Where in the world can you enjoy a five-course meal among two acres of five ft heirloom dahlia blooms in an amazing color palette? At North Carolina’s Mountain Resort – High Hampton Inn! Caroline Grogan, Director of Group Sales/Events at High Hampton, helps orchestrate each of these extravagant dinner affairs. In this DIY world, her insight into planning High Hampton’s Dinner in the Dahlias can help inspire even the least creative of party planners in the making.
What makes Dinner in the Dahlias so special and why are they important to you? The Dinner in the Dahlias events are my signature events that I look forward to each year. The dinners have a restricted number of guests for an intimate affair, so I’m able to put all of my energy into the design—the tablescapes—and be immersed in the details.
How do you and the team prepare/research for these dinners? Our culinary team insists on the freshest ingredients—so their research for building the menu for these grand meals happens very close to the evening to incorporate High Hampton’s Southern roots with fresh vegetables, intricate spices from our gardens, and menu items that tickle the palette. Our Food and Beverage Manager, Brian Humphreys, works closely with the Chef to create a wine list for the evening that pairs well with the menu offered. Décor research is treated differently, as I plan months in advance. With each new season of Dinner in the Dahlias, my goal is to constantly change the look and feel of the event, but to have one detail that ties each season’s dinners together. For example, in one year I will use a specific table runner material but in different hues for each dinner.
What are your plans for the upcoming August dinners? This year I am taking the approach with my design of “modern meets vintage.” I’m combining very modern crisp linens with vintage china and centerpiece containers. Each dinner will have this overall theme, but color schemes and china patterns will be different.
What is tablescaping and why is it important? Just as a yard is landscaped—so should your dinner space. “Tablescaping” is the design approach you use for your dining tables. The design of the table décor sets the tone of the evening. If you are planning a fancier evening, proper glassware and candle holders can set that mood for you—and the same being true for a more casual affair.
Where do you get your inspiration and what advice do you have for people who might be looking to recreate the elegance of these dinners at home? Surprisingly, I get a lot of inspiration for my tablescaping in the produce department at the grocery store. I would recommend looking in unusual and unique places for new ideas. At the grocery store, there are so many vegetables that are delicious but also can be beautiful in their texture and colors within centerpieces or as accents. Another suggestion is to incorporate design trends. For example, the current mix-and-match trend with different patterns and antiques can be a very economical way to stage your table and make the look appear very eclectic, yet professional.