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Chef Dane Hiett offers an array of decadent dishes—including crowd-pleasing charcuterie boards. Photo by Aaron Colussi

Dust Off Your Entertaining Skills With Help From These 5 Party Pros

The easiest and most efficient way to throw a fab gathering at home this season? Enlist the experts.

Psst! The recipe for throwing a fab gathering at home doesn’t stop at a delightful menu, an inviting setting, and a toe-tapping playlist. Most importantly, it calls for a happy and stress-free host. The best—and most efficient—way to be that? Enlist the pros. We chatted with five local party-planning professionals who will help you dust off your hosting skills and impress your guests this entertaining season.

Photo by Aaron Colussi

1. The Food

Who: “It’s that clichéd story of the dishwasher who worked his way up,” Dane Hiett says of his 16-year professional journey in the restaurant industry, which led him to open luxury catering company Chef Dane’s Kitchen in 2017. The list of dishes he’s whipped up for recent events reads like a Michelin-starred restaurant’s menu; highlights include miso-roasted butternut squash soup with celery root cream and thyme oil, and charred octopus with smoked pistachio romesco, fried artichoke, and basil chimichurri.
What he brings to the party: “We want to compete with some of the best restaurants in Denver, but we bring it to your house,” Hiett says, adding that his team will arrive with everything they need for their three- to five-course dinners, including equipment, tableware, and food that’s already 60-percent prepped off-site—whether you’re hosting a party for six or 60.

Hiett’s Tips for a Top-Shelf Fête

1. “Try not to overcomplicate things. A lot of people who read food magazines think you need to add 14 ingredients to a dish, and they miss the important aspects of cooking, like searing a steak properly or not opening the oven door every other minute to look inside.”
2. “You don’t need four or five different dishes—let three of them be the stars, treat them the right way, and let them sing.”
3. “In autumn, it’s about earthy tones, more root veggies, more herbs—you want more comfort in your food than in summer. Our braised short rib agnolotti is great in fall’s cooler weather.”

The cost: Chef Dane’s private dinners start at $85 per person; appetizers start at $35 per person.

2. The Decor

Photo by Aaron Colussi

Who: Party-planning power couple Jenni and Andrew Lietz met and fell in love while working events at the Ritz-Carlton, Denver. They realized that helping whip up megawatt experiences was their true calling—“I was always showing up early to events to make things prettier,” Jenni recalls—and in 2017, they founded Wallflower Rentals. Now, the Lietzes help hosts beautify their own soirées with a wide selection of furniture and decor rentals, and they provide full-service event design for clients who prefer a more hands-off approach.
What they bring to the party: At their 4,000-square-foot warehouse in Longmont and on their website, you’ll find statement pieces ranging from lounge furniture (think: dusty-blue wingback chairs; kilim-wrapped poufs) to tableware (including trending rose-gold silverware and blush-pink goblets) to textiles (cowhide rugs; boho throw pillows), all with no rental minimums if you do the pickup and drop-off (a $500 minimum applies for delivery service). Coming soon: themed party boxes that include tableware, linens, and glassware, so you can wow your friends with a Great Gatsby–inspired dinner or set the scene for an alfresco garden picnic in a snap.

Jenni’s Tips for a Top-Shelf Fête

1. “Not everything in a tablescape has to look the same. I love mixing different metals and finishes.”
2. “Source event styling ideas from your personal life. For a recent wedding, we had a local chalk artist make a specialty-drink sign with a portrait of the couple’s dog—and the drink was named after the dog too.”

The cost: Wallflower Rentals offers single decor pieces foras little as $5 per day.

3. The Music

Photo by Aaron Colussi

Who: Simone Pier, the 31-year-old Denver native behind DJ Simone Says, has been a house DJ for famed rap and pop artists including Kendrick Lamar and Willow Smith—a career she’s dreamt of since she was a tween. “When I was 12, I attended a summer day camp where we did a workshop with a DJ. I went home that day and begged my mom for turntables,” Pier says. She credits that early obsession for her now-booming business. “It was truly a passion of mine—I didn’t start out trying to monetize it, which is why I’ve been successful.”
What she brings to the party: “I don’t care if it’s 10 people or 50,000 people, I’m able to connect with the audience and give them that truly personal experience,” says Pier, who has played her genre-blending mixes at a range of Denver venues—from Empower Field at Mile High to the Family Jones Spirit House in LoHi to private residences.

Pier’s Tips for a Top-Shelf Fête

1. “I usually start with older, classic, upbeat songs that pretty much everyone will know, like Michael Jackson’s ‘Pretty Young Thing.’ People really appreciate nostalgic music. I’ll throw out testers for the first 15 minutes to see which one the crowd catches on to, and then from there, I curate the rest of the evening.”
2. “For sound levels, I usually start on the lower end, especially if it’s a social event where people are going to be talking and music isn’t the main reason they’re there—it’s to lighten the mood or provide background noise. As people drink or get looser, I’ll come up on sound and bass as they want to dance.”

The cost: You can hire DJ Simone Says to spin at your private event for about $150 per hour.

Photo by Aaron Colussi

4. The Drinks

Who: “I was probably 29 years old when I thought, ‘What am I doing with my life?’ I figured I was getting too old to be a bar-tender,” says Crystal Sagan, who founded Cocktail Caravan in 2016. So, after a stint in publishing, she started a boutique craft beverage service for events of all sizes, complete with Bandit the bar bicycle and a 1960s-era, 15-foot-long caravan bar named Lolita. It launched with a particularly delicious tipple: “I did a 300-person wedding and made hand-muddled cucumber margaritas, and they were a huge hit—the phone never stopped ringing from there,” Sagan says.
What she brings to the party: Expertly curated cocktails to suit any taste, whether you’re looking for a classic negroni or a signature cocktail made with locally distilled Breckenridge bourbon and ingredients fresh-plucked from Longmont farms. But this mixologist knows it’s not (just) about quality quaffs. “We recognize that nobody actually needs our help to get a little bit tipsy—that’s something that people are very capable of doing on their own!” Sagan says. “But we make it more fun, and easier [for hosts], too.” (And for teetotalers, she happily shakes up mocktails—a specialty she perfected during her pregnancy this year.)

Sagan’s Tips for a Top-Shelf Fête

1. “Prepare, prepare, prepare. Whatever you can do ahead of time—like juicing lemons or making simple syrup—do it, so things are ready to go.”
2. “Use fresh ingredients, and don’t skimp on citrus. It’s tempting to buy Whole Foods–brand lemon juice, but if it’s coming off a shelf, it’s been pasteurized, which means it’s been heated and lost its flavor profile and a lot of its vibrancy.”

The cost: Cocktail Caravan’s custom bar packages start at $625 for Bandit and $1,060 for Lolita.

5. The Flowers

Who: Beet & Yarrow’s floral creations are anything but prim and proper, and that’s the way owner Kimberly Hyde likes it. “We have a more organic approach to florals—not super traditional or tight,” says Hyde, who worked as a graphic designer before launching her business, which specializes in wild-and-whimsical arrangements, in 2012. “Botany was always really appealing to me, and I wanted to combine design with living things.”
What she brings to the party: “There are [predominantly] two sides of the floral industry in Denver—one is really high-end, and the other is on the cheaper end, but lacks a lot of creativity,” Hyde says. “We try to hit the sweet spot of easy online ordering and delivery and a really fresh style.” Options include the Dolly, a flurry of marigolds, oranges, pampas grass, and gold chrysanthemums (starting at $69), and the Designer’s Choice—an assortment of seasonal flowers hand-selected by Beet & Yarrow staff.

Photo by Aaron Colussi

Hyde’s Tips for a Top-Shelf Fête

1. “Fall is the best time for flowers; we have the most [varieties] available to us, both imported and locally grown. In autumn, I always recommend amaranthus, zinnias, and dahlias, and flowering herbs like dill or basil can be really fun.”
2. “Have your flowers delivered the day before your event, so they’re the most open and showy they can be.”
3. “You don’t want anything taller than 10 inches on a table for a dinner party, so people can communicate. We tend to do lower arrangements with a little bit of volume.”

The cost: Beet & Yarrow offers vased arrangements starting at $59.

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