Society / Featured Parties

Grand Thanksgiving Picnic in Memorial Park Proves to be the Perfect COVID Compromise

Fady Armanious Keeps His Classy Party Tradition Going

BY // 11.29.20

It was the perfect solution to the conundrum of how to combine social distancing and Thanksgiving traditions — a regal picnic in Memorial Park. Credit Tootsies creative director Fady Armanious with the clever reinvention of the turkey day celebration a la COVID-19.

As lavish picnics are growing in popularity for birthday celebrations and family get-togethers, Armanious made the pivot to an al fresco Thanksgiving that will have all of us rethinking our upcoming holiday celebrations. Happily, Texas weather more often than not accommodates outdoor affairs during December.

Armanious and his partner, Boulevard Realty owner Bill Baldwin, traditionally entertain friends, particularly those without family to visit, for a glittering Thanksgiving dinner. (For those unaware, Armanious is an incredible home chef.)

“But with COVID and the health cautions we had to reconsider. Why not spice it up and do something different?” he says. “I wanted to mix it up.”

The chef began setting up at 2 pm on a lush grassy expanse in the Clay Family Eastern Glades. It was an hour-long set up of the picnic canvas with three cars required to transport the wealth of staging, accoutrements and, of course, the meal.

“Of course, if we wanted to do a proper picnic we would need all the props to make for a relaxed afternoon,” Armanious says.

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That included small tables of various heights for food displays, colorful pillows and blankets, flowers, miniature pumpkins and sprays of eucalyptus, pussy willow and herbs.

By 3 pm, the group of seven was complete. The mid-afternoon hour allowed time for wine and charcuterie before unveiling Armanious’ traditional dinner and its consumption before dark fell in the late afternoon.

“It was the time and place to celebrate our new Eastern Glades,” Armanious says, “and the commitment of philanthropists who continue to invest in Houston make it a better place to live.”

Fady Armanious thanksgiving picnic
Fady Armanious and Bill Baldwin’s Thanksgiving picnic set up required an hour to stage the three carloads of props and food.

The menu included the creative director’s turkey and gravy; mashed potatoes; sweet potatoes; green beans with grilled cherries; arugala salad with persimmon, pomegranate, tomatoes and black olives. Manready Mercantile’s Travis Weaver provided the dressing. Tamer Saad provided tiramisu and tres leches. Pumpkin pie from French Gourmet, Goode Company’s iconic pecan pie, compliments of Calvin Azzam, and ice cream completed the menu.

The Events Company‘s Richard Flowers and AER Textiles founder/curator Angel Rios were supposed to have brought the colorful turkey centerpiece but doors were locked and keys misplaced. Access denied. As Armanious quipped, “The turkey was pardoned.”

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