Hosting Tips

A Modern Botanical Dinner Party

By Camille Styles
a modern botanical dinner party!

When South Congress Hotel opened its doors in Austin last year, we became instant regulars: at its fantastic restaurants, gorgeous lobby bar, adjoining boutiques, and we even threw our mega #GetHealthyGetTogether there in May. When it came time to gather friends for our latest dinner party, we took our inspiration from the enviable indoor plants that give South Congress Hotel its midcentury jungle vibe… and hosted the dinner right in the clean, light-filled event space. Click through the slides for the incredible farm-to-table fare that their team prepared for the occasion, loads of leafy decor inspiration, and a mandala installation created by Sarah Reichardt that you won’t want to miss. It was undoubtedly a summer night to remember…

*photos by Molly Winters, floral design by Sarah Reichardt, furniture by Panacea Collection, venue and food by South Congress Hotel

For the invitation, we stuck to a modern, minimalist design in neutral colors. Then, to offer guests a sneak peak at the botanics-inspired decor that awaited them, we lined our kraft paper envelopes with a foliage pattern paper.

It had been a while since we’d had some good old-fashioned photo booth fun, so we knew we wanted to create a striking photo backdrop for this event. We called on the talents of Sarah Reichardt to create this masterpiece: a mandala made entirely of green leaves and flowers.

From Sarah:

  • For the mandala I used a textural mix of Italian Ruscus, Sword Fern, Umbrella Fern, Grevillea Pods, Poppy Pods, Calathea, and Tepe Fronds from the local floral wholesale market.
  • To keep the mandala balanced, I started the design in the center and slowly worked my way out. It’s important to stop and step back every once in a while to make sure everything is lined up and even. But for the most part I free handed the design, letting the shape and size of the greenery determine where it needed to be placed to create a visually appealing pattern.
  • Since I wanted to keep the design clean without any visual clutter, I used clear packing tape to secure the leaves. However, if you want to add a little pop of color, you could also use a bold color or patterned tape of your choosing. 

Carmen’s tips for creating your own leaf place cards:

  • Use a white paint pen with a felt tip, rather than a ballpoint tip, so as to not puncture the leaf.
  • Write way slower than you would normally.
  • The bigger and smoother the leaf, the better. And be sure to have extras on-hand in case of error.

We then arranged individual plants and leaves in water-filled and gravel-filled geometric brass terrariums.

To create the ultimate laid-back vibe, we crafted a low communal table. Here’s how to make your own:

  • Source four 16″ cinder blocks for each 6 person table top.
  • Rent table tops from a local rental company (ours came from Panacea!), or use plywood slabs instead.
  • Simply place the table top on top of the cinder blocks.

We arranged our Brass Geo Terrariums in clusters of three down the length of the table.

The folks at South Congress Hotel welcomed us with refreshing cocktails, mixed to order and served from behind this gorgeous mid-century bar from Panacea.

Click here to get the recipe for South Congress Hotel’s Pear & Sage Cocktail!

To warm up the space, we pulled tons of rugs, floor pillows and ottomans from Panacea‘s amazing collection. By sticking to textiles in neutral colors and patterns, we were able to mix-and-match without the space feeling too messy. The minimalist scene was a perfect complement to the clean, crisp look of South Congress Hotel’s gorgeous ballroom.

We sipped, mixed and mingled in the gorgeous space as guests trickled in.

The passed appetizers from Central Standard were ah-mazing. This lightly fried cauliflower bite was definitely a crowd favorite.

pictured from left to right: Chris Pusateri, Jordan Schraeder, Alexis Lanman and Stuart Hiserodt.

It seemed everyone was excited to put on their favorite summer heels and get dolled up for a mid-week dinner party.

pictured: the Linsey Lace-Up Wedge Sandal from Dolce Vita and the Enida Heels by Schutz

pictured: Eric, Chanel, Karly and Teal multitask by enjoying their cocktails, and posing for a photo opp in front of our botanical mandala backdrop.

The meal started with Central Standard’s warm potato bread with smoked sea salt and creme fraiche butter. It was so good, we almost made the mistake of filling up on it just minutes after sitting down.

Of course, we took periodic breaks to make toasts, clink glasses, and refill on wine throughout.

Next up was this amazingly refreshing salad. We served one big bowl per every four people to ensure we wouldn’t run out, and to encourage lots of passing and chatting.

And for what was arguably the best dish of the night, this New York Strip Steak Salad had everyone reaching in for seconds.

Click here to get the recipe for Central Standard’s Steak Salad!

Looking around the room, we knew the event was a huge success.

Last but not least, a fruit sorbet that was light and refreshing enough to send us home feeling anything but weighed down — the perfect ending to an unforgettable evening!