A California Christmas with Annie Campbell
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You own and operate Annie Campbell, a boutique catering and party-making business. Tell us a little about how you got started in this industry.
I have always loved throwing parties. In the interest of ‘do what you love’, I started catering ten year ago, starting with one magical client. She is a wonderful hostess and it gave me an opportunity to create really thoughtful menus, splurge on the perfect ingredients and obsess over all of the details. From there, we have grown our word-of-mouth business with a talented and hard-working team.
Annie Campbell events are so curated but have a laid-back, effortless feel. How do you acheive that balance?
Thank you! I try to focus on a few really impactful details: e.g. signature cocktails, a fresh color palette and delicious food. Less truly is more. Sometimes when events are overproduced, nothing feels special. The “effortless” feel is created by a tremendous amount of effort that goes into the planning. Then, on the day, our team has a relaxed vibe so that also helps send the tone at the parties.
Your husband is the Co-Owner and Executive Chef of Annie Campbell. What’s it like working with your spouse?!
I love it. Events can be hectic and stressful so I love working with Greg because we have great shorthand and communicate very directly with one another. It’s fun to come home and debrief the night after each party. To create and grow a family business, has been tremendously rewarding. It’s helpful that we both have very different roles and stay in our own lanes: Greg runs the kitchen while I handle the planning and design elements.
Do you have a favorite party you’ve thrown?
My son Teddy’s first birthday party was so special to me. It was a Teddy Bear Picnic theme and the details were really sweet; plus we served corn dogs, which are always delicious. Watching him eat his teddy bear smash cake was a truly joyful life moment. A runner-up is my miniature dachshund George’s 10th birthday party, which had an Oktoberfest theme and was a pretty epic rager.
There always seems to be something that goes wrong during the preparation of an event, no matter how big or small it may be. Do you have any horror stories that ended up working out in the end?
Sooooo many. We have had generators die, valets not show up, broken ovens, weather nightmares and we also figure out a way to park the cars, an alternative way to cook or a way to make a rainy picnic feel festive. Party planning is professional trouble shooting – that is the job.
What are your tips for ensuring a party goes smoothly?
Get as much done in advance as possible is the best bet for a smooth party. Last minute scrambling doesn’t feel good and creates a frenzied feel. I like to stay organized with detailed checklists and give myself more time that I think. Even to this day, building a cheeseboard takes twice the time that I think it will. Pull serving pieces, set-up the bar and place candles the day before, when possible.
What is a detail that often gets overlooked that you think makes a big impact?
Lighting is really critical. If you’re putting the bar outside, make sure it is lit. If you’re inside, make sure lights are dimmed. I love the coziness of tons of candles.
What are your go-to items to serve for last minute guests?
Smoked pistachios, olives, potato chips and charcuterie. Champagne and mezcal poured over a festive ice cube. I keep a stash in my freezer!
Your cocktails are always so pretty. What are you serving up this holiday season?
Thank you! Pomegranate margaritas, holiday mules with doug fir and batched old fashioneds.
Let’s talk holiday menu - what are you dishing out this year?
At our annual holiday party we serve tequila and tamales, which is fun and festive. For cocktail parties, the classic comfort foods are always the favorites: e.g. mini grilled cheese, scallion pancakes with duck confit & hoison, and you can never go wrong with pigs in a blanket. For dessert, I love peppermint ice cream with hot fudge and crushed candy canes.
You live in Los Angeles! What do you like to do when you aren’t planning the party of the century?
For fun, I like to entertain and plan parties – it’s the truth! Getting together with good friends is the best. I also love sitting at the bars of LA’s many great restaurants with Greg. Teddy and Frankie love the farmers market. They also love to set the table and have parties!
Where do you gather inspiration from?
Restaurants, cookbooks, my mom, my friends and the vendors we collaborate with.
You are a mother as well. How do you manage being a mother and working and running a full time business?
It’s hard! It’s a series of decisions that are not always easy. I have given myself permission to give my all to my career and that alleviates a lot of “mom guilt.” I want to work and think it sets a great example for my children. When I am with Teddy and Frankie, I do my best to be present. Also, I have a lot of help, both at home and at work. It truly takes a village!
What’s next for Annie Campbell?
We strive to keep getting bigger and better. Next year I want to do an entertaining book, continue to collaborate with amazing clients, grow the team and explore a brick and mortar space.
from the kitchen of Annie Campbell
makes four cocktails
For the simple syrup:
1 cup sugar, 1 cups water
For the cocktail:
2 oz. pomegranate juice, 3 oz. fresh lime juice, 3 oz. simple syrup, 8 oz. blanco tequila, club soda or sparkling water, and lime wedges or pomegranate seeds, to garnish
To make the simple syrup:
Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan on the stove.
Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and stir, dissolving the sugar into the water.
Let cool. Can be refrigerated for up to a month.
To make the cocktails:
Combine the tequila, lime juice, pomegranate juice and simple syrup in a pitcher and stir well.
Let guests pour over ice, top with a splash of soda and enjoy!!