Back in September, we relaunched our Darling Dinners, welcoming in a new series of intentional conversations and embracing closeness after two years of separation. 

On October 12th, we continued our partnership with Hospitality Collaborative and roomforty catering, bringing together 34 incredible women at The Harper in Orange County, another one of Hospitality Collaborative’s gorgeous venues. The space, just like at our last dinner hosted by them, created the perfect environment to come together for another night of meaningful connections. 

Upon entering, guests were greeted by the luxurious yet comfortable atmosphere of The Harper. The indoor/outdoor space creates an organic ambiance, bringing together the tall ceilinged, bright, industrial main room with the greenery-lined, soft-lit enclosed courtyard. It was the perfect backdrop for our Darling Dinner. 

As guests arrived, they were offered a sake spritz by our partner, Ysidro. The bright and refreshing blend of grapefruit and sea salt was just the thing to kick off the night! 

We took our seats, in awe of the florals in front of us done by Bloom & Boom. Alongside the beautiful floral display was a special gift of Osea’s Hyaluronic Sea Serum. We’ve always loved their dedication to clean beauty and bringing the ocean into our lives and daily routine.  

Our glasses were filled with chardonnay and pinot noir from our wine partner, Friendly Noise. Their natural wine labels and names made everyone smile: Alabaster Super Egg and Little Horses. The company’s dedication to sourcing fruits that meet their ethical and environmental expectations, as well as the relationships they have with their growers are just two of the many reasons we were lucky to partner with them for the evening. 

Once we had made our initial introductions to the women around us, Darling’s Founder Sarah Dubbeldam introduced Steve Fortunato, founder and CEO of Hospitality Collaborative. He opened the evening by empowering everyone in the room to be confident in their ability to host, and more specifically, in their power to make others feel valued.  

Before the first dish was brought out on plates by Sarah Kersten Ceramics, we given the evening’s first table question by Sarah Dubbeldam: 

What is one thing that changed for you over the last two years that you think about a lot but don’t really talk about? 

Chef Adam Nadel’s first course consisted of a warm cauliflower salad, with golden raisins, bagna cauda, and zabaglione; an incredible combination resulting in “mmmmms” and happy, approving nods all around the table. After long and vulnerable conversations on the first table question, the second was introduced: 

What is one (or several) areas in your life that you wish you felt more “known”? 

We naturally have aspects of our life that we keep to ourselves. It might be something that we are in fact quite proud of, or alternatively something we wish people knew so that they could more deeply understand us. It was so moving to hear each woman’s answer, whether it be a talent of theirs, only known by their closest friends and family, or an internal feeling that they are passionate about. Every answer brought us closer to each other. 

As this discussion ensued, our mid-course was placed in front of us; a mouthwatering pumpkin-filled tortellini in brown butter. You couldn’t help but feel like you were eating the season of fall. Once we all had cleaned our plates, we were presented with the third and final question of the evening: 

What is one thing you could do to take a step into vulnerability to be more known by the people around you? 

This final question closed the gap between each woman in the room. Answers varied, but at the same time, each person related to and saw something in the next, creating a chain of answers that built off one another. 

With the final question came the main course. We were served a stunning dish of striped bass with salsify, cippolini, and vadouvan. To no one’s surprise, the fish was cooked beautifully, and each flavor pairing was thoughtfully divine.  

As conversations with new friends continued, the dessert was brought out to oohs and aahs: apple cider doughnuts with a coffee crema. We were all giddy over the presentation by chef Adam.  

As the night came to a close, phone numbers and emails were exchanged, and hugs were given between new friends. We all felt so lucky to be able to come together again after such a long period of disengagement. We all walked out into the night knowing more about not just the women we had just met that night, but about ourselves.  

We are so grateful to be able to have these dinners again and can’t wait for more gatherings to come! 

Images via Karen Khuc for Darling

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