makes people feel welcome and loved. I adore having a huge dish of food into which everyone can dig a generous spoon.

Always in your fridge:

Lemons, lots and lots of butter. Cheese – Parmesan, Cheddar and something soft like a Brie for late night snacking. So, so many bottles of sauces and condiments, from membrillo to chilli oil, that I pick up on my travels around the world, and I’ve just discovered almond milk, which makes a great sub for milk in sauces. I used it to make a delicious dairy-free crème patissiere for my trifle for this dinner.

Your best advice when it comes to entertaining:

Don’t try to over-complicate things. People are coming to see you and your friends. If they wanted to eat towers of food, arranged with tweezers, then they’d be in a fancy restaurant, not lolling around your kitchen table. Better simple yummy food done well and on time, than tortured extravagance served two hours late by a frazzled cook.

Your standard hostess/host outfit:

I’m terrible: for an ex-fashion editor, I spend far too much time thinking about the table and the flowers than I ever do about what I am wearing. My go to look is a pair of great jeans and a pretty top with killer earrings. If you are always bending down to open the oven, skirts are so not a good idea, and I’ve learnt my lesson about trying to cook in heels (sliding across the floor is SO not a good look). It’s flats or my beloved Adidas Superstar boxfresh white sneakers all the way.

We love how you used both Christmas and Hanukkah decor elements for your holiday party. You seem to have a really inclusive approach to the holidays. We love that!

One of the wonderful things about growing up in and around London is our multicultural and multi-faith society. I don’t think I, or any of my friends, even differentiate any more. It’s totally natural to me to be inclusive to make all my darling friends feel loved and welcomed.

What are you most thankful for this holiday season?

That my friends and family are all well, and with us.


follow sasha online:
and on instagram: @libertylondondgirl