Hosting 101, a party-giving tutorial held at the Sklar Furnishings gallery in Boca Raton, included stations set up for demonstrating specific hosting skills. Abbey Furlong, who specializes in visually spectacular charcuterie boards and grazing tables, provided the food with this presentation. Proceeds went to the Achievement Centers for Children & Families. Photos by Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
By Tao Woolfe
Eleanor Roosevelt, famous for throwing lavish parties at the White House during her husband’s presidency, believed there was no such thing as a bad guest.
“A guest is really good or bad because of the host or hostess who makes being a guest an easy or a difficult task,” she said.
Mrs. Roosevelt might have been interested to learn that there’s a slightly different school of thought among Palm Beach County philanthropists: There’s no such thing as a bad hostess.
You just need a little practice and some props.
At a recent party-giving event, dubbed Hosting 101 and held at the Sklar Furnishings gallery in Boca Raton, guests dressed in bright summer colors moved around to stations set up for demonstrating specific hosting skills.
At one table, for example, guests — most of whom were women — learned to make roses from salami and zucchini. The “flowers” consisted of many small pieces of salami folded in on themselves to give the impression of petals. The zucchini provided greenery.
“We wanted to offer something fun and easy,” said Abbey Furlong, creator of Sprd the Vibe, a Fort Lauderdale-based catering business that specializes in visually spectacular charcuterie boards and grazing tables.
“I think they’re just adorable,” Peggy Zapantis, of Boca Raton, said of the salami roses. “And they’re so easy.”
The event was hosted by a partnership of the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce, Sklar Furnishings, and Achievement Centers for Children & Families, with proceeds going to the achievement centers.
Napkin folding, cocktail-making, centerpiece creations, wine tasting and the art of high tea were the most popular activities among the guests.
Cat Beach, a country singer who just moved back to Delray Beach after living and working in Nashville for many years, said she was fascinated by the Tea by the Sea table.
“She was authentic and really interesting,” Beach said of Mimi Haley Meister, the proprietor of Tea by the Sea.
Meister wore pearls, white gloves, a simple black dress, a pink shawl, and a straw hat with a brim so huge it extended halfway down her back.
Her specialty is hosting fundraising teas, which are highly successful, Meister believes, because when tea is served correctly, it forces people to slow down and focus.
“We want to bring the conversation back to the table,” Meister said, lifting the brim of her hat from her face. “Fundraising with a cup of tea is magical.”
She knows her teas — all 150 flavors. Meister also knows how to simultaneously hold an ornate cup of tea while showing how a gloved pinky — pointed subtly in the right direction — can reveal a scandal.
“I think bringing conversation back, especially among those under 40, is crucial to fundraising and just socializing,” said Meister, who lives in Delray Beach and works in homes, businesses and other pop-up locations. “We are lacking in conversation.”
The Sklar Furnishings event was offered during August as part of Boca Festival Days, which is sponsored by the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce.
Beach said she was extremely impressed by the Achievement Centers staffers, and the services they offer to children and families in crisis.
The Delray Beach-based agency works to strengthen and provide economic stability to families while helping toddlers, preschoolers and students do well in education and discover their talents.
Achievement Centers’ four core programs are early learning; after school; and teen and summer camps.
“We were thrilled to have such a fantastic partner for this year’s Boca Chamber Festival Days,” said Julia Corliss, event manager for the Achievement Centers. “Sklar Furnishings went above and beyond in preparation for this event.”
Linda Gunn, manager at Sklar, said the furniture store has been involved in charitable work for more than 25 years.
“We love to give back to the community,” Gunn said. “It’s what we’re all about.”
Beach said she would like to work with the Achievement Centers to develop a music-writing program for the kids.
“I would love to volunteer there and work with kids and music,” Beach said. “Sometimes our ideas align with the universe. I would be super excited if that happened.”