Host a Memorable Dinner Party Bursting with Florals and Summery Flavors

Friends Kimberly Whitman and Shelley Johnstone Paschke offer tips for creating unforgettable get-togethers from their book ‘A Loving Table.’

Entertaining can be intimidating, even when we're setting the table for family and friends. So many decisions to make. So many rules of etiquette to follow.

Entertaining expert Kimberly Whitman says only one rule truly matters. "Do whatever makes those around you feel good," she says. "Just show kindness. If you keep it simple and fun, you'll have a good time, and your guests will too!"

To share her love of entertaining, Kimberly partnered with interior designer and close friend Shelley Johnstone Paschke to host a luncheon in Dallas that celebrates their new book, A Loving Table: Creating Memorable Gatherings. The book showcases inspiring tablescapes and the entertaining styles of 34 trendsetting women from around the world, who also share tips and lessons from important women in their lives.

"There are so many ways to set a pretty, interesting table that reflects your personal aesthetic," Shelley says. "Be your authentic self and show your guests that you care."

placesetting with lush floral theme
Victoria Pearson

For this gathering, Kimberly and Shelley called on the glory of summer—reflected in vibrant blooms, floral motifs on tableware and linens, and a fresh menu—as they set the stage for what has become one of their favorite rituals: sharing a meal with treasured friends and family.

Royal Crown Derby salad plates from Blue Print in Dallas launch a lavish floral theme. Avant Garden in Dallas created the floral arrangements for the occasion.

Flatware and embroidered napkins are from ShopKSW; pink etched glasses are from Williams Sonoma.

pink and yellow tablescape with floral theme
Victoria Pearson

A tablecloth from Shelley Johnstone Design created using Schumacher's "Bagatelle" floral fabric by Timothy Corrigan provides the canvas for the summery tablescape. Tables, chairs, and undercloths were provided by Posh Couture Rentals in Dallas.

Designer Shelley Johnstone Paschke

Having rituals and creating memories is such an easy way to bring joy to our lives.

—Designer Shelley Johnstone Paschke
group of women wearing spring dresses
Victoria Pearson

The gathering of friends included Jan Showers; Kimberly Whitman and her mother, Myrna Schlegel; Sharon Lee; and Shelley Johnstone Paschke.

"There is so much comfort in a ritual, especially one that provides an opportunity to gather with the people we love," Kimberly says. "When we get together around a table, it reminds us of those who took the time to care for us. Serving cake on your grandmother's cake plate or preparing a dish from your mother's handwritten recipe card is fulfilling in a way that sometimes can't be described."

A luscious raspberry-lemon tart or a tempting apricot cocktail elicits oohs and aahs, but what really matters are the memories, Shelley says. "Everyone is so busy. Having these traditions and rituals makes us slow down and be in the moment. It is a simple way to keep us connected."

Create your own memorable gathering with a menu and recipes by chef Mary Payne Moran.

apricot champagne punch garnished with cherries
Victoria Pearson

Apricot Champagne Punch

Start to Finish: 3 minutes

  • 1 ½ fluid ounces freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 fluid ounce apricot brandy or peach brandy
  • ½ fluid ounce grenadine
  • 4 fluid ounces brut champagne, chilled
  • 2 maraschino cherries

In ice-filled cocktail shaker combine orange juice, apricot brandy, and grenadine. Cover; shake well until very cold. Strain into ice-filled glass. Top with champagne. Garnish with two skewered maraschino cherries. Makes one serving.

candied bacon and cream cheese tea sandwiches chilled heirloom tomato soup and zesty chicken
Victoria Pearson

Candied Bacon and Cream Cheese Tea Sandwiches

Hands On: 10 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

  • 8 slices bacon
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ teaspoon ground chipotle chile powder
  • 8 slices artisan bread, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • Pickled Peppers

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line 15×10×1-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Dip each bacon strip in brown sugar to cover on both sides. Place bacon on prepared pan, sprinkle with black pepper. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until browned. Let bacon cool completely, then chop.

In large bowl mix together chopped bacon, cream cheese, and chipotle powder.

Spread half of toasted bread slices with mixture; top with remaining bread slices.

Cut each sandwich diagonally to get two triangles; cut triangles in half. Garnish with parsley and a few slices of Pickled Peppers. Makes eight servings.

Pickled Peppers

In small saucepan combine ½ cup white vinegar, ½ cup water, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, and 1 clove garlic, crushed. Bring to boil stirring to dissolve sugar and salt. Add 4 thinly sliced jalapeño and/or Fresno chiles. Cover; let stand 10 minutes. Transfer to jar; store in refrigerator up to 2 months.

Chilled Heirloom Tomato Soup

Start to Finish: 15 minutes

  • 3 ½ cups cored and cubed red heirloom tomato
  • 1 ½ cups peeled and cubed zucchini
  • 1 cup peeled and cubed cucumber
  • ¼ cup chopped shallot
  • ½ jalapeño, seeded
  • ¼ cup sherry vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 large fresh basil leaves
  • 8 slices jalapeño
  • Finely chopped zucchini, cucumber, and tomato

In blender, combine cubed tomato, zucchini, cucumber, the chopped shallot, and half jalapeño. Puree until smooth. Season to taste with sherry vinegar, salt, and pepper. Top each serving with basil leaves, jalapeño slices, and chopped zucchini, cucumber, and tomato for garnish. Makes eight servings.

Zesty Chicken

Hands On: 20 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Zesty Chicken

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 8 6-ounce skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 4 Meyer lemons, halved crosswise

Avocado Ranch Dressing

  • ½ avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and cut up
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika


  • 8 cups baby arugula
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves
  • ½ cup multicolor radish slices
  • ¼ cup fresh dill weed fronds
  • ¼ cup coarsely snipped fresh chives
  • 2 avocados, halved, pitted, peeled, and sliced
  • ¼ cup dry-roasted sunflower kernels

Zesty Chicken:

In small bowl mix together olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt, 2 teaspoons pepper, and oregano. Smear over chicken to coat. Grill chicken on rack of covered grill directly over medium heat 15 to 18 minutes or until 165°F, turning once halfway through cooking time. Grill lemons, cut side down, 5 minutes or until lightly charred. Place chicken on cutting board; tent with foil; let stand 10 minutes. Slice across grain.

Avocado Ranch Dressing:

In blender combine cut-up avocado, milk, mayonnaise, shallot, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and paprika. Blend until smooth. Add additional milk, if needed, to reach desired consistency.


In large bowl toss together arugula, parsley, radish slices, dill weed, and chives. Divide evenly among eight serving plates. Drizzle with Avocado Ranch Dressing. Top each serving with one chicken breast, one-quarter sliced avocado, and a grilled lemon half to squeeze over salad. Garnish with sunflower kernels. Makes eight servings.

raspberry-lemon tart garnished with fresh flowers
Victoria Pearson

Raspberry-Lemon Tart

Hands On: 25 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes


  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk


  • 1 pound fresh raspberries (3 cups)
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 Meyer lemon, juiced (2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ¼ cup Plugra butter, cut up

Chantilly Cream:

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Edible flowers (such as orchids, pansies, lavender), washed and dried


In medium bowl stir together flour and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar. Using pastry blender, cut in ½ cup butter until pieces are pea size. In small bowl combine egg and milk. Gradually stir egg mixture into flour mixture just until moistened. Gather pastry into a ball, kneading gently just until it holds together; cover. Chill until easy to handle (30 to 60 minutes).

Preheat oven to 450°F. On lightly floured surface roll pastry into 12-inch circle. Fold pastry circle into fourths. Transfer to 10-inch round tart pan with removable bottom. Unfold pastry; ease into tart pan. Press pastry into fluted sides; trim edge. Prick bottom and sides of pastry with tines of fork. Line pastry with double thickness of foil. Bake 8 minutes. Remove foil. Bake 6 to 8 minutes more or until golden. Cool on wire rack.


In medium saucepan combine raspberries, ½ cup sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes. Strain mixture through fine mesh sieve to remove seeds.

In small bowl whisk together egg yolks and cornstarch. Gradually whisk in 1 cup strained raspberry puree. Add egg yolk mixture and remaining raspberry puree to saucepan.

Bring to boil over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Cook 2 minutes more. Remove from heat. Whisk in ¼ cup Pulgra butter, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Transfer filling to crust. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing directly onto surface of filling to stop a skin from forming. Chill 2 hours before serving. Makes eight servings.

Chantilly Cream:

In mixing bowl combine whipping cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Use hand mixer to beat to stiff peaks. Serve with tart. Garnish with edible flowers.

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