Holiday Entertaining Expertise From Ned and Peter Kelly
Here they share their favorite tips for bringing people together this fall and winter.
Photography by Ellen McDermott
Summer is officially over, and that means it’s time for football, foliage, and cooler weather. It also means the holidays are here and get-togethers become more abundant. To help make fall entertaining simple yet stylish, brothers Peter and Ned Kelly created two tablescapes and two menus that will lend a festive air to just about any soiree this season.
From right to left: Peter and Ned Kelly serve up butternut squash soup. They set a casual buffet table for an informal gathering of friends and family, perfect for watching a football game.
A Sunday Gathering
For this easy buffet, Peter and Ned kept everything simple yet delicious. “This little party works to watch a football game at the house with your college buddies or to invite a couple of relatives over for a little get-together to watch the Tonys in the winter,” they say.
For the menu, Peter, owner and chef of X2O, Restaurant X, and Bully Boy Bar, started with butternut squash soup. “You want to … choose things you can prepare a little bit ahead of time and lay out when guests arrive,” he says. “Particularly in the fall and winter I think of a soup because I can make it the day before and put it out before guests arrive; you don’t need anything else with a bowl of soup other than a loaf of bread.”
Peter Kelly likes soup for a casual, fall get together because you can make it ahead and serve it simply with bread. Make the menu even more special by adding a few appetizers.
Peter says that if you want to make your gathering a tad more special, a few simple recipes will elevate the menu.
“It’s nice to have something to pass,” he says. “For this table we made French bread croutons that we toasted with olive oil and added a spoonful of burrata and a little sheath of prosciutto di Parma.”
For a vegetable Peter suggests fennel. “Fennel is a nice fall vegetable,” he says. “Here we braised the fennel and used it as a base for sautéed shrimp. You can do the fennel ahead of time and just do the shrimp right before you serve it.” The most important thing, he says, is quality. “You don’t need a lot; you just need a little.”
The table decor followed the theme of simple yet lovely.
“The kids get back to school and it’s a little less hectic, so you want to be able to throw a stylish table together with lots of tasty foods,” says Ned Kelly. “This more casual party is not structured, so people can come and go.”
For the tablescape, Ned built on the Juliska dinnerware pattern A Walk in the Woods, which he carries in his Piermont shop, Ned Kelly & Company. “Find a common theme and mix and match,” he says. “Everything is related in color and texture but not matchy-matchy.”
For a base Ned used a linen tablecloth topped with a Japanese obi fabric in fall colors. He added floral napkins that shared similar colors to the obi; bronze candlesticks, including a bronze frog candleholder; and a festive floral arrangement.
Ned filled an antique silver pitcher with berries, reeds, greenery, and foliage. Nosegay arrangements in small artichoke planters filled out the table. Votive candles along the fireplace mantel and table candles added light and ambience.
“High and low, the best of fine china, different eras — it doesn’t matter where they come from or how much they cost, if the items you have are good, they’re good, and you can mix them together,” says Ned. “And unusual pieces like the frog candleholder make the table feel curated.”
A more celebratory table is set including beautiful place settings and a more elegant menu.
A Celebratory Dinner
Some occasions are meant to be celebrated, and some are meant to be more elegant. That was the idea behind this intimate dinner table and menu.
“This tablescape was inspired by all of the things you collect over the years but don’t use very often,” says Ned. “Peter gave these beautiful plates to me as a Christmas gift and added to the collection over the years.”
For a special occasion, Peter Kelly says to prepare something you wouldn’t make every day. Here, he made Beef Wellington. Ned Kelly set a table using special dishes his brother gifted him, silver, crystal, and a lace tablecloth to elevate the decor.
The table was set with a lace tablecloth, ornate silver, crystal glasses, and the plates that were gifted to Ned by Peter. Peter plated the food on red dishes to add another splash of color and complement the place settings.
“I like to say ‘celebratory not formal,’” says Peter. “For the menu, I wanted to do something special that you wouldn’t do every day.”
Thus, he chose beef Wellington as the main dish. The classic dish “is not hard but time consuming, and not something you would attempt every day. When you’re going to have a special dinner with special friends or guests, this is a dish you can do.”
The colors from the table — fall reds and greenery — pop, especially when food is served. “You have the red from the rare beef, the mahogany crust of the puff pastry, the vibrant green of the spinach, all against the soft white of the potato gratin,” says Peter.
Ned wanted the tablescape to be as exceptional as the food. “When Peter makes something, it’s always special, but especially here the decor needed to live up to the menu.”
The attention to detail of both the menu and the table setting is what makes guests feel extra special. Ned and Peter say that if you have china or cherished items you keep stored away, there is no time like the present to dust them off and use them. You don’t have to wait for the holidays or a special occasion — the company is what makes a gathering a celebration.