Forced dinner parties can be contrived, and stuffy at best. But when Brooklyn-based designer Caron Callahan, and her husband, Marlow & Sons executive chef, Sean Rembold, host a festive fête, it's absolutely delicious, stimulating, and, in a word, cool. So, of course, we had to know how they entertain, and the chatter that goes along with the beautiful place-settings and memorable fare. Throwing on one of her impeccable frocks (her own creation, of course), Caron greets guests while Sean mixes up a unique and savory plate (his own recipe, of course) in the kitchen, and we just try to soak it all in. The result? A comprehensive Brooklyn at-home entertaining guide from two absolute masters—playlists and cheap wine recs, included—and an interview that beats any stale dinner conversation.
"Sean is wearing APC jeans, RRL Tee, with Saved Khaki buttondown, and RayBan glasses. I'm wearing my Janus silk dress from Spring 2012, with a Samma necklace and a Winifred Grace necklace."
Describe you design aesthetic in 3 words or less. "Feminine, approachable, subtle."
What is your favorite dish that your husband makes? "Poached hallibut 'a la nage.' It's halibut in a savory broth with vegetables and lots of fresh herbs. Healthy and so, so good!"
"Welcoming Anna Selver-Kassell, aka Anna S-K. She's wearing her amazing hat by Otto designed by Rivka Schoenfeld."
What is the intersection, as you see it, between fashion and food?
"It's definitely a creative process for both of us, but the concept and creativity have to be grounded in reality. We both have to question how something is going to be reproduced over and over, or how we are going to cost/make it so people can buy it. I think we both have the potential to be wildly creative, but really like making approachable and accessible clothes/food. Outside of our relationship, I think curious people are drawn to fashion and food similarly. A person's choice of food or fashion says something about his/her individuality."
Simple, elegant berry branches serve as decoration, alongside some spirits and cheese.
What are your favorite local boutiques?
"I'm a bit in love with the new Williamsburg boutique, Beautiful Dreamers; it's almost nomadic in there which is difficult to do in Brooklyn. I think Bogart & Moore in Bushwick and the Brooklyn Flea have great vintage finds with an eye for design. I love Mast Books in the East Village for a cool edit of vintage books, and they stay open 'til 10 p.m.!"
"Sean is cutting up a grapefruit. His apron is denim and made by an amazing Brooklyn company called Stanley & Sons."
"For sure, most of our grocery money goes to Marlow & Daughters, and as much as possible, the farmers market at Fort Greene Park in the spring."
What are your favorite restaurants in NYC (Marlow & Sons, included, of course)?
"We recently had a lovely meal at our friend Nate Smith's new place in Brooklyn, Allswell. For a special night out, we go to 1 or 8 for the sushi tasting menu and sake pairings. We are also fans of New York classics like Gramecy Tavery and Minetta Tavern."
Do you ever try to dress your husband? How has his style evolved since being together, if at all?
"Oh, YES. But dressing him is a waste of time because he likes what he likes and I love him for having an opinion. Bright crimson University of Alabama football tees have become a mainstay since my mother got Sean addicted to Alabama football. He is definitely aware of interesting fashion trends, but probably more from the customers and staff at Marlow & Sons and Diner than me!"
"Friends chatting away, as I serve up some cocktails."
Do you incorporate a Brooklyn vibe into your clothes?
"Definitely, although I like a clean aesthetic. The cliched Brooklyn vibe is lots of layers, clogs, more quirky than classic. I'm partial to the more pared down, elegant vibe of Brooklyn, which I usually see on women over 35, with kids and careers. I always think about how my clothes will look with flat shoes, that's very Brooklyn! I try to make clothes that are easy to wear but also special."
Who is your ideal shopper/girl?
"For sure my friends and neighbors, but they are all chic in their own way! An ideal woman is just comfortable in her skin and relaxed about how she dresses. I think my customer is less involved with fashion trends and more conscious of quality and the ethics behind her choices, while knowing what works for her. I love when a woman can take a beautiful dress and wear it with flats and little make-up. The idea that fashion dominates how we view some women is a little disturbing to me. I love fashion but I don't want to be the center of attention solely because of my outfit, and I think my ideal woman would say the same. She would rather impress someone with her words and her attitude instead of a fashion statement."
"We just opened a bottle of Pouilly Fuissé by Domaine Robert-Denogent"!
Is your design aesthetic exactly in line with your personal aesthetic?
"Not totally. My personal, everyday wardrobe is largely based on comfort as the physical demands of running around the Garment District can be disastrous for beautiful clothes. I think the two are closer when I go out. I tend to make my clothes look a little tomboy-ish compared to how they are typically styled."
When hosting a party, how do you avoid awkward seating?
"The smaller the better, so you can be engaged with everyone. "
What is the best dinner party soundtrack?
"The evening of the party we were listening to Big Star, Enon, and The Country Teasers, with a little '90s hip hop to round things out. A healthy mix of the strange and familiar is good way to go."
Sean plating up some fresh salad.
"Chatting away with Marlow and Diner GM, Jason Schwartz."
Do you have any favorite (even made-up) party games?
"Most of my friends can talk to the trees and they drink like fish so no, no need."
What are your seasonal staples (things you can't seem to stop wearing)?
"I have pair of ivory chinos from J.Crew that look great year round. I love them cuffed with winter boots as well as sandals. I'm also have a few Saint James stripe tricot tops and think classic sailor stripes look unexpected in the winter and iconic in the summer."
What is your holiday wish list?
"I love gifts that I wouldn't buy for myself. I honestly don't want for very much. I have an amazing husband and family and couldn't ask for much more."
And, if you can tell us, what did you get your husband this year?
"We don't really exchange gifts. We are always trying to do or buy nice things for each other year round, so buying something just for Christmas doesn't really make sense for us."
What is your husband's culinary philosophy in just one sentence?
"Simple, seasonal, seasoned."
Everyone is eagerly awaiting dinner.
What is your biggest fashion faux-pas?
"I think the worst fashion mistake is not wearing clothes that fit properly or do not flatter your body type. It definitely took me a little bit of time to figure that out when I first started to care about clothes. It's really heartbreaking to fall in love with a dress, then to try it on, and it looks awful on you. It definitely takes willpower to refrain."
Did your husband have any culinary disasters?
"Sean has had some soul-crushing evenings in his career but tries to have fun and keeps his sense of humor. Two years ago, he accidentally put the ticket spindle entirely through his knuckle as he tried to 'punch' a ticket."
What is your ideal date night? And/or how do you spend your Sundays?
"We love chill weekends. Renting movies, going to brunch, going to a pub in the afternoon to read and drink Guinness. With our hectic schedules, we love to just be at home together. "
What are some easy (cheap) ways to get your apartment party-ready?
"I think buying 1 or 2 bouquets of flowers and splitting them into 5-6 bud vases around the apartment is a cheap way to spruce up an apartment (how nice is it to see flowers in the bathroom?). I'm also a sucker for cheap Chinatown lanterns, garland, string lights, etc. Frankly, finding clever ways to hide the clutter and a really good clean goes a long way."
"Sean serving braised guinea hen."
What's the best wine under $20?
"Rene Mosse and Thierry Puzelat are amazing producers that try to have some bottles under $20."
"For me, fall 2012, I'm getting excited about the new collection as there is definitely more color and a much more relaxed silhouette. Sean is working on a new project slated for this spring."