To anchor the tablescape in the dining room, hostess Ariane Prewitt used a red tagine (containing her chicken and root vegetable stew) and surrounded it with small plates—some of them handmade by Italian artist Bruno Gambone—containing olives, hummus, and tabbouleh. To evoke a rustic feeling, she put eucalyptus pods in a traditional blue and white vase from Fez. ::: View Photo Gallery
The tea station, decorated with mint from the garden, featured Archer’s grandmother’s silver teapot containing Moroccan mint tea from Todd & Holland Tea Merchants in Forest Park. ::: View Photo Gallery
Ariane and Archer Prewitt are a poster couple for effortless style. She is a visual merchandiser whose resume includes Barneys New York, Jayson Home & Garden, and Henry Beguelin. He is a critically acclaimed pop musician who plays (both solo and with The Sea and Cake) in clubs all over town. Both are artists, travelers, and foodies. And when they entertain at their Oak Park bungalow, they do so with the same level of artistry with which they approach everything else in their lives.
“I love setting up things, and I love change,” says Ariane. “Having parties allows me to experiment with new things at home without having to change things completely.” In the past, the Prewitts have turned their home into an Italian villa and a French chateau. But the key to their parties is that they never go overboard on the themes. Recently, they threw a Moroccan-style party, by-passing the hookah in favor of a more subdued Middle Eastern vibe. They shared their behind-the-scenes tips with us.
The tastes and textures of the Mediterranean, from Greece to Turkey to Morocco, informed the Prewitts’ fete. Since their home was already filled with layered ethnic textiles and an extensive collection of vintage pottery, including Moroccan ceramics and redware from the U.S. and Mexico, it was well suited for the occasion. Only a few details were needed to complete the look.
First Ariane ordered a tagine (a peak-lidded pot that shares its name with the stew cooked in it), a must-have for cooking traditional Moroccan couscous and meats, from Bloomingdale’s Home; she chose a tomato-red one that, once the cooking was complete, made a striking serving piece as well, anchoring the spread in the dining room.
She also decided to serve the food—which, in addition to the main course of chicken and root vegetable stew, included cured olives, hummus, and falafel—on artfully mismatched small plates. “I wanted to create the feeling of an easy meal that could be moved around,” she says. She encouraged guests to partake in this moveable feast by setting up multiple stations throughout the house: a buffet in the dining room, a bar in the sunroom, a funky appetizer table atop a daybed in the living room, and desserts and tea outside.
With flower arrangements inspired by books about Morocco topping every surface, alluring scents wafting through the air, and the mellow sounds of Ravi Shankar flowing throughout the house and leafy yard, the overall feeling was romantic, breezy, and as hip as you’d expect from the Prewitts.
Moroccan Chicken and Root Vegetable Stew
1 tablespoon olive oil
12 ounces skinless boneless chicken breast halves, cut into one-inch pieces
1 1⁄2 cups chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 cinnamon stick
2 cups peeled red-skinned sweet potatoes, cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces
2 cups peeled parsnips, cut into
2 cups peeled turnips, cut into
1 cup peeled rutabaga, cut into
2 cups chicken broth
1⁄4 cup dried currants or raisins
1 cup diced tomatoes
Chopped fresh cilantro
Heat oil in large, heavy pot or tagine (lid off) over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken to pot and sauté until light golden but not cooked through, about one minute. Transfer chicken to bowl.
Add onion to pot and sauté until golden, about four minutes. Add garlic and stir one minute. Add curry powder, cumin, and cinnamon stick and stir 30 seconds. Add sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, rutabaga, broth, and currants. Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Add tomatoes and chicken with any accumulated juices. Simmer until chicken is cooked through and flavors blend, about five minutes longer. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve over cooked couscous. Serves six.
Cardamom Walnut Cookies
1 1⁄2 cups granulated sugar
1 1⁄2 cups powdered sugar
2 1⁄2 teaspoons ground
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted
butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1⁄2 cups walnuts, toasted and
In a large bowl, mix one cup granulated sugar and 1⁄2 teaspoon cardamom. In a medium bowl, mix 1⁄2 teaspoon cardamom and powdered sugar. Set both mixtures aside. In another large bowl, combine remaining 1⁄2 cup granulated sugar, 1 1⁄2 teaspoons cardamom, butter, vanilla extract, lemon peel, and salt. Using electric mixer, beat at medium-high speed until well blended. Add flour and chopped nuts. Beat until dough is smooth, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Gather dough into a ball and wrap in plastic. Chill for one hour. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment. Using one generous tablespoon of dough for each cookie, roll dough into 3⁄4-inch balls (makes about 4 dozen). Transfer to baking sheets. Bake cookies until golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes on sheets. Add 12 warm cookies to the large bowl of granulated sugar and cardamom and toss gently to coat. Repeat with
12 more cookies. Let remaining 24 cookies cool completely on sheet, then sift powdered sugar and cardamom mixture over them. (Can be made three days ahead. Store in airtight container.)