Earlier this year, I did an “edit” on my Instagram feed and whittled it down to only the accounts who truly inspire me. It’s been game-changing to be able to pick up my phone and get an immediate dose of beauty and creativity across style, travel, art, and wellness…and of course food! One of my very favorite sources of edible insta-inspiration is @willfrolicforfood, where Virginia-based Renee Byrd chronicles her vibrant plant-based creations and shares them, along with beautiful captions celebrating nature and connection, with her loyal followers. As she says so beautifully on her site, “I see every meal as an opportunity to play, improvise, connect with spirit, create magic and act lovingly toward myself and others.” Keep reading and get ready to fall in love with Renee and her garden-fresh summertime gathering.
What’s your must-have entertaining tool?
Confidence, imagination, and very sharp chef’s knife (it makes prep so much easier). Oh, and pretty serving boards.
The entertaining rule you rarely break?
Greet guests with a hug, serve plant-powered food from local and organic sources, and provide ample libations.
What scares you about entertaining?
Planning the aesthetic (ahem, and getting everything cooked in time!). I have a way of exploding a glamour bomb on my space when I’m under pressure. But no doubt, I get anxious about making sure everything feels and tastes magnificent.
Where did you learn to cook?
My mother taught me to cook. She is a brilliantly creative home chef. She showed me through example that cooking is just another way to play and get wild. And she instilled in me that there’s really nothing to be afraid of in the kitchen as long as you know how to balance flavors and marry spices.
The taste you’re always craving?
I usually crave lots of things at any given time: tamari, coconut milk, lime, cardamom, matcha, coffee, blueberries, really good olive oil, and chocolate are my habitual cravings.
What’s your signature cocktail?
My pineapple paloma. Although for this party I kept it simple and served Virginia-local cider, beer, and plenty of La Croix.
Your signature dish for parties?
I never make the same thing twice. But I am becoming quite a cheeseboard expert! It’s all about making it look like a crunchy cornucopia of goodness. I like to do a range of soft, medium hard, and hard goat cheeses alongside nuts, dried fruits, fresh berries, and a few different styles of crackers. And I always do dried flower petals on top of chèvre, which makes it feel extra special.
What’s your go-to source for recipes?
My own brain of course! However, I absolutely love The First Mess, My New Roots, Heartbeet Kitchen, This Rawsome Vegan Life, and Kale & Caramel. I scroll through their beautiful blogs (and books) for inspiration and technique all the time.
What would we never find at one of your parties?
A flavorless, raw vegetable platter – like those grocery store ones that come in ready-to-serve plastic trays with Ranch dip…you know what I mean?
The perfect dinner party playlist includes:
I usually put on a Spotify Daily Mix of some of my favorites: Alt-J, Father John Misty, Fruit Bats, Phosphorescent, Delta Spirit, and Kishi Bashi. When things feel more chill, I put on wordy lady folk like Jesca Hoop or Johanna Warren.
Favorite tabletop item you own?
Right now my favorite thing to style a table with is fresh flowers or plants. I grow a bunch of flowers in my yard, and I’m definitely not above foraging some urban blooms hanging sidewalk-side. I have an old, thrifted, hammered copper vase that’s divine for showing off flora. I love found and thrifted goods that have a bit of wear to them. They always feel like salvaged treasure.
What restaurant meal will you never forget?
My husband and I have a favorite restaurant in Brooklyn called Zenkichi. It’s a dimly lit Japanese brasserie with a focus on omakase (prix fixe) menus. The food is divine — lots of very fresh, flavorful sea- and veggie-fare. You sit in private booths with bamboo shades that block the view of onlookers. It’s intimate and romantic. You’re in the city but you could almost believe that you’re eating hot crispy tempura with matcha salt in a quiet, candle-lit bamboo forest at night. We try to go at least once a year.
What’s always in your refrigerator?
A chilled can of coconut milk. Leafy greens. Medjool dates. Plant milk (usually homemade). Cold brew herbal tea sweetened with raw honey; I like a blend I get from Mountain Rose Herbs called “peace tea.” It’s a mix of spearmint, chamomile, lavender, cinnamon, rose, and passionflower. It seriously makes me feel so chill and at ease.
Secret to a great dinner party?
Gorgeous overflowing platters of food, intention, and a particularly excellent group of people. I love to use dinner parties as an excuse to introduce friends from different areas of my life who I think would love each other… but would never have a chance to connect otherwise. Conversation and connection are totally the secret to a memorable and magical evening.
Go-to centerpiece solution?
Potted plants. I have loads of plants in my house so it’s easy to repurpose them for centerpieces. I think they like to bask in the attention too! And candles are essential for evening dinner parties. Generally I prefer beeswax candles but in the South you absolutely have to have citronella candles. Of course, candlelight makes everything feel dipped in romance. I swear people just love to laze around outside when the table is lit by candles. It creates an otherworldly ambiance that we modern humans rarely get to bask in. Other than that I try to keep it simple and unfussy, and let the beautiful food on the table speak for itself!
What’s your standard hostess outfit?
A relaxed, soft dress in a punch color/modern cut makes me feel confident and sexy. No shoes, ever.
Current favorite color palette for parties?
Lavender, neutrals, and lush jungle greens.
Dream dinner guests?
All of my blogger friends! We live all over the world, so it’s really tough to get us all together. It’s such a joy when we get to hang.
Favorite after-dinner activity or game?
My favorite portion of a dinner party is the warm, happy post-meal haze when everyone starts getting really comfortable with each other and opens up. I feel like that’s when magic happens. At that point, I tend to migrate to my VW van, which I like to keep open as a cushy chill out space and makeshift bar. I sit in there with my friends, pour myself another drink, and we share stories and play music as the stars start to come out.
It’s not a party without _____.
Asking, “Who made this dope elderflower kombucha?!”
Your entertaining style in 5 words or less:
Hippie, relaxed, homegrown, charming, nourishing.