Feast with Friends: Our downtown rooftop Thanksgiving celebration is a fresh take on tradition
Ever since Monica Gellar put a turkey on her head and shimmied through the door of Chandler and Joey’s apartment, Thanksgiving has been closely associated with friends. Or Friends, that is. The six 20-somethings on everyone’s favorite turn-of-the-millennium sitcom demonstrated every November that gathering with a group of special non-relatives can be just as festive and memorable as the traditional family holiday dinner.
That’s why, in lieu of a typical Thanksgiving spread for this year’s inRegister holiday entertaining feature, we teamed up with event planner Angela DiVincenti Babin of Angela Marie Events to embrace the concept of “Friendsgiving.” This term, first popularized around the early 2010s, refers to an often-casual version of a Thanksgiving gathering that frequently takes place prior to the official Thursday feast.
“I love the concept,” Babin says. “Friends can be just as important as family. And I will come up with any crazy reason to have a party, so this is a great excuse to get a group of friends together. These moments are important because they make our memories and our lives.”
But the beauty of this Friendsgiving fête is that it’s filled with ideas that can be incorporated into any holiday gathering—whether the guests are bonded by blood or not. To create this celebratory scene, we started by selecting a stunning outdoor setting: the rooftop of the Commerce Building in downtown Baton Rouge, with views of the skyline and the Mississippi River. Like Monica and the gang on Friends, many of the residents of this apartment building are young, single professionals, so Babin imagined an elegant evening that was still easy to put together.
To set the stage for the meal, a simple long table was pulled poolside on the building’s rooftop terrace and draped in a camel-colored velvet tablecloth. Babin surrounded the table with wood and metal folding garden chairs. “Less is more for a party like this,” she says. “That also reflects the design of the building, with its clean lines and minimalist aesthetic.”
To soften the masculine-leaning look of the table and chairs, Babin assembled a centerpiece filled with yellow and cream flowers including sunflowers, roses, dahlias, ranunculus, yarrow and solidago, along with magnolia leaves, snowberries and broom corn, all inside a wood bowl. If styling an arrangement like that sounds complicated, look to the smaller wood vases that also line the table; Babin stuck to simple single-flower clusters to fill each one. “That’s a good concept for people who don’t want to arrange flowers,” she says. “It’s easy to just do a series of small vases, each with a different type of flower in them. And that is a very contemporary, minimalist way of decorating.”
When planning a Friendsgiving dinner menu, Babin says to think beyond your own kitchen. “It’s back to ease,” she explains. “This is not your massive Thanksgiving dinner. It might even be happening after a workday. Instead of cooking, you can pick up great holiday foods from local stores, restaurants and even coffee shops.”
Whatever you serve—whether it’s a simple salad and pastries from Rêve like the ones here or a vegetable-focused, home-cooked holiday spread like the one we’re featuring here—the key is to keep stress out of the kitchen and to fill the day with fun and friends.
“Friendsgiving is usually a casual affair,” Babin says. “You can throw on a sweater and jeans. That’s the world we’re living in—overall, people are low key and no fuss. This is pretty no fuss, but it still looks like you put some thought into it. And the most important part is just spending the time with the people you care about.”
Al Fresco Advice
Angela DiVincenti Babin shares her top three tips for serving a holiday meal outdoors:
Watch the weather. Have a backup plan in case of a sudden shower or—dare we say it—freezing temps.
Banish bugs. Have your yard sprayed before the big day, or line the area with citronella tiki torches. Consider keeping the food inside and having people serve themselves from within the kitchen.
Light the night. “People always think the candles on the table will provide enough light, but they won’t,” Babin says. Strung-up
bistro lights can do the trick.
Planning and design: Angela Marie Events
Floral design: Angela Marie Events
Venue: Commerce Building
Place cards and menus: Sharon Benton Designs
Garden chairs: Angela Marie Events
Plates, utensils, glasses, napkins, accessories: Target
Painted bottles: Eileen Montross, Joanies Hand Painted
Cake: Amelia Alemán
Pastries, coffee, salad: Rêve Coffee Lab
Models: Elizabeth and Dave Roper, Jake Forshag, Sidney Tauzin, Kyle Lavergne