Behind the Scenes at Summerhouse


Behind the Scenes at Summerhouse

Thursday, October 24, 2019

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Summerhouse at the Liguanea Club provides a stunning backdrop for beautifully orchestrated celebrations, but the seamless execution that turns events into table talk memories often goes unnoticed. “As it should be,” says Michelle Rousseau, who along with her sister Suzanne are the restaurant's co-principals. “An event should absolutely appear to be seamless. It's like theatre — our guests are here for a perfectly orchestrated experience, and a lot happens throughout the day before the curtain goes up.”

Making an event seem effortless requires weeks of planning, combing through and refining every detail, from the wine and music to the flowers and the weight of the paper on which the menus are printed. Preparation starts as soon as the call is received, discussing the availability of a date, time, type of event, menu options and décor. The team then commences designing the event, with Suzanne and Michelle ensuring that the requests are tastefully executed to reflect both the client's personality and the Summerhouse imprimatur. “Events create an additional layer of complexity as many of our clients want something different, bespoke. It's what we love doing.” Michelle says. She works on the culinary side with Leah Jones, the chef de cuisine, to create unique menus while Suzanne takes the lead on décor and design aspects.

Whether the event is at Liguanea Club or offsite, a key component is logistics and determining the best use of the space. For a birthday celebration, one client decided on cocktails in the bar, which allowed for mingling, immediately followed by a plated dinner on the verandah. The style of service dictates how an event will flow. “We are getting more requests for family-style feasts, in which sharing plates are placed on each table and guests can pass and serve themselves,” says Michelle.

Jones manages the kitchen for all service and event menus to ensure that fresh local artisanal ingredients delight the senses. “Many times, we have to source ingredients through alternative means, but we get it done. Once, my mother knew we needed marigold for a salad, and we couldn't find any. She ended up 'borrowing' some from a friend's garden. Fun times...” Jones recalls.

Once the flow and food of an event are sorted, the décor is the next point of focus. “Flowers! Fresh, colourful, impressive cuttings on the tables and bars will give your entertaining space a natural and refreshing look,” says Suzanne. “A dull space can use added drama and style with a show-stopping centrepiece of hydrangeas, lilac or the right assortment of fresh cuts.” Décor can also be amped up with table runners to add lively patterns or colours to pop, pairing well with a big trend this season — long table dinners.

On the day of the event, the team goes through the schedule in detail to ensure that décor and rentals are on-site, and everyone understands the flow of service. With hours to go, tables are set, bouquets positioned, the bar is furnished with fine liquors and spirits, and a playlist is curated to set the mood. “Moments before guests arrive, we do a walk-through with the client to ensure things are perfect, and then it's rock-and-roll,” Michelle notes.

Given their many years bringing events to life, we asked for their best advice for at-home entertaining. Here's what they said:


Effortless Entertaining at Home

Keep it simple and focus on easy food. Reggae Jammin' Rotisserie Chicken, a charcuterie board made from Hamilton's Smokehouse Sausages and deli cuts, or a burger bar with Reggae Jammin' Burgers offer great entertaining solutions.


Never over-plan — leave room for the impromptu as that's when the most magic occurs!


Set your event apart with a signature cocktail, a delightful way to warm up your guests as they arrive.


Keep a diverse guest list to spark interesting conversation by mixing ages, backgrounds and careers.


Create a list! Avoid having your guests arrive to a mess, by having a list of things to do and items to get before and on the day of your event. A good host is always ready for their guests, and even if you aren't, they should never know.


Try an eclectic mix of chairs, place settings and glassware, mixing contemporary with antique styles to make things interesting.


Always use candles and lanterns in varying shapes and sizes to create an atmosphere for evening parties as they add natural light and warmth on the dining table and around the party

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