Anyone who has ever been invited to a Yankee Swap holiday party (also known as a White Elephant) is aware that each guest has to bring a silly gift to exchangethe goofier the better.
Arguments often break out over who gets to keep the few good things in the mix, while the night’s biggest losers inevitably leave with an ice-cube tray shaped like a set of dentures or a book about how to test their cat’s personality. But when the co-owners of the eco-minded Los Angeles design firm Commune hosted a holiday party, asking people to bring gifts, no one squabbled over who got what. That’s because the guests were L.A.’s hottest tastemakers in food, wine and style, and the gifts they brought were useful, beautiful things that anyone would have been happy to take home.
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Chef Jeff Cerciello of L.A.’s new Farmshop restaurant not only brought a gift (peach jam from Brentwood, California’s incredible Frog Hollow Farm), but he also did the cooking, preparing not one, but two roasts: a bone-in leg of lamb slathered in fiery harissa and a brined, fennel-rubbed pork loin. While Commune’s Roman Alonso set the table in the Spanish-style courtyard (it is L.A., after all, which means alfresco parties even in December), Cerciello prepared platters of gorgeous dishes to pass around family-style. For example, he made lowly parsnips glamorous by roasting them with dates until everything caramelized, then served them with a sumac-spiked yogurt.
Valerie Gordon of Valerie Confections was tasked with bringing dessert. “It’s the time of year for excess," she says, so she prepared two choices. She pulled her spectacular brandy semifreddo out of the freezer, shook it out of its Bundt-like kugelhopf mold, and served it with winter fruits poached in spiced red wine. Then she glazed her vanilla cake with a dripping caramel sauce. Although the party was almost free of the usual Yankee Swap silliness, Gordon couldn’t help adding a bit of extravagance to her gift, decorating the box—which held tea from her new line and her impeccable chocolate-dipped petits fours—with peacock feathers. “Little is more spectacular than a spray of peacock feathers,” she says.
A-List Party: Yankee Swap Gifts
Tastemakers: Jeff Cerciello and Kira Cunningham
The Farmshop chef and his wife love Brentwood, CA's Frog Hollow Farm jams, now available in the new Farmshop store. From $9 for 8 oz; farmshopla.com.
Tastemakers: Valerie Gordon and Stan Weightman, Jr.
Gordon and her partner gave some of her new tea blends, cookies and petits fours (sold as a package for $130 at valerieconfections.com). They also brought the kugelhopf silicone mold she used to make her brandy semifreddo ($13; thecookwarekitchen.com), and the recipe (above).
Tastemakers: Steven Johanknecht, Pamela Shamshiri, Roman Alonso and Ramin Shamshiri.
“We brought gifts from our shop to dress up a drink,” says Commune’s Roman Alonso. These include leather coasters ($25 each), glass straws ($75 for 4) and napkins by Matteo ($112 for 4), all available at communedesign.com.