Whether she’s at an F&W photo shoot or one of her frequent parties, food stylist Alison Attenborough makes food look modern and delicious—say, by creating diagonal layers of cream and jelly in a parfait, or freezing spices and herbs in ice cubes that she then uses to chill crudités. When Alison throws a holiday party with her husband, Jamie Kimm (a personal chef who has worked for photographer Annie Leibovitz), they usually set up a buffet. "About three years ago, we switched most of our large parties from sit-down dinners to cocktail parties," says Alison. "Especially during this time of year, everyone is busy—including us—so we try to simplify." They’ll serve finger foods as well as a main course that guests can eat while they’re standing, and they’ll cook dishes that can be made ahead of time, like a horseradish-spiked borscht with beef, which tastes even better the second day. They’ll also buy ready-made desserts like rose-flavored Turkish delight and delicate macaroons. In the spirit of keeping things casual, Alison uses mostly paper plates and plastic cups so that cleanup is easy. But she’ll also pull out a few pieces from her vintage china collection and insists on real glasses for Champagne or cocktails. Ever the stylist, Alison often plans the menu around a color scheme. "I always think visually when I serve dinner," she says. "Most of my friends work in fashion, not food."
Pile store-bought sweets high in unusual glass dishes for drama. Raspberry and lavender macaroons from Payard Patisserie ($26 for 16 cookies; payard.com). Vanilla Classiques meringues from Miss Meringue ($5 for a five-ounce container; missmeringue.com). Rose-flavored Turkish delight from Kalustyan’s (from $8 per pound; kalustyans.com). Lemon Dreams cookies from Hannah’s Delights ($7 for five ounces; sarahwoods.com). "Ambassador" covered glass candy dish by Lobmeyr from Moss (from $175; from mossonline.com). "Magic Flute" covered sugar bowl ($125) and vegetable bowl ($310) from Rosenthal.
Cocktail Hour Creativity
Decorative Ice Cubes
Alison pours water into a silicone square-ice-cube tray from Tovolo, then drops in star anise, pink peppercorns or other ingredients before freezing ($9; from Broadway Panhandler, 866-266-5927). The ice cubes can be used to keep crudités fresh, and they release spicy aromas as they melt.