Jennings Ross is a renaissance woman - a multifaceted creative with an expertise in food, fashion, interiors and art. She lives and loves all things beautiful, bringing a little more magic to the world around her, yet she never forgets to balance the aesthetic with the functional. We asked Jennings to share some hot tips with us, and below she’s given us some easy, accessible, quick ways to add a special touch to our day to day.
Favorite cooking resource?
Foolproof and Make It Ahead by Barefoot Contessa, The Defined Dish (blog and cookbook), Half Baked Harvest (blog and cookbooks). I also love Food52, which is an amazing online cooking and gift shop, that also has a blog with great recipe contributors.
Must have kitchen staples?
- chef’s knife, serrated bread knife, microplane, citrus juicer, parchment paper and quarter sheet pans
- hot sauce (many kinds!), lemons, garlic, flakey salt, cherry tomatoes, arugula, sweet potatoes, good cheese (I usually keep blue, feta and fresh mozzarella on hand)
Easy recipe or meal idea?
I’m a big fan of a semi-homemade or “assembly” meal. One of my recent semi homemade faves is to buy an Annie’s Organic Margherita Pizza from the freezer section at the grocery and cook it as directed. Then, I top with tons of arugula tossed in a mixture of olive oil, chili oil, lemon juice, salt & pepper. It looks so colorful and pretty and adds tons of freshness.
When I say assembly meal, I mean something that doesn’t require actual cooking. When I’m tired and not in the mood to cook, I love to make myself a dressed-up snack plate. I’ll include things like naan bread cut into triangles, dried cherries or apricots, sliced cucumbers, cheese, and maybe some prosciutto or sliced turkey. It looks beautiful, tastes great, and is easy to throw together at a moment’s notice.
Ultimate dinner party guests?
- I love her home and lifestyle in East Hampton. Her food is delicious and flavorful without being too fussy. She has a home in Paris and could tell me all about her favorite places there. She makes a mean cocktail (from what I can tell!)
- She has a unique and inspiring personal style that inspires me as a designer. She’s got that cool girl je ne sais quoi that seems totally effortless. She makes awesome playlists and seems like a fun person to be around.
- Because who doesn’t love Paul Rudd? He’s adorable and hilarious.
Simple ways to set the scene?
Music is a must. I’m a big playlist maker and usually curate lists based on the mood/vibe I want when I’m listening. For dinner parties, I usually play my Spotify playlist called Cooking Tunes. It’s got a mid-tempo mix of feel-good songs spanning several genres including, American standards, French jazz, motown, latin, and pop.
Table Setting is important and sets the tone for the meal. I typically enjoy myself more when it’s not too formal, but has some thoughtful details – like cloth napkins, florals, candles, and pretty glassware. Low height floral arrangements (or even branches from your yard) are ideal, so you can see your guests across the table while you talk. Choose one to three colors you want to use and work around that when selecting your dishes and napkins. Place cards always add a special touch, too.
Some entertaining tips I’ve picked up along the way:
- Do as much as you can ahead of time so you’re not stressing in the kitchen when your guests are there. Set the table a day or two ahead. Cook and prep as much as possible the day before or morning of your meal.
- Light candles, pour yourself a drink, and start the music before your friends arrive. You’ll enjoy the process more if you include yourself in the “entertaining.”
- Don’t make every single thing yourself. For example: If you’re serving three appetizers, make one thing and buy the rest. Perhaps you make a dip or beautiful salad, then buy olives, cheese and crackers to serve alongside.
- Decant store-bought items into pretty dishes. Having a barbecue? Don’t serve potato chips straight from the bag. Pour them out into a pretty bowl, and instantly your spread looks more elegant.
- Last, try to never clean up while your guests are present. You want to be present and make them feel welcome as long as they’re in your home, and not like you’re trying to rush them out the door as soon as they finish eating and drinking.
- I almost always plate and garnish my food and make it look pretty - even if I’m just cooking for myself.
- I feel most alive when exploring a new place.
- I love capturing people candidly, when they’re not posing or paying attention. I once had someone tell me she never liked photos of herself and felt she looked really beautiful in the photo I took of her. That was the best compliment!
- I (almost) never measure when hanging pictures or gallery walls, which freaks people out. I totally wing it 99% of the time.
- I only eat with “little forks and little spoons” aka salad forks and dessert spoons. The larger ones just feel enormous to me. I always know which spot is mine at the family table when I see the little fork.
If all that cooking sounds messy, embrace it like Jennings. Our classic button down Oxford shirt or The Shirtdress can make (self) clean up a breeze thanks to spill friendly, quick dry cotton that’s easy to care for. With The MO Cuff, keep your sleeves out of the gravy and your hands free to serve your masterpieces. Bon appétit!