Imagine turning your dining room and kitchen into a beautiful event location for a year-end DIY cocktail party with your closest girlfriends or colleagues. Well, that’s exactly what we did with the help of some awesome local experts! Here’s what went down …
Wine chilled. Candles lit. Music on. Sounds like the start of a lovely, laid-back dinner party, right? Well, that’s exactly what it was … sort of!
Instead of coming together to just eat dinner though, the Get It girls were about to learn how to make our own delicious cocktail canapés (all plant-based!) with the help of Roots Café & Deli owner and our host for the evening, Jennifer Swanepoel.
To add to the ‘glam’ factor and for a little extra interactive fun, instead of sitting down to a beautifully laid table, we also styled our own stunning cocktail benches with décor supplied by the team from The Creativity Lab.
After the first glass of wine – and lots of selfies – the girls settled down and Jen told us a little about herself and what we were going to cook. She split us into three teams – starters, mains and dessert – and the dessert team had to get going first! Aprons were donned and the oven switched on. More wine may have been poured at this point.
On the menu for evening? Polenta Bites with Avocado Dip, Summer Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce, Falafel Balls, Loaded Hummus, a Cream Cheese Ball with Crackers and Pecan and Apple Blondies with Salted Caramel Sauce for dessert!
A qualified teacher who has owned her own preschool and worked with children for more than 17 years and a mother of two, Jen actually has no formal chef training. This ended up being one of the things we liked most about her! She cooks from the heart and manages to make every dish seem easy and unintimidating … even for the most culinary-challenged among us!
Jen loves chatting and she loves people, which is one of the reasons, she says, she always dreamed of owning her own coffee shop.
“I love getting to know people, and there really isn’t a better place to do that than around good food. There is something comforting and transparent about conversations that are shared around a meal.”
When she opened the doors to Roots Café in Umhlali in November last year, Jen’s vision was to introduce people to delicious food that was both nutritious and free of any animal products. “I wanted to show people that following a plant-based diet doesn’t mean you have to live on lettuce leaves and broccoli!”
Located in the beautiful garden setting at Burnedale, Roots Café offers a wide variety of plant-based lunches brekkies, desserts and dairy free smoothies and freshly squeezed juices. They also, apparently, have the best carrot ever!
It was after she had quite a big health scare and was diagnosed with renal failure in 2015 that Jen started following a plant-based lifestyle (she does occasionally throw in some dairy and eggs). “While I was on dialysis, I had to make very specific changes to what I was eating and drinking. After my kidney transplant (my sister lovingly shared her spare one with me), I started having gut issues and was diagnosed with Inflammatory bowel disease. After much trial and error with medication, I decided to follow a plant-based diet. I felt so much better within a few weeks. I have been in remission ever since and haven’t had any issues or relapses.”
Jen says it’s important to remember that people choose plant based lifestyles for various reasons, whether it’s for health, weight loss, to lessen their carbon footprint or a love for animals. “We need to remember to show kindness and consideration towards everyone and not make uniformed judgements if this is a not a lifestyle we would consider.”
Meanwhile, back at our Get It girls night of fun … we were nibbling away and instead of sitting down to eat, we snacked (and sipped!) throughout the evening as each dish was ready. We took turns stirring, blending and plating up the yummy dishes and were all amazed at how delicious everything was, even without a single meat dish.
While our evening took on more of a ‘cocktail party’ feel, Jen says her cooking classes can be adapted to suit whatever theme or vibe the host or hostess wants. The classes are held during the week and she can host groups of between five and 15 people. “We always have loads of fun and everyone learns a new cooking skill or two. We also change things up according to what you want: some people want to get down and dirty and be involved in the prep, others want a cooking demo and some just want to sit back and enjoy the delicious food and a glass of wine!”
Natalie and Nicole showing off their skills!
As for us? We felt like we did all three! The favourite dishes on the night (although they were all great) were definitely the Falaffel Balls and Summer Rolls (which were so much easier to make than we thought), and we finished off with a coffee and delicious Pecan Blondies. Let’s just say the dessert team were very proud of their accomplishment!
The most important thing to remember when hosting a dinner party or cooking experience like this, according to Jen, is to have enough wine! Haha! “It’s also important to create an atmosphere where people feel comfortable and at easy and make sure you know about any food allergies.”
Roots Cafe & Deli: Burnedale Farm, Umhlali, 082 822 9754; FB: rootscafedeli
DIY party décor!
Instead of sitting down to a table that has been set for them, guests will love The Creativity Lab’s new DIY Cooking Class Box offering. Owner Tash Sutherland says, “The idea behind this was to ensure that we provide the essentials from concept to inception for each person to be able to ‘master’ the cooking class in their own space (at home) making sure they are equipped with their own cutlery and crockery, minimizing contact with each other.” We were thrilled when the team delivered and set up everything required for us for our cooking class. Tash’s team cleverly opted for a minimalist feel with earthy tones combined with a pastel pink … super feminine and on trend!
TASH’S 2020 CELEBRATION TRENDS:
This theme has been trending for the last few years, but it is more prevalent now that ever. It’s all about using sustainable solutions that promote a lower carbon footprint – like using glassware and linens instead of disposable options.
Bohemian (BOHO) themes
The outdoors and nature are coming in strong for décor this year. ‘Boho chic’ has always been around, but is returning to support the outdoor and sustainable entertaining vibe. Boho promotes a simple, neutral colour palette, which includes natural elements – tans, cream and brown tones will definitely be dominating the festive season.
Taking celebrations outdoors is sure to be a hot new trend – especially after being locked away for the past few months due to Covid-19. Space will be a new, important trend at events industry. From hosting events at your home, revamping you backyard for a baby shower or a full set-up corporate launch at a park … make sure you bring that ‘outside element of space to all your events!
Text: Leah Shone