In Los Angeles, a Hilltop Garden Party With a Tower of Crudités

Southern California’s infamous Santa Ana winds were barreling through Los Angeles as Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson prepared to host a garden party to celebrate the May 7 release of their first cookbook, “Kismet.” But as seasoned chefs and restaurant owners — they opened their Middle Eastern-inflected East Hollywood restaurant, also called Kismet, in 2017 after bonding in the kitchen at Brooklyn’s Glasserie over a decade ago — the two women have plenty of practice keeping cool in stressful situations. “We were like, ‘It’s going to die down, it’s going to die down,’” said Hymanson, 37, of the gale. “And if it doesn’t, then we’ll figure it out.”

Indeed, just before 5:30 p.m., when guests were set to arrive at the Echo Park hilltop home that Kramer, 38, shares with her partner, the comedian Emil DeRosa, 34, and their goldendoodle, Kevin, the gusts subsided and the gray skies gave way to a golden sunset. Suddenly, the garden — which features a winding pathway scented by jasmine bushes and herbs that leads down to a grove of loquat, fig and Blenheim apricot trees — felt like an ideal place for a celebration. Chase Valencia, 40, who co-owns Lasita, a modern Filipino restaurant in the city’s Chinatown, took in the setting, admitting, “I came to this dinner because I really wanted to check out her house!”

A trellis of jasmine flowers frames a seating area in the garden.Credit…Stephanie Noritz
An arrangement by the florist Yasmine Khatib featuring poppies, butterfly ranunculus and foxgloves in the home’s living room.Credit…Stephanie Noritz

Khatib carrying the arrangement into the garden.Credit…Stephanie Noritz

Though they enlisted their friends and fellow chefs Kali Bush-Vineberg, 31, and Patch Troffer, 38, to help cook at the event, Kramer and Hymanson had prepped from sunrise to midnight the day before, making an early morning trip to the Santa Monica Farmers Market and then spending hours chopping produce and converting the measurements from their cookbook to accommodate a large party. “We tested the recipes plenty of times,” Hymanson said, “but we were still anxious about it.” The book, they said, was a labor of love five years in the making, a project they signed on for in 2019 but put on hold during the pandemic and the expansion of their business, which has grown to include three fast-casual Kismet Rotisseries over the past four years.

Kramer’s wood-burning cob oven — a light gray, plaster-coated dome designed by the local artist James Herman — cast a warm glow as guests chatted on the deck’s wooden banquette and snacked on carrot-and-smoked fish borek wrapped in layers of crispy phyllo pastry, along with a tower of colorful crudités that included snap peas, pink and speckled radicchio and white radishes accompanied by horseradish labneh and herbed tahini dips. Even when dinner was announced, it was hard to lure the crowd away from their conversations and over to the table. Finally, Hymanson, surrounded by a group of friends, announced, “I’m going to leave you all so you’ll actually eat!”

Before the meal, guests mingled on the deck and in the graveled dining area below.Credit…Stephanie Noritz

The attendees: Kramer and Hymanson invited a mix of food industry colleagues and other friends, including Randy Moon, 39, a co-owner of Brooklyn’s Four Horseman restaurant, and his wife, the chef Katy Peetz, 38; Kacie Carter, 36, the owner of Los Angeles’s Honey Hi restaurant, and her husband, the TV writer and producer Brian Chamberlayne, 41; the film and music video producer Saul Germaine, 37; the drummer for the band TV on the Radio, Jahphet Landis, 39, who also owns the hot sauce brand Jah Mama; and Erica Chidi, 37, a co-founder of the digital women’s health education platform Loom.

The table featured plates from the ceramist Helen Levi and floral arrangements by Khatib.Credit…Stephanie Noritz

The table: Guests ate at an eight-foot-long reclaimed Douglas fir table from the local furniture maker Zation covered in a cream, magenta and olive green gingham tablecloth. Down the center, a blue-and-white striped runner was lined with marbled, handblown glass carafes from Upstate, a company owned by the set designer Kalen Kaminski, who did the prop styling for the “Kismet” cookbook. Slices of poppy seed bread from the local bakery Bub & Grandma’s were set out on dark blue plates from the Queens-based ceramist Helen Levi, a friend of the chefs, and guests dined off blush pink plates from Hawkins New York, one of Hymanson and Kramer’s favorite home stores. The florist Yasmine Khatib, 38, of Yasmine Floral Design, a friend who attended the party with her partner, the gardener Horace Cameron, 32, brought arrangements of daffodils, sweet peas, poppies and butterfly ranunculus.

On the deck, Hymanson (left) set up a tower of crudités and Kramer (right) served a batched blood orange Negroni.Credit…Stephanie Noritz
A dish of artichokes marinated in fish sauce and nigella seeds.Credit…Stephanie Noritz
Guests helped themselves to food from the buffet, filling pink salad plates from Hawkins New York.Credit…Stephanie Noritz

The food: “We’ve done a lot of catering, and it’s just so much easier to make the food good if it’s meant to be at room temperature,” Hymanson said in reference to the evening’s dishes, all of which were cookbook recipes. Dinner, laid out buffet style on the brick-lined counter next to the oven, included plates of artichokes with nigella seeds and fish sauce; Moroccan spiced carrots with cinnamon, shallots and butter; a frisée and sliced golden beet salad dressed in a vinaigrette made with passion fruit from the garden; shrimp seasoned with rose, sage and Aleppo pepper and topped with sliced pepperoncini; and branzino with Meyer lemon and sumac cooked in the wood oven. For dessert, Kramer and Hymanson served their sugar-dusted pecan and cinnamon balls, a take on Mexican wedding cookies, along with chocolate from Moiré, a brand owned by their friend ​​Julia Ziegler-Haynes, 43, who attended the dinner with her husband, Chris Bear, 41, of the band Grizzly Bear.

A work depicting melons by the Portland, Ore.-based artist Camille Shu hangs on Kramer’s living-room wall.Credit…Stephanie Noritz
The blood orange Negroni — made with Cappelletti Aperitivo, Luxardo’s Sour Cherry Flavored Gin and French Salers Aperitif — and cans of Ghia spritz and Lovely Bunch sparkling apple juice.Credit…Stephanie Noritz

The drinks: On the deck, guests helped themselves to pitchers of blood orange Negroni made with fruit from the garden. Nonalcoholic beverages included cans of Ghia’s sumac and chile spritz and Sunset Cultures’ strawberry fennel-flower kombucha. Hymanson’s friend Roni Ginach, 38, the founder of the natural wine distributor Roni Selects and also a dinner guest, chose bottles for the meal, including Cortese — “an easy-drinking orange,” said Ginach — from their house label, Selects.

The guests Kacie Carter, Brian Chamberlayne and Erica Chidi enjoying welcome drinks on the deck.Credit…Stephanie Noritz

The music: Kramer started the evening with what she described as her “fun, light and easy” Spotify playlist, featuring Aimee Mann, Jonathan Richman, Minnie Ripperton and others. “You want to have some songs that people recognize and you want people to notice [the music], but not too much,” Kramer said of her soundtrack strategy. “Throw a Dolly Parton song in there, but then some more obscure stuff.” As the night went on, she switched to a funkier playlist by DeRosa that included the Italian singer Donatella Viggiano and the Malian duo Amadou & Mariam.

Guests Roni Ginach (left of center in sunglasses) and Chidi talking as the sun set.Credit…Stephanie Noritz

The conversation: At one corner of the dining table, Landis, Moon and Peetz discussed their love for spicy food and reverence for the South Carolina-based chili breeder Ed Currie, who created the world’s hottest pepper, X. All New York transplants, they also bonded over their time on the East Coast. “When you’ve lived in Brooklyn for a long time, you’ve seen some things you wish you hadn’t!” said Landis. Meanwhile, at the other end of the table, Germaine, Khatib and Hymanson’s childhood friend, the literature professor Jessica Laser, 36, showed off photos of their pets on their phones. In forming the guest list, Kramer said, “We obviously can’t talk to every single person in every single moment, so we thought, Who is going to enjoy each other’s company?”

At dusk, the chef Patch Troffer (far left) helped set up the buffet.Credit…Stephanie Noritz

Tip: When it comes to hosting, Kramer and Hymanson are big on prep but very laid-back once guests arrive— an approach they recommend. “I think a good party is when you set it up and then everyone has a good time without you,” said Hymanson. “I’m not trying to control the way the party flows unless something needs to happen, like, ‘Everyone has to go eat the food now before the birds get it!’”

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