Culture / Entertainment

Making a Summer Party Something to Remember — Our Best Tips, Tricks and Memories

Now Hear This

BY // 08.02.19

There is something about the months of July and August that beg for entertaining. I recently wrote about some Dallas social stars’ formula for a perfect summer party. My list included the effervescent Brooke Davenport, the dashing Brady Wood and party-planner extraordinaire Missy Peck.

They had tips that ranged from a signature cocktail like the chic La Piscine — which is essentially a massive ice cube floating in a coupe of champagne — to a raucous game of Heads Up! (suggested by It Girl Jennifer Karol).

For this week’s Now Hear This PaperCity Dallas office question, I decided I should ask my brilliant and creative colleagues their thoughts on summer entertaining. What tricks do they have up their summer party sleeves? What are their favorite memories from summer soirees from their youth?

Christina Geyer, Dallas Editor-in-Chief

Growing up in Southern California, my parents’ idea of a “summer cookout” was what they lovingly called Cocktail Friday. (Even in elementary school, I remember inviting my friends over for Cocktail Friday. I wonder what the teachers thought of my early adoption of the word “cocktail…”) 

Every Friday throughout my entire childhood, the minute the weather was warm enough for swimming, my parents had an open-door policy — seriously, all summer our front door and backyard gate were never locked — and our neighbors, family and friends would come by all evening for homemade margaritas, pool time, and endless card games. 


  • Darby Scott November - Deck 16 - 30
  • Darby Scott November - Deck 16 - 30
  • Darby Scott November - Deck 16 - 30
  • Darby Scott November - Deck 16 - 30
  • Darby Scott November - Deck 16 - 30
  • Darby Scott November - Deck 16 - 30
  • Darby Scott November - Deck 16 - 30
  • Darby Scott November - Deck 16 - 30
  • Darby Scott November - Deck 16 - 30
  • Darby Scott November - Deck 16 - 30
  • Darby Scott November - Deck 16 - 30
  • Darby Scott November - Deck 16 - 30
  • Darby Scott November - Deck 16 - 30
  • Darby Scott November - Deck 16 - 30

My parents were the perfect hosts. They were always laid back about entertaining and never fussed about making things perfect. What mattered most was that the margaritas were strong (my mother would kill me if I shared her secret recipe); the music was good; and that the parents could relax, while us kids ran wild in the yard. They didn’t care about wearing the trendiest summer clothes and our backyard decor was low maintenance — outdoor speakers, beautiful plants (oh how I miss the bougainvillea and night-blooming jasmine), and hanging lanterns were the only requirements. 

Caravan Van Morrison
What party doesn’t need some good tunes?

So, since I can’t share the margarita recipe, I will share a few songs from our Cocktail Friday soundtrack, which my dad obsessively curated via his 500 disc CD player (very ’90s, I know). Music, I think, is the key to setting a mood and for making memories. Every time I hear these songs I’m brought right back to the summers of my childhood: “Caravan” by Van Morrison. “Everybody Plays the Fool” by Aaron Neville. “King of the Road” by Roger Miller. “I Fall to Pieces” by Patsy Cline. And pretty much anything by Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Michael Jackson, Louis Armstrong, the Beach Boys, Willie Nelson, ELO, and the Eagles.

Lisa Collins Shaddock, Senior Editor

With a mutual love of entertaining — and a very energetic pup — my husband Andrew and I have been longing for a home with a great backyard. This has definitely been exacerbated over the hot Dallas summer when cooking out and swimming is all we want to do!

Fortunately, we’ve been able to make a few weekend trips to Austin to enjoy these things at my parents’ house. While they do refer to any form of grilling or outdoor entertaining as a “barbecue” (much to the confusion of many native Texans), they are the greatest hosts and I have taken copious mental notes for when I have a backyard of my own.

My mother makes even the most casual of get-togethers seem elevated with small details (drinks served on a silver tray, embroidered linens) but we all agree that summer is the time to keep things simple: jumping in and out of the pool all day, a great playlist, appetizers of fresh feta and roasted red peppers while shish kabobs are on the grill, and ending the night sitting around the fire is my idea of perfection.

Billy Fong, Culture and Style Editor

I’m going to share the details of my recent birthday party thrown by my dearest friend, Zoe Bonnette. She was also part of my roster of Dallas socials who I posed on their tips for an elegant and/or whimsical shindig. Initially, I told her not to make a fuss and that simply opening a bag of Cheetos would be more than enough for the crew we would invite to celebrate my birthday.

Of course, she put her caterer to work and there was a wonderful assortment of sushi with a fully stocked bar (with two bartenders — remember, a summer party is all about drinking). However, she had listened to my suggestion and there was an assortment of individual-sized bags of Cheetos, Cracker Jacks and candy cigarettes for guests to enjoy as well.

Once again, wit and whimsy go a long way.

She had decided that she wanted to use a theme she had been considering for a while: Caftans and Cutoffs. An alliteration in a party title is always a great start to get guests excited. Also, the attire suggestion allowed for myriad interpretations.

Plus, many of those interpretations called for clothing that was suitable for a sweltering Texas summer night. An award should go to Jennifer Karol who brought Vito Cammissano as her date as they were wearing amazing caftans (with Dior accessories). My favorite outfit though was worn by Christopher Wood who had written on a T-shirt: “This is Thom Browne’s version of a caftan.”

In today’s day and age, it’s all about providing guests with wonderful photo opportunities. Apparently, we all can’t get enough of posting selfies or party shots on Insta. That said since I am well known for wearing glasses (usually one of my three pairs from Tom Ford) Bonnette had a tray of black glasses for everyone to take and use that evening.

Eventually, we assembled the motley crew for a group shot (everyone in black glasses) that was posted numerous times on social media outlets galore.

Finally, Bonnette realized that the true key to any party is music. One of the first times we met we immediately bonded over our love of 1980s new wave music and 1990s rap. That evening, the playlist she put together included plenty of Cypress Hill, New Order, De La Soul, and the Pet Shop Boys. Suffice to say, everyone proceeded to dance as the night went on and the liquor continued to flow at Chez Bonnette.

Megan Ziots, Dallas Digital Reporter

For summer cookouts, my family tends to stick with the basic burgers and hot dogs by the pool. One of my favorite ways to mix things up is by making Hawaiian turkey burgers. All you really need is a pineapple cut into rings, red onion, lettuce, Pepperjack cheese, and condiment of your choosing.

If you grill the pineapple beforehand, it makes it taste even better. As for cocktails, I love homemade sangria. For a simple six-ingredient recipe, mix in a bottle of Spanish red wine, 1/3 cup of brandy, 1/2 an apple, 1/2 an orange, 3/4 cup of orange juice, three tablespoons of organic brown sugar, and a cup of ice to chill.

Brooke Dowdy, Publisher Dallas and Fort Worth

I like to keep things simple for summer cookouts so I can enjoy time with friends. My husband is typically in charge of the grill and since he is from West Texas, that usually means steaks. I also always have some sort of cheese and charcuterie board to snack on. I find major inspo from @thebakermama’s boards. She does everything from cheese to Sunday pancake brunch boards.

I don’t drink a lot of liquor but when I do, I choose tequila. My favorite cocktail is Clayton’s Margarita from local celebrity chef/food blogger, @thedefineddish. Finally, I look to Ellis Hill for custom cups and napkins which make your party feel effortlessly special and most importantly, clean-up is a breeze.  

Linda Kenney, Account Executive

My go-to for a perfect summer party is my perfect summer cookout recipe. Baby Back Ribs are the quintessential Texas cookout victuals. This secret recipe is the result of years of testing and trying; you will adore these delectable carnivorous offerings. To begin, you must acquire a Big Green Egg.

Recipe: four racks of ribs/ coat ribs with barbecue rub and dark brown sugar; cover in plastic wrap; let ribs sit overnight in the refrigerator. Next day, fire up the Big Green Egg (temperature should stay below 250 degrees.) Cook four to six hours.

Take the ribs off the Egg and wrap in aluminum foil. Use a high-temperature gas grill and place ribs on medium heat to char-broil the outside of the ribs. Remove from the foil, add your favorite barbecue sauce, grill five minutes on each side.

This recipe is from Bill Kenney. Who knew a Bostonian could cook Texas ribs? Bon Appetit.

If you ever have something you want our team to address, shoot us your thoughts via social media or email (@papercitydallas on Instagram; on Facebook; or yours truly, Or, better yet send a message to the office, handwritten on the Smythson stationery of your choice — and feel free to include a bottle of Veuve. Champagne really helps get the ideas flowing.

Look for the next installment of “Now Hear This” from Billy Fong soon. Also, check out our Instagram Stories that accompany each feature with more witty insights on the topic of the week from your PaperCity Dallas team.

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