We are firm believers in gathering for the sake of gathering however, when a community comes together for a common cause, that gathering becomes all the more impactful. After the destruction the Napa Valley fires left behind last fall, the region continues the healing process but is ready to welcome visitors and provide the legendary Napa Wine Valley experience to all who stay awhile. Last November (about 6 weeks after the fires), Ashley Smith Events helped Casey Burke, Jessica Berry, Layla Azimi, Lisa Nourse PR, Jesse Tombs and more prouduce a beneficiary event raising $27,000 of direct relief funds. One item auctioned off was a private dinner party featuring some of San Fransisco’s finest creative minds. All who were involved donated their time, resources and talent to create a one-of-a-kind dinner party for the lucky winner.
We caught up with Ashley Smith about this group of San Franciscans coming to stand by the side of their sister community and, of course, what went into creating this magical dinner party at Capitol Art.
Can you share why gatherings are important to community relief efforts such as in Napa Valley?
Gatherings like this are incredibly impactful for places that experience trauma like Napa after the fires, especially now. Napa still needs our support months after the fact and they need visitors to continue visiting. Venues are still standing and businesses are still there. Events like this showcase that their spirit hasn't been broken and they are ready to keep marching forward. I think this helps re-invigorate and spread the word that they are more ready than ever to share their hospitality and show the world they haven't skipped a beat. (Note: we produced the actual event "With Love From SF" as a fundraiser on November 28, 2017, about 5-6 weeks after the Napa Fires. We raised $27,000 that night and 100% of it went to relief funds. A huge portion of those funds were raised from the auction that evening, of which this dinner party was the premium prize. This was one small event from SF showing it's love and support to our sister community).
Why did this venue donate the space for the efforts?
Capitol Art (based in SF) was excited to open their arms for this dinner party. They are a production studio that can host small events and often aren't thought of in this regard. However, it's an amazing venue because it is a production studio. It has amazing light and all of the features are well thought out (Christina was able to shoot film and was stoked). They were happy to collaborate on this dinner party because it was a concept that hit home for them. This was a great spot for us because it offered the privacy and option to build a whole kitchen in front of the guests, therefore creating the experience we wanted to put forward. They jumped at the opportunity to participate.
What was on the menu?
"In designing our plan for this event, our minds were still very much on the wildfires, and our hearts with its victims — some of our own team members lost their homes in the fire. We were also thinking about the spirit of collaboration, generosity, and sharing that was so inspiring in the bay area in the fires’ aftermath.
With that in mind, our chefs designed a menu that incorporated some of the first spring produce that was beginning to appear in March, a time of year that always brings a sense of hope associated with new growth. We designed the menu collaboratively, so that each of our chefs involved would feel they were sharing a piece of themselves with the guests.
To take that concept even further, we designed service to incorporate an open kitchen and table-side bar service, so as to rupture the boundary between diner and chef, and to reinforce a spirit of hospitality and sharing that would permeate the dining experience. We wanted to provide exceptional service in an incredible space, while offering something of the warmth of a dinner party in a private home, among friends." -- Ally Grubb of LRE
How was the evening set-up to flow from arrival to departure?
When I was conceptualizing the dinner party, my vision was to create an experience where the guests would not have think about anything but selecting their guest list. It was really about the auction winner being able to invite 7 of their closest people to the table and break bread with them, a mirror of what Napa does so effortlessly. Often the host is pre-occupied or tuned into the details of the evening. This was so much more about the experience that we (as a team) can create when we come together. We had a private entry to the space, from there Serpentine set up a welcome table with drinks on arrival. There was a lounge where the guests gathered until it was time to sit for dinner. It was all candle lit, which added to the mood because it happened to be a stormy day with very heavy rain. I loved Ally's (of LRE) idea of building the kitchen next to the guests so they got to see and experience the whole meal being prepared and really be a part of it. They were treated to bites, then a 3 course plated meal. We set up the bar, which was generously donated by Serpentine, on the end of the dinning table so all cocktails were prepared table side. We had gorgeous letter pressed menus made by The Idea Emporium that displayed all of the cocktails paired to each course. Dart Collective made a playlist that was playing the entire time in the back ground for ambience.
Why were certain design decisions made?
I really wanted to create a space that felt totally private and built out just for this one night. I wanted to have a very elevated experience but also wanted to let the kitchen speak for itself and be the show. Food and beverage were really the spotlight on this. It was perfect that the winner picked a spring date, because I got to really play with my favorite color, green. I wanted to encompass the dinner table somehow with a light and bright design element. I tossed out the idea of hanging florals and Marigold went to town on the hanging floral piece. I think that might have been the prettiest chandelier I've ever seen. Theoni's place settings and heath plates really helped pull the feeling through. Really the whole feel and vibe was letting each vendor do their thing. You get such a great product when all the vendors are passionate about their role and care about producing. It was a really magical thing to watch, everyone selflessly donating their time, resources and expertise to complete strangers.
Planning + Design: Ashley Smith Events | Photography: Christina McNeill | Venue: Capitol Art | 3 Course Meal: LRE | Cocktails: Serpentine | Rentals: Theoni | Florals: Marigold SF | Playlist: Dart Collective | Collateral + Menus: The Idea Emporium
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