I first met Robin Riddell as gate-crasher at one of her famous holiday parties.
Hal and I crashed the party on the coattails of Melissa Duke, who thrived at the center of more social networks than I could keep track of. So when she told me that this was the party of the year, every year, and that Robin Riddell knew everybody in town, I figured, she knew of what she spoke.
It was, indeed, a magnificent party—a fascinating mix of people, lubricated with fantastic food and wine and a beautiful setting. Pretty much all you want in a great holiday get-together. We made serious merry.
Eventually, Hal and I managed to worm our way onto Robin’s shortlist of folks-who-get-invited to the more intimate, but equally magical, parties at her East Nashville home. It was a cool, late-summer night; she’d set a gorgeous table on her back patio, tiny lights twinkling all around. Jazz and delicious aromas emanated from inside, and our wine glasses never seemed to empty. She’d seen to every detail, and the result was artistry, seemingly effortless.
It turned out to be One of Those Nights. We were a group of born Southerners, and later Southern expats, all returned home, sharing a grudging love of our native region, everyone viewing that affection through the lenses of our different arts: a painter of landscapes, a novelist, a chef, a writer…and all of us, lovers of Southern food, culture, and literature. It felt as if we’d stumbled onto some literary salon in Paris, circa 1920, except with cooler regional accents. We indulged in course after course: well-chosen wine (Robin works for a wine importer and seriously knows her stuff,), platters of cheese and homemade bread, savory and sweet dishes, all the while laughing as if we’d known each other always, instead of for a few perfect hours.
I’ve tried to duplicate some of Robin’s methods for creating that kind of lovely and unforgettable occasion. But she is the true master of the craft. You can’t manufacture magic, she points out, but you can set the stage for it and let it unfold as it pleases.
In this month’s issue of HER Nashville, Robin unveils her recipe for dinner party magic—her way of sharing the gift of togetherness with her friends during the hectic holiday season. Read the story here.
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