Oprah’s event guru, Debi Lilly, believes in maximum elegance with minimum fuss. To create this stunning (but simple) spread, she hit up a few of her favorite local stores in a mere morning.

From Logan Square’s Provenance (2528 N. California Ave.; 773-384-0699): snacks include Westfield Farm’s Capri wasabi goat cheese ($6.99), Cowgirl Creamery’s organic Red Hawk cow’s-milk cheese, ($16.99), and Little Three Pigs chicken pâté with duck confit ($7.99). For libations: Château de Manissy Couvée des Lys Tavel Rosé 2006 ($16.50), and Didier Goubet’s organic merlot grape juice ($10.99). For a sweet finish: Brown Paper Chocolates’ dark chocolate with pistachios, Cointreau, dried cherries, and orange peel ($8.99), and Gail Ambrosius handmade truffles ($14.99 for six pieces).

From chocolategourmet.com: “Ugly Truffles,” party favors in white boxes ($13.50 for box of six truffles).

From Crate & Barrel Outlet (1864 N. Clybourn Ave.; 312-787-4775): wine glasses (from $1.95) and folding side tables ($19.95 each).

From Art Effect (934 W. Armitage Ave.; 773-929-3600): white porcelain cheese markers from Classic Kitchen Basics ($12).

From the Chicago Chocolate Company (4010 S. Morgan St.; 312-738-0888): milk chocolate and dark chocolate caramel squares ($17.99 per pound).

From Z Gallerie (938 W. North Ave.; 312-475-9809): wool zebra rug ($329) and large black-and-white floral Shiloh pillow ($49.95).

From Bed Bath & Beyond: white-and-black Nixon pillow by Jonathan Adler ($39.99).

From Lilly’s own retail store, A Perfect Event (3050 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-244-9333): Two’s Company shell-topped toothpicks, ($5.95 per box), candles and candlesticks, vases, votives, apothecary jars, dishware, all from various manufacturers.

For a more casual affair …

To add a gourmet touch to the usual picnic basket, try sandwiches from Winston’s Market (3440 N. Southport Ave., 773-327-6400). Lilly loves the turkey and fig with caramelized onions and blue cheese (pictured here; $6.95).

Prechill the gel-filled inserts in this versatile server, which keeps sippables cold but doubles as a veggies-and-dip bowl. Chillzanne sectional server ($49.50), at pamperedchef.com.

For refreshing sangría, any dry red will do. Search for Lilly’s Summer Sangria recipe at chicagomag.com.


Pistachio macaroons ($15 for 12) from Vanille Pâtisserie (2229 N. Clybourn Ave.; 773-868-4574) look particularly pretty in a bed of dried blueberries ($4.99), from Winston’s Market.

For a quick-but-classy centerpiece, “just grab some flowers from your garden,” says Lilly. Then, pop the top on mini appletinis, stick in a straw, and enjoy. Cocktails by Jenn ($14.99 for a four-pack tote) at Chicago-area Binny’s locations.