As the holidays drew near, it didn’t take designer Dan Proctor and his partner Jeffrey Hess long to come up with a great reason to give a party last year. They had just sold their spacious North Charles Street home and decided to give “a going-away party” for the house at Christmastime to leave it in grand style. They started the planning a month early.

“In years past,” says Dan, giver of legendary parties, “we’d do all the food preparation and flower arranging ourselves. This year, we were smart enough to hire Jake Boone to do the flowers and Nona Nielsen-Parker [of GlasZ Gourmet] to prepare the food. When you do it all yourself, you don’t have energy left to enjoy the party.”

As guests arrived, they were greeted with a crescendo of white flowers— French tulips, delphinium, hydrangea and amaryllis on the center hall table— and a demitasse of lobster bisque. “The first few minutes of a party can be somewhat awkward,” Dan continues. “The bisque gives guests something to talk about, a prop.”

I asked Dan to reveal his secrets of a spectacular gathering. “For a party to be memorable you must have visual stimulation— flowers, setting, lighting. And also important is scent— flowers, food. And then the unexpected— entertainment, gifts. Holiday time is a time when anything worth doing is worth overdoing.”

And how do you pace a party?

“Staging is important in planning how the party will progress. In what room should the party start? How do you pull people along? You can serve hors d’oeuvres in one room, open double doors to serve dinner in another, and have dessert in a tent in the garden. The pulling of people through different environments adds to the element of surprise. At this party, we tented the back yard and had dessert there.

“Another important thing is color and texture. I love big, bold strokes of color. In the living room, I wanted deep dark colors not associated with holiday time, like rich dark chocolate, blood oranges. I have two large glass bowls, one of which I wanted all orange and the other all chartreuse. Nona filled one with baby carrots with tops and sweet potato appetizers. The other was green fingerling potatoes and asparagus with a Green Goddess dip.

“I wanted the buffet table to be warm reds and browns. In the backyard tent we had a sugar and ice color scheme for the dessert— strawberries dipped in white chocolate— very different from inside. And of course, we were surrounded by snow.”

And for entertainment? “Bill Garrison played holiday tunes on our beloved piano, which, alas, we couldn’t take with us when we moved.”

To complete the evening, Dan and Jeffrey asked Albert Kirchmayr to make individual chocolate truffles that were boxed, gaily wrapped and placed on the table near the door. As cheerful guests left the party, they took home a gift, to round out the holiday spirit.

the MENU

Lobster bisque in demitasse cups
Corncakes with pepper-orange prosciutto
Cucumber with herb cheese and caviar
Stuffed fried olives
Green-lip mussels with red pepper relish
Beet and goat cheese in endive
Tuna and mango on sugar cane skewers
Traditional gravlox
Pork tenderloin roulade with salsa verde
Crab claws with orange-sherry mayonnaise
Lemon grass-rubbed marinated beef tenderloin
Fingerling potatoes
Asparagus and baby carrots
Cream puffs
Strawberries dipped in white chocolate

Stuffed Fried Olives
24 large Spanish olives, pitted
1 1/2 cups Boursin cheese (room temperature)
1 egg
2 cups cream
1 cup flour
2 cups bread crumbs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
salt and pepper
vegetable oil

Mix Boursin cheese with thyme. Using a small pastry bag, pipe the cheese mixture into the olives. Season the flour with salt and pepper. Dredge the olives in the flour. Whisk the egg and cream together and coat the olives with the egg mixture. Mix the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Dredge the wet olives in the bread crumb mixture. Remove and chill in refrigerator 1 hour. In a small, deep pan, heat 3 to 4 inches of vegetable oil to 375 degrees. Carefully fry 6 olives at a time in the oil until golden brown. Drain excess oil and serve hot.

Catering GlasZ Gourmet, Baltimore, 410-235-0553
Flowers Jake Boone, Baltimore, 410-435-2000
Music William Garrison, Baltimore, 410-483-6172
Bartender Eugene Booker, Baltimore, 410-654-0144

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