Hosting Tips

The Fresh Exchange

By Chanel Dror
outdoor dinner party

Megan and Mike of The Fresh Exchange are the kind of creative couple who truly embody effortlessness. Their aesthetic is on trend-yet-approachable, their recipes require just a handful of ingredients, and their travels inspire a sense of wanderlust that isn’t just aspirational. I’ve had my eye on the stylish duo for a while, but thankfully held out until the onset of fall to ask for a peek into their entertaining style. The result is a cozy outdoor dinner that’ll have you itching to forage some seasonal ingredients and get to hosting…

*photography by Brett and Jessica Donar

Your entertaining style in 5 words or less:

Natural, Communal, Relaxed and Seasonal.

The entertaining rule you rarely break:

For me it is more of a motto: Keep it simple, uncomplicated, and create the best environment for good conversation.

Your must have entertaining tool: 

Great company. When I have a gathering, it’s not about the food or the decorations; it’s about the people the evening is bringing together. There is nothing I love more than gathering around a table with people who all desire to inspire and make the world a little better than they left it. When the right people gather, the rest of the evening comes together perfectly every time. If for any reason I forgot something that I need for the dinner, I can ask guests for help, and we can work together to make the night come together. Sometimes that makes for the most memorable moments.

What scares you about entertaining? 

Weather. I love entertaining outdoors, so I always fear that I will wake up to a storm on a day I thought the sky would be crystal clear. It’s not that a storm ruins the moment, but it sometimes loses the magic for me just because of the expectation I had going into the evening. Great evenings still come out of these moments, but it doesn’t mean I don’t get scared the weather could change my plans.

Your standard hostess outfit: 

In the summer, a jumpsuit or a dress with pockets (never know when you need a lighter for candles). In the cooler months, flat shoes (boots most likely) with a button down and favorite relaxed jeans. I don’t dress fancy and I want my guests to always feel at home when they come over. 

Your signature entertaining dish: 

A seasonal salad. The day of a dinner party I go to a local market and find the most beautiful, fresh, seasonal veggies and fruits to create a salad. During this time of year I may make a salad with sweet potatoes, pomegranate seeds, kale, apples, and toasted pumpkin seeds. I love that a salad can always take on the colors and flavors of the season. Typically it can even become part of the decor.

Get the delicious recipe for Megan and Mike’s Kale and Sweet Potato Salad with Ginger Dressing here

The taste you’re always craving: 

Bread. Doesn’t everyone?! Every time I entertain I always make sure to have a great bread that we can enjoy with either appetizers or dinner. We have a few incredible local bakeries in Raleigh that we love, and I will always swing by one on my way back from the market to pick the right one for the meal. 

Click here to get the recipe for Megan and Mike’s Prosciutto Crostinis


Current favorite color palette for parties:

It’s more of a texture palette than a color palette, but I love wood, metal, glass and linen mixed together. 

I am not a flower person but I love placing fresh herbs on the table. In Raleigh, rosemary grows like a tree so that is usually in a vase or jar on the table almost anytime of the year. This time of year the African Basil is pretty wild and fragrant as well. Herbs always add that extra level because of their fragrance, not to mention they can become a great garnish for the evening. Plus, the colors and textures are so natural, wild and fresh.

Always in your refrigerator:

White Whale Cocktail Mixers. I love being able to offer a cocktail to guests when they arrive. I don’t always want to gather 5-6 ingredients to make cocktails on top of already making a meal, but these little mixers are a 1-to-1 mix. All you need is the suggested liquor. Seriously, there isn’t a better thing that you could have for an evening of entertaining. 

I always went to the classic wine or beer, but now I can have cocktails to suit anyone’s palette mixed and ready or even show guests how to do it themselves. A big bonus is that they make for a great conversation starter with your guests. This Fall I am pretty into the Mob Man with my favorite rye whiskey.

Your dream dinner guests:

My neighbors. We try hard to gather as a group every month, whether it be at one person’s home or as a progressive evening. We live among amazing makers and doers whose backgrounds vary, which makes for a great community for dinner parties. When we come together, it is always an amazing evening. 

The perfect dinner party playlist: 

Uplifting but not too energetic music. I make a playlist for most of our Simple Evenings while I am planning them, but whether we use it or not isn’t as important as using the playlist to define the mood. My favorite lists have included songs from Ryan Adams, Swear and Shake, and Phosphorescent. I want people to feel relaxed but still keep the mood light and happy.

The restaurant meal you’ll never forget: 

In Portugal we ate at a Michelin star restaurant for our first time. At the time, we were traveling with our friends and neighbors so we got to share the evening with them, which was truly special to begin with. Enjoying a meal with others who appreciate a quality culinary experience was very special. We still laugh about that night even now back in Raleigh on each other’s porches. The food was amazing and each dish took on the life and culture of Lisbon, which made the experience that much more unique. From our hilarious international model sommelier to the food and our walk back to the apartment, the whole evening was one of my favorite experiences I have had at a restaurant.