At The Table with The Culinistas

Jill Donenfeld, Co-Founder of The Culinistas

Current Coordinates: Between Malibu & East Hampton

The one thing you always have on your dining  table: A 4-stacking tiffin with a variety of dates.

What do you love about entertaining? I love to please people & expose them to deliciousness. I just love it. Seeing someone’s face light up from a bite of well-seasoned arugula or a just-opened clam, and hearing the mmmmmmms around the table makes me feel so incredibly good. I also love learning & questioning, and being around a table has the ability to draw out a conversation into debate & listening. I love it as a forum for knowledge.

Tell us about your individual style when it comes to having people over: My apartments have thus far been quite small so it is always family style, always seated everywhere. However, my big party is my birthday party at the end of August which every year centers around caviar. The formula is caviar in an unexpected location. We’ve celebrated in a defunct diner, a garden in the west village, our old office in Union Square.

How would your friends describe you as a host: My friend attested to my being laidback but also thoughtful. If the food is good, the formalities can be dropped. The music is important to me as is the lighting. I make dishes that come together quickly & clean up easily so I tend to be a non-stressed hostess. For the birthday party, my goal is always to introduce people who’ve not yet met. That is the most important aspect of the night. Second is encouraging people to eat more caviar than they think is acceptable.

Go-to meal + Go-to cocktail:  Big shaved vegetable salad of sorts, some fashion of shrimp, baked feta,                  very good bread. Champagne.

Necessary accompaniment to a well set table: For the big party, I like a party favor: one year I gave everyone sunflowers; another year people went home with $2 bills. I always have jasmine strings pinned into the girls hair when they arrive & the scent of them truly makes the occasion feel magical.

Where do you love to go to have a great meal ? In New York, I love Raouls and Omen. I loved Café Loup & Lucky Strike. In California, I love my best friends restaurant: Fig Tree, in Venice. In Paris, Kunitoraya, which tops them all.

Current inspiration: I’ve been inspired lately by a pair of pants my friend Joy Wilson gave me 10 years ago that I saved & that recently started fitting. I’ve been inspired by a Russian surf band (!!). And, I’ve been inspired by the texture of wax melting into the sandy top of my surfboard to make a very satisfying thick St. Ives texture. Also, my friend Kerrilynn’s bread, which is somehow gluten free but that is not the headlining fact, is damn delicious with a subtle injera-like flavor and texture. I have also been very inspired using our Mexican oregano, which is related to lemon verbena. It’s not like Whole Foods oregano, and it blooms well in black beans, of course, but also in cooked oyster mushrooms.

Favorite color combos: 1999 GAP striped sweater. Green + Yellow. Yellow + White. Also: Pink + Purple.

Dream person to be at the table with:  Dead: Aristotle. Alive: Steve Martin.


Tiana Tenet, Co-Founder of The Culinistas

Current Coordinates:  Amagansett

The one thing you always have on your dining table: Fresh flowers

What do you love about entertaining? Gathering around the table with people. I love to enjoy meaningful conversation and delicious food.

How would your friends describe you as a host? Extremely organized, but low-key, casual. I try to prep as much as possible before guests arrive so I can be present and really enjoy my friends and family.

Go-to meal + Go-to cocktail: In the summer, homemade guac, a burrata bar & spicy watermelon margaritas to start. Followed by steamers, garlic bread and a savory/sweet salad, like Grilled Peaches & Kale. I'm not big on desserts, but can't resist a good chocolate chip cookie.

Necessary accompaniment to a well set table: Assigned seating...not to be formal, but to introduce people I love to one another.

Where do you for a great meal? I love outdoor dining and typically go to places that serve dishes I love and don't make at home, like Lobster Rolls, Sushi & French Fries! A good Italian sandwich and rose on the beach is one of my favorite meals.

Current inspiration: D’ASCOLI tablescapes...dreamyyy!

Favorite color combos: Blue & green linens with wildflowers -- I love color!

Dream person to be at the table with: Serena Williams...theme is Wimbledon White.