Alicia Lund — a former online fashion editor for ELLE and the brains behind wildly popular fashion and lifestyle blog Cheetah is the New Black — loves to entertain, host her friends and family, and find any reason to celebrate. Nothing makes her happier than gathering an inspiring group of guests around the table. With her knack for design and style she loves to take her creativity to the Thanksgiving table, styling a thoughtful dinner party for her guests that never feels fussy or formal.
Recently, Alicia threw a cozy farmhouse friendsgiving (with the help of her friend chef Kevin O’Connor) to celebrate the upcoming holiday and show us how she personalizes her Thanksgiving table at The Ranch at Stoney Creek. In between plucking fruits and veggies right from the garden and forest and cooking the meal on a campfire, we got to ask Alicia a few questions about her entertaining tips (and snag her mom’s super simple cranberry relish recipe!). Read on for the full interview.
What inspires you when it comes to cooking?
Alicia Lund: I’m most inspired by what is seasonal and fresh. Pull from your garden, local farmers markets, or co-op!
Do you have any favorite entertaining tips?
AL: I’m still working on this one, but trying to plan out the timing of the various dishes when I’m hosting because this is always a tricky one / fail for me, ha! I try to prep as much as possible before guests arrive so that I can enjoy their company rather than all-consumed in the kitchen. And put your friends to work helping! Potlucks are also such a fun way to try new foods and take the stress off cooking the entire meal yourself.
What are your top tips for setting a stylish, personalized Thanksgiving table?
AL: I like to keep the setting of the table simple but adding name cards is always a thoughtful and personal touch. I love collecting beautiful card stock to pull out for such occasions. Simply printing the names (or if you know someone who is good at calligraphy–I often turn to my talented friend, Emilee Rudd), and placing at each setting with a seasonal fruit or flower is my go-to.
What are creative card holders?
AL: A creative way to personalizing place-settings, including creative ways to accent the name cards. We kept the place-settings simple, with handwritten names by friend, Emilee Rudd and William-Sonoma place card holders in gold/bronze, and pretty foraged leaves from throughout the property.
Why do creative cards make entertaining special?
AL: Adding that personal touch, like printing their name and setting it in their place makes guests feel extra special. And it can be a nice keepsake memory for guests to take home. It’s going that little extra step to make the dinner feel all the more thoughtful.
What are some variations on these? How can they be used in different ways?
AL: I love using seasonal fruit (mini persimmons are perfect this time of year), flowers, leaves, feathers, herbs from the garden (or the menu) to set at each place alongside the name card. You could also include finds from the farmer’s or flower market, foraging for natural elements such as herbs (i.e., sprig of sage) or a small trimming of leaves from an olive tree, or vibrant fall colored leaf. In this case I used a mix of flowers and leaves found throughout the property to deck out the Thanksgiving table.
What’s your favorite family Thanksgiving recipe?
AL: My mom’s cranberry orange recipe is a refreshing take on traditional cranberry with the addition of oranges. If you’re a cranberry sauce fan this one is easy to make make and really beats cranberry sauce from a can. My mom has been making it for years now as the cranberry sauce is a favorite of my Dad’s, and is especially a must for sandwich making the days following Thanksgiving. No special tricks to making–it’s super simple.
Mom’s Cranberry Orange Relish
- 1 bag of fresh cranberries
- 1 whole orange – not peeled
- ¾ to 1 cup sugar
- Quarter the orange with the peel (remove any seeds) and put into Cuisinart with the cranberries. Pulse until finely chopped. Stir in ¾ to 1 cup of sugar.
- Put this cranberry mixture into the refrigerator overnight. (Add sugar if needed – sometimes I add only ½ cup of sugar at first and add more the next day if it’s too tart.)
Find Thanksgiving table ideas, essential tools and dozens of recipes at the Williams Sonoma Thanksgiving Headquarters.
Photos by Melissa Gayle