Last month I gathered with a group of friends and fashion-lovers 30 minutes outside Austin in the country at Green Acres. The plan was to meet at the home of Kirsten Dickerson, owner of ethical fashion and lifestyle brand Raven + Lily, for an evening to celebrate slow food, slow fashion, and thoughtful living. Though the concept was totally up my alley, I honestly had no idea what I was in for until I arrived at the retreat and set foot on the beautiful farm, breathed in the pure air and quiet of the country, and spent some time petting the miniature donkeys and alpacas with a glass of wine in hand. I’ve long felt that something magical happens when people gather around a table and share delicious, seasonal food together, and the night’s meal, with ingredients sourced from local farmers, made us savor every bite even more. For me, the most special part was getting to learn more about Kirsten’s vision behind Raven + Lily and hearing the stories of the women who made the clothes that many of the guests were wearing. Since this entrepreneur also happens to be the most incredible hostess, I asked Kirsten to share her approach to entertaining — and turns out it’s every bit as thoughtful and well-designed as her clothing collections. Keep scrolling for our interview, as well as my favorite moments from the evening.
*photos by kate zimmerman
The entertaining rule you rarely break:
I use real plates, real glasses, and cloth napkins. No plastic or paper. I don’t own a dishwasher so this means a bigger clean up, but I actually don’t mind. My husband and I usually chat over a glass of wine while we clean up after guests leave. It gives us a chance to reflect on our evening and what was memorable and meaningful about it.
Must-have entertaining tool:
Cafe lights! We host dinner parties outside and always have cafe lights. They make everything look and feel magical. I also have a few donkeys and alpacas that always add entertainment to our evenings. They usually hang by the gate waiting for pets and carrots from dinner party guests.
I was so excited to see my artist friends represented on the table: hand-loomed napkins and handblown glassware from Oaxaca, Mexico from Oh! Fox Creative and plates by Keith Kreeger.
Transplants Floral created these organic centerpieces that added so much beautiful color to the tablescape. Clusters of interesting berries and fresh, textural flowers added major wow factor.
Current favorite color palette for parties:
Neutrals with bling! I love textures, subtle metallics, and lots of greenery and flowers. In the spring, I pick wild flowers from our field for table decor. Otherwise, I love potted succulents in cement pots with metallic gold or silver leafing. I don’t use color unless it’s in the sunset or flowers!
Kirsten’s company, Raven + Lily, is an ethical fashion and lifestyle brand dedicated to empowering women through design. They currently help employ over 1,500 marginalized women at fair trade wages to give them access to a safe job, sustainable income, health care, education, and a real chance to break the cycle of poverty for themselves and their families. I love their modern minimalist pieces — especially the jewelry! — that are made by hand using eco-friendly processes. The brand just opened a new store at Domain Northside here in Austin that is just gorgeous.
Items always in your refrigerator:
Fresh eggs from our chickens and fresh fruit and veggies for our daily smoothies from the local farmer’s markets.
Your signature entertaining dish:
A Green Acres Mule cocktail, which is vodka infused with rosemary. And gourmet s’mores around the fire pit after dinner. We use organic, fair trade chocolate and hand-crafted marshmallows.
Your standard hostess outfit:
A Raven + Lily black silk dress and jewelry for fancy dinner parties, or a hand-embroidered tunic over skinny jeans for a more casual get together.
Adam and I sipped on wine from Austin Winery while exploring Green Acres before dinner time.
The taste you’re always craving:
Fine wine and artisan cheese, or homemade ice cream. I don’t keep these items at home or I’d probably over indulge.
What scares you about entertaining?
Big groups! I much prefer intimate dinner parties and gatherings. The less, the merrier.
Guests can book a stay at Green Acres and participate in yurt-style glamping. The retreat features hammocks, horses, bocce ball, and nature trails to enjoy.
Secret to a great dinner party:
Surround yourself with good stories, food from the local community, thoughtful decor, and a question for everyone to answer during the dinner party. A great dinner party should be a little sneak peek into your passions and personality.
Kirsten on the evening:
Our everyday choices can have a positive impact on the people and the planet when we live thoughtfully. We want to be thoughtful about spending time with friends and family over a lovely meal. We want to be thoughtful about the food we are eating and the time it takes to grow, and really savor that meal.
As the sun set, cocktail hour faded into dinner, Chef Julie Ratzesberger served a farm-to-table dinner using all-local ingredients, paired with wines from Austin Winery. We feasted on seared scallops with pecan butter, herb & pecan crusted lamb chops with butternut squash ratio, and poached pears with toasted pecan mascarpone. Even all those delicious pecans came from right down the road at Yegua Creek Farms.
Your dream dinner guests:
Guests that want to engage in meaningful conversation and are okay with an outdoor dining experience. My favorite dinner party guests were my 12 best friends from college that spent a weekend at Green Acres for our 21st reunion. I hosted a farm to table dinner party for them one night and it was a joy to experience that with people I’ve shared life experiences with for so many years.
Your entertaining style in 5 words or less:
Thoughtful, minimal, organic, and modern.
Special thanks to Kirsten and her husband Brandon, as well as everyone who helped make this party a success: