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The Dinner Party: Table Talk

Local culinary consultant Ashley R. Brooks breaks down how she arranges a spread worthy of her stylish guests.

The Space
I have a personal connection to what’s now Bluebeard’s private dining area, The Second Story. I lived there with my ex-husband Jonathan Brooks from 2011 to 2013. My son was born there, and the Milktooth business plan was conceived in that loft. It’s a beautiful space for dinner parties.

Flowers
These blooms came from Flying Dirt Farm in Fortville. They’re a vendor at my Garfield Park farmers market, and they always have the most delicate, hand-picked bouquets. In this case, I wanted the individual flowers to stand out, so I just put a stem or two in bud vases.

A Signature Piece
A silk runner casually bunched down the length of the table adds a feminine touch. This one is meaningful to me because my grandfather acquired it overseas for my grandmother when he was a 2nd lieutenant working as a courier between the U.S. and the Philippines in 1944. Some aspect of the table should be unique to you.

Plates
Most of these are fairly standard, but the salad plates are by an artist who goes by HateCopy. Her art is a commentary on life for a first-generation Indian living in the U.S. I think it’s fun to have a couple of unique pieces for your guests to spark conversation.

Flatware and Glasses
I borrowed the gorgeous gold flatware and vintage glasses from Bar One Fourteen because Martha Hoover’s stuff is to die for. But I know not everyone has access to Martha’s stuff. If you’re looking to rent this kind of dining ware, Violet Vintage has a great selection.

Candles
These scented sandalwood candles are from Penn & Beech. Some people go overboard with the candelabras and other table decorations. But I like to keep most of them pretty low so guests can actually talk to the person across from them.

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