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27 Jan

My Valentine’s Birthday Party with Jill Fortney Productions

On Valentine’s Day 46 years ago, my mom got the best gift imaginable: ME! That’s right – Valentine’s Day is my birthday. This year, I would love nothing more than to celebrate in a big way, with all my girlfriends, glasses overflowing with Champagne and a yummy vegan meal. Or maybe we skip the meal and go directly to dessert. It doesn’t really matter — Covid has put a damper on the party scene, so for the moment, being safe is more important than celebrating big.

In the meantime, I’ve been enjoying the chance to reminisce about past parties that brought joy to my heart and a smile to my face. It’s even helped me get into the party spirit to plan SOMETHING, even if it’s not the soirees. (Here’s looking at you, 2022!) So as I sit here coming up with party ideas that pair well with social distancing, I thought I would share with you some of my favorite memories for my 40th birthday bash, which was an amazing Parisian-themed party de résistance.

About a year before I turned 40. I mentioned to my parents that it was time for them to throw another fab blowout party in honor of me officially turning old. At first, I got the rolling stink-eye of “you’re joking, right?!” But it only took a millisecond after that for my mom to jump all over the idea and start proposing fun ideas for an unforgettable event. Besides, my mom’s love language is entertaining, and it’s hard for that woman to say no when it comes to cutting checks in the name of fun!

My parents asked me what I had in mind, and all I could think about was something big. It had been quite some time since I had a blowout celebration, like when I made my debut in 1996 and 1997 or when I married Jason in 2000. I was dreaming of another fabulous event to drown my wrinkled sorrows away.

First things first, I knew it had to be special enough to hire an event planner. In true Cowtown fashion, we decided to keep it local and go with none other than the ultra-talented luxury event planner, Jill Fortney, of Jill Fortney Productions. If you have never attended a Jill Fortney Production event, then you are in for a real treat — including plenty of eye candy-filled photos below.

Jill was not only the planner who made my Big 4-Oh so special, she’s also a friend. So I reached out to her for her thoughts on what takes an event — any kind of event, from a family affair to a birthday bash — to that next level. She was gracious enough to share her strategies  — I hope they inspire you to start planning your own amazing party!

Jill Fortney’s Top 6 Tips – Expect the Unexpected

1. The Invitation

A dazzling invitation creates a sense of anticipation. It sets the reason for the celebration as well as the tone of the event. A flat piece of paper with typestyles, ink colors, paper textures and shapes, pictures, and ribbons can transform your imagination of the event. By letting the guest know with a spectacular invite, “ This is going to be a party I do not want to miss.”  Tell your hubby I am going to a girl’s party, and I will not be home for dinner.

2. Select a Theme

Make sure the theme fits the occasion … formal, fancy, fun. Take a formal idea and make it fun. Carry out the color scheme throughout the evening with drinks, napkins, party favors, food presentation, entertainment, flowers, and décor. Give all the areas a new twist … create eye candy for the guests. Show them something they have never seen or experienced.

3. Create excitement throughout the event

Introduce something new at least every hour. Offer different appetizers and do not keep passing the same ones all evening. Do not pile food on the tray; use smaller trays, use different vessels and refill often. Make the presentation of the tray connect to the item served. That is, if serving crab cakes, put a whole crab on top of a mound of seaweed on the side of the tray.

 

Entertaining is an expression of love for your friends. Make each experience memorable. Nothing says festive like polished silver. Use lots of silver everywhere … from candelabras to cups for cocktails to silver objects at the bar.

4. The Food

Entertaining is not about the food, but the fellowship! Always lean on the classics; cocktails, satisfying starters, filling main courses of familiar food and decadent desserts. Make sure the food is presented in an artful, beautiful way. Add delicious garnishes that enhance the presentation. An example, if you are serving a roasted vegetable soup, roast plum tomatoes, slice matchstick thin and sprinkle in the middle of the bowl as it goes out of the kitchen.

 

Another idea is to toast flavored croutons (homemade) with a little parmesan cheese or garlic and sprinkle in the bowl or pass tableside. Try to master one food item you are known for so guests will look forward to one of your food offerings.

5. The Details

Keep the focus on your selected theme in front of guests during the evening. If “pink” is your theme, remove your entry hall rug and replace it with pink inexpensive carpet. Have waiters wear pink bowties, serve a pink drink, use pink ice or ice cubes with pink flowers with the first drink, put a miniature picture of the guest of honor on top of the pink dessert, mail in advance to guests your favorite pink lipstick and nail polish, car parkers with pink uniforms, dye your dog pink, all the flowers in shades of pink, rent pink glasses for drinks, serve pink champagne or rose wine, and of course, wear a pink dress. If the affair is formal, pin a pink boutonniere on the male guests and give the women a pink wrist corsage.

6. Above all else, be a gracious hostess!

Be the first person to greet your guests; be the last person they see as they exit. Have plenty of non-alcoholic drinks as well as alcoholic drinks available throughout the venue. For larger events (will we ever again??), remember lines are for Luby’s. Have one bar for every 50 guests and offer a variety of choices. Mix and match groups of friends and introduce people to each other that you think they might share something in common. Do not be so exhausted by cleaning the baseboards that you can not enjoy the party. If people are scoping out your baseboards … they are bored and need to go home! A good rule is 8 guests can seat themselves, after that use place cards … formal or casual.

 

Be a good listener and ask questions of your guests to get the conversation going. Be aware of certain dietary restrictions of guests and have an alternative in the kitchen. Do not try out a new recipe for your guests unless it is for two people on a Sunday night and casual! Use failsafe recipes you prepare or prepared by a caterer.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Rhilee Photography

Thank you for strolling down memory lane with me. No matter the occasion, grand or intimate, every Valentine’s Day should be a special one to celebrate. This year won’t be near as grand, which is totally fine with me, but I think I’ll get to work on what a teeny tiny socially distanced patio party might look like to ring in the big four-six. Stay tuned to my Instastories to peek behind the scenes of the process!

 

Special Credit to the following companies/vendors for my 40th birthday party!

  • FOOD: Grace Restaurant & Marky’s Caviar
  • FLORAL: Flowers on the Square
  • MUSIC TRIO: Debbie Brooks Group
  • DJ: Randal Stout
  • EVENT STAFFING: Dalan Sharpe
  • VALET: Rent A Frog
6 Feb

Make Valentine’s Day Sparkle with Ruinart Champagne

Nothing says love quite like Champagne.

To commemorate Valentine’s Day, I am devoting my entire post to the best of the bubbly stuff. And y’all, when I say Champagne, I mean real Champagne. No Prosecco, Cava or “headache in a bottle” for this girl. It might bubble and fizz like a Champagne, but it’s only a Champagne if it’s from Champagne, France. And one of the shining jewels of Champagne is Ruinart.

A couple of months ago, Chester Cox reached out to me and asked if I was interested in learning more about Ruinart. You might recognize Chester from his five-year run as Fort Worth Magazine’s best wine expert, but he’s also the sommelier and retail wine specialist at Ellerbe Fine Foods. Chester invited me to bring a group of my most favorite peeps to experience a tresspecial, tresexclusive Ruinart Champagne tasting lunch.

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Let me just stop this story and give you some advice: If someone offers you and your crew an exclusive lunch featuring one of the world’s most exclusive wines, say yes.

So y’all, that’s exactly what I did! I said yes! So I am going to stop again and say, if this sounds like something you would love to do, you totally can. As you know, Ellerbe is owned by sommelier Richard King and executive chef Molly McCook, but Richard has teamed up with Chester on an amazing wine pairing event venture called White Gloves, Purple Teeth. Molly remains the mastermind behind the food and flavors in the kitchen, but Richard and Chester stand at the ready to direct a decadent evening of oenophilia for groups large and small.

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OK, now back to our wine lunch. Jason and I arrived at Ellerbe with eight of our most connoisseur-y friends. This group has literally seen it all, and our jaws all dropped when we saw our elegantly appointed table. Like, Carol, queen of tablescapes,  would have been proud.

One more thing I know y’all want to know – how do you pronounce Ruinart? OK, repeat after me: Rwree narrr. And again, but this time pretend you have a stuffed up nose: Rwree narrr. Tres bien!

Once we were seated, Chester introduced us to Jeridan, our tasting guide for our champagne-paired course and the official U.S. Ambassador for Ruinart Champagne.

30 seconds later, the white gold began to flow!

In between bites and sips, I soaked up the back story behind the Ruinart Maison and everything beautiful about the bubbles.

The History of the House

Ruinart, located in the town of Reims, is the oldest established Champagne house in France. Nicolas Ruinart founded it in 1728 right after the King of France decided to allow Champagne to be transported in bottles rather than barrels.

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Ruinart was the first Champagne house to cellar its wine in the region’s famous chalk caves, which were dug out by Roman prisoners over 2000 years ago. They’re 125 feet underground and span over five miles – big enough to house Ruinart’s entire production.

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Fun fact: It’s not just Arkansas where everything is relative. Nicolas’s uncle, Dom Ruinart, was a Benedictine monk and equal contemporaries with another wine lover, Dom “Donny P” Perignon. They were monks together in the same church, and they are also buried in the same abbey.

Also, Nicholas was the great grandfather of Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin, better known as the Widow Clicquot, or Veuve Clicquot.

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Today, Ruinart is owned by LVMH, which also owns Louis Vuitton. (I knew there was a reason I loved this Champagne!)

We drank a range of wines, including a Blanc de Blanc with our salad and soup course. A Blanc de Blanc is 100 percent pure Chardonnay. (And it’s also 100 percent pure vegan! Win!)

Their Chardonnay is the finest in the region sourcing Premier and Grand Cru fruit from our estate own vineyard in Sillery in the Montagne de Reims along with the vineyards in the Côte des Blancs.

 

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We also sampled the Tête de cuvee Ruinarts Vintage Champagne while dining on our main courses.

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Another fun fact: Ruinart was not just the first Champagne house, they were also the first to make rose, way back in 1764. We sipped Dom Ruinart Rosé, which is an amazing balance of Chardonnay & Pinot Noir while we enjoyed Chef Molly’s amazing third course.

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You may be thinking, Christy, it’s great that you were drinking the good stuff, but what in the wine cork could you eat? Turns out, a lot! Chef Molly and her staff were so amazing, the kitchen coordinated a selection of special vegan dishes just for me to enjoy.

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Tasting Notes

  • Our group loved all three wines, especially since they were all specially blended to pair perfectly with food. Champagne was actually made for food – its acids breakthrough meat fats and cream sauces. It’s great with charcuterie, chicken and duck. The rose is great with steak, pasta, cheese and pizzas. It’s especially great with fried foods like French fries and fried chicken. Not that I know, but I’ve been told!
  • Now here’s a fun fact that’s actually crazy: The only thing that doesn’t taste good with Champagne is chocolate. For reals! The tannins in the Champagne are too big a taste and too bitter for the chocolate. Better bet is to go with a port. You’re welcome.
  • Want me to keep going? Here goes: Ruinart uses just under 8 grams of fruit and beet sugar per liter of alcohol, which is equivalent to about a sugar packet. Champagne also is the least caloric of all wines. Just 74 calories per glass! Just be careful if you decided to indulge in the bubbly while exercising.

And at the very end of our experience, our group had the opportunity to purchase the champagne we tasted, including rare specialty bottles we didn’t get to taste, at below wholesale cost! You can just imagine how many cases of champagne this group took home. I have to officially say, my wine refrigerator is filled with Ruinart!

Thanks to Ellerbe’s wine program, White Glove, Purple Teeth.

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Ruinart GIVEAWAY!!!

Who wants to win more fabulous freebies compliments of yours truly and Ellerbe?

We’re giving away a bottle of Ruinart Blanc de Blanc and a Champagne-fueled lunch for 2 at Ellerbe. $300 VALUE

9 Feb

Bring on the Bling with YLANG23 for Valentine’s Day

Enjoy Accessorizing Any Outfit During the Month of Love with Fort Worth’s Latest Designer Jewelry Boutique at The Shops at Clearfork. 

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the bling, and when Fort Worth’s newest jewelry store, Ylang 23, asked me to collaborate with them on a VIP party experience, I was tickled pink  — as in, pink diamonds, pink sapphires and pink tourmalines, oh my!

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Ylang 23 opened in The Shops at Clearfork late last year, but it’s been open in Dallas since 1985 when owners Joanne & Charles Teichman got this crazy brilliant idea to feature fine jewelry made by independent designers. They pretty much started the designer jewelry trend. Remember the iconic Ylang Ylang store in the Dallas Galleria back in the day? Yeah, that’s them. How cool is that?

Charles and Joanne Teichman, the owners of Ylang 23, at home in Preston Hollow with the family dogs, Tuey (white) and Eddie (black).  The Teichmans bought Neil Raitt's painting, "Cabinectomy",  from The Goss-Michael Foundation.  Photography by Mei-Chun Jau for FD Magazine.

Many of the biggest names in jewelry have been with Ylang 23 since the beginning, like Cathy Waterman and Irene Neuwirth. Because of the many incredible relationships they have fostered in this industry, you can work one-on-one with a designer to craft your own precious couture piece, or just go pret-a-porter and choose from the boutique’s amazing selection with prices starting at $110!

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Will the REAL Super Bowl Party please stand up!

Forget the Superbowl – last Sunday was SuperBLING Sunday. Together with the Teichman’s daughter, Alysa, Fort Worth store manager, Bhavini, and my sweet friend April, we threw the shiniest, most sparkly-ist jewelry party ever. Actually, it was two parties: a super-exclusive VIP breakfast followed by an afternoon reception.

And every time I think about the spectacular Retrouvai Compass necklace I wore at the party – before my mom LITERALLY BOUGHT IT RIGHT OFF MY NECK, I get butterflies. Especially since she has promised to let me borrow it, I will definitely be planning that request sooner than later.

Speaking of planning…now that I’m vegan, the fruit kabobs helped detoured my appetite when I encounter the miniature chicken and waffles. Those were just some of the posh noshes that Clearfork’s B&B Butchers & Restaurant created for brunch. I still can’t get over how adorable they were.

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All the pretty ladies, all the pretty ladies!

The whole morning was a crazy whirlwind, and before I knew it, the DJ turned it up! Party #2 – the big 300-people-on-the-guest-list main event – had begun! It was, as they say in the jewelry business, OFF THA’ CHAIN! (Sorry, I can’t help it!)

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Among the most delicious details were the sweets and treats.

There was a Valentine’s Day dessert bar! An all-pink bag-your-own candy bar! Champagne and mimosas! Door prizes from B&B Butchers & Restaurant, Pinstripes, Fixe Southern House and The Bar Method, all located in Clearfork (to see who won, click here).

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Even the party favors were divine. Little books with jewelry styling tips and adorable Ring Pops in clear boxes all wrapped up with Ylang 23 signature ribbon.

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend!

I’ll admit, I arrived at Ylang 23 about 20 minutes early that day for the sales associates to “dress” me. Not only did they hook me up with a “neckmess” of amazing pieces, all coordinated to achieve their signature layered look, but I also got in some “me time” to browse.

As they say in the jewelry business, it rocked! Seriously, I’m still on cloud nine from the thrill of getting to wear THAT MUCH fabulous jewelry at once.

I knew with all the swooning and the chit-chatting ahead of me, I wouldn’t have a chance to help my husband. What did I do for him? I compiled a shopping list of my favorite pieces to make Valentine’s Day gifting a cake walk. Jason if you’re reading this, You’re welcome!

SYDNEY EVAN: Large Diamond Love Script Necklace $1610 | Small Ruby Lips Necklace $1585

Christy’s Top Favorite Ylang 23 Gifts for Valentine’s Day!

Ok, don’t get me wrong. If I had a money tree planted in my back yard, I would buy half the jewelry sold at Ylang 23. But since I don’t, I’ve listed a small sampling of baubles, at various price points, that I think you will like.

1.

JORDAN ASKILL: Red Heart Necklace $325 | Pink or Black Heart Necklace $475 | Heart Rings $225 | Heart Bracelets $285

2.

SYDNEY EVAN: Love Necklace $840 | JENNIFER MEYER: Open Heart Necklace $875 | HEATHER B. MOORE: Love Amour Charm $490 | XO Diamond Charm $410 | Quartz Drop $60 | Chain $1230 | MARLA AARON: Red Enamel Heart Lock $1100 | Chain $1606

3.

IRENE NEUWIRTH: Extra Large Flat Heart Necklace $7370

4.

CATHY WATERMAN: Green Emerald $17990 | Antique Diamond $23950 | Blue Saphire $15710

5.

SHAY: Floating Diamond Heart $3780 | MARLA AARON: Rose Gold Lock $355 | Rose Gold Diamond Chubby Lock $6150 | Rose Gold Diamond Heart Lock $1863 | Rose Gold Chain $343 | Stainless Steel Chain $112

6. 

JANIS SAVITT: Various sized Bracelets and Cuff in Rhodium and Gold Plated $60-190

7.

IRENE NEUWIRTH: Heart Moonstone Necklace $7740 | CATHY WATERMAN: Opal and Chrysoprase Lyrical Wheat Necklace $17600

Photography by Laura McCarthyMaria Ciszek

SoFortWorthIt GIVEAWAY

After all, jewelry is meant to be worn. That’s a belief shared by all the fab women who came to this event, and I bet that’s your belief, too!

Now, who wants to win a $250 gift card from Ylang23? Yeah, me too! Head over to SoFortWorthIt on Instagram and enter this contest where you see the picture of Ylang 23’s storefront.

Good luck and shine on my friends! xoxo

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BONUS GIVEAWAY: $500 VISA Gift Card

It would mean the world to me if you’d take five seconds to vote for SoFortWorthIt as your FAVORITE local blog/influencer. As a thank you for voting, I am giving away a $500 VISA gift card to one lucky winner.

*BONUS: You can enter multiple times daily through February 15th. Each vote is an entry into the giveaway. Just click the “+ Nominate Another” link and repeat up to 10 times.

*BEFORE YOU SUBMIT YOUR VOTE, take a screenshot of your vote(s) and email it to christy@sofortworthit.com

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