Thursday, January 6, 2011

Words of wisdom from two Party Pros.

Hello! I should start by stating that this post is grievously overdue. I actually interviewed these guys back before Christmas, and to make matters worse I told them I wanted to put the blog up right away! Then, I flew off to California for a whirlwind holiday break and when I returned, I was busier maybe than I've ever been.

So poor Ricky and Carlos rushed their answers to me and then sat waiting for this blog. For months. It's likely they haven't been able to do much else with life aside from sit on this blog site, constantly refreshing the page. Poor fellas. What a jerk I am!

BUT. I have found a spare moment, and with Oscar parties and maybe even some of the ever-popular "Screw Valentine's Day!" parties coming up, maybe now's a good time to unleash this blog. Because when it comes to throwing a party, these two do it better than anyone else I've ever met. Jesus can these guys throw a party! So without further ado, please allow me to introduce you to Ricky and Carlos.

Okay, here's Carlos in the foreground chatting with me, and Ricky's in the kitchen whipping up some truly amazing Chicken and Dumplings and never skipping a beat when it comes to adding to our conversation.

This photo is actually highly indicative of what this blog's all about: this is the Dream Team of party time. They both know how to have a good time more than most people I've encountered in life, but when it comes to attacking the party planning Ricky handles the food while Carlos handles the fun.

Every year these two throw the holiday party to end all holiday parties. I look forward to it all year long! Carlos' birthday is just before Christmas, so Ricky throws this party as a sort of birthday gift. (Isn't that fantastic? What better birthday gift than to get all the friends and family together for the best party of the year, every year!)

Let's be clear: this is not just a regular holiday party. It's insane! The decorations cannot be believed...they always transform their entire aparment. You have to see it to believe it. There's always a door prize to the person who comes closest to guessing the correct number of ornaments hanging from the ceiling, and it's usually something fantastic like a Crate & Barrel wine glass set, or something. I never, ever win.

And the FOOD! Ricky is an amazing chef, and every year he comes up with something different. While there is always a table of delicious delights set out, you'll also find Ricky in the kitchen keeping stomachs full, or wandering around with a tray of hors d'oeuvres (always home made!) or signature cocktails. They change every year. It's incredible.

Just a side note, last year they had PROFESSIONAL SAMBA DANCERS bust out of nowhere just as the party was really getting crazy! It was astounding:

Carlos gets down with the dancers.

This year, while I had to miss their party due to my trip home to see the family, (I HATE MISSING THIS PARTY!) I did get a chance to have dinner with them the week before. Carlos already had some of the decorations up and I got a sneak peak! Take a gander...

Pretty awesome, right? (And that was just what they'd already done a week in advance!) For anyone who's ever thrown a party, you know how stressful it can get. Especially when you're going all out like this. So naturally, I began my line of questioning with the guys: how DO they DO IT?

Forget me Knodt: Your holiday/birthday party is, at least for me, the best party of the year, every year. It's always so highly anticipated! Do you ever feel lots of pressure to out-do what you've done in the past?

Carlos: Not really. Ricky and I just make sure we stick to the consistencies that make a party great: Good food, good drinks (and plenty of them), great music and awesome guests. All of these together really make the party. The only “pressure” we might feel, is in making sure everyone has a good time and feels welcome and at home. We want to make sure everyone has a great time.

FMK: That said, where do you start each year with the planning? Do you set a loose theme? Or is it with the signature drinks? Or the food? Or the decor? Or something else?

Ricky: I think we actually start by buying new music throughout the year. Carlos is usually in charge of it, he searches more and I give suggestions. Carlos always has something up his sleeve.

Carlos: There’s not really a theme…I tend to look through art work, websites, magazines, etc. and there might be images that strike ideas for the party’s decorations. I run them by Ricky… sometimes he likes them, sometimes he doesn’t, but we collaborate and make it work. This year, our friend Michael sent me a link to online holiday invitations and I saw an image that was very geometric and just became obsessed with it. So I immediately started thinking about what materials I could use to replicate that image in order decorate the ceiling.

As far as food is concerned, Ricky's the chef, he comes up with the ideas. This year we want to make the food as simple as possible, but of course delicious as always! The same goes with the drinks – there will definitely be signature drinks, but we want people to serve themselves. Last year Ricky was stuck making drinks most of the night and wasn’t able to enjoy spending time with guests. Each year is definitely a learning experience. Ricky loves doing that, but he also wants to enjoy spending time with guests – not just chatting while he prepares their drinks.

Ricky: Exactly! I always want to go all out on the food but that just keeps me in the kitchen, and doesn't give me enough time to mingle with our guests. I want to change that this year!

FMK: There's just so much that goes into your party - it's a LOT of work! Do you have a system for organizing it all to get ready in time? Like, do you prep things for days in advance so that you can heat, pour and serve on the day of, without having to spend the day decorating, cooking and cleaning? Do you divide and conquer? Is there an Excel spreadsheet involved for all the organization?!?

Carlos: Ha - no Excel spreadsheet involved at all! We come up with a to do list and head from there. We get the liquor and hit the grocery store a few days ahead. This year, Ricky will prepare all the food the day before, drinks and shots will be prepared in large batches in order to save time. We definitely divide and conquer, but we team up on cleaning! We both clean before and after the party. Ricky is obsessed with waxing the floors the day of, and I tend to become obsessed with the little details in regards to how the place looks.

Ricky: We do try to have the decorations up weeks in advance because that's the most time consuming part, but we're always scrambling at the end. Every day something is added and something is subtracted.

FMK: Carlos, while Ricky's planning the menu, you are always the one facilitating the dance portion of the festivities! Music must be an incredibly important part of the party.

Carlos: I usually put the playlist together for the party, but I run it by Ricky as well to see what other songs I could include… you know, not just the popular songs but also the old reliable ones! Music is DEFINITELY important. It takes you back and brings great memories, so hopefully people think of the great time they had with us when they hear certain songs.

FMK: Finally, if each of you could disclose your simple secrets to a successful soiree, what would they be?

Ricky: New and old school music, good but not over the top food, tasty drinks... but most of all, good people and friends.

Carlos: Awesome music, delicious food, great drinks and definitely making everyone feel at home. Our friends are our family, so we want to make sure they have a great time.

So there you have it! Some tips from two certified Party Geniuses. Just something to keep in mind as you plan your next bash. I know I will! Since I had to miss this one, if any of the readers here happened to make it out, feel free to comment and tell us how it was! What was your favorite moment, or favorite detail?

In closing, I'll leave you with a photo of Ricky and Carlos' cat, Jett. Because he's just perfect.


  1. This was not my 1st experience at a Carlos/Ricky shindig, and it definitely did not disappoint!! I look forward to it every year, too, Janessa. This year it was really nice to have Ricky out mingling with the crowd, showing us around their amazing home, instead of being stuck in the kitchen!

    The food, lovely & ridiclous cast of characters, stimulating conversation, dancing and great music made it one of the best times of 2010! I went stag this year and still didn't end up leaving until the wee hours....Ricky & Carlos are always good about not booting me out when the hour gets super late:)

    In closing, let me say that as a bit of a hostess myself, I admire & personally enjoy all of the efforts these two put into creating one of the most welcoming and fun party atomospheres around! They always do every single thing out of love. And that's the secret to a party's success!!

  2. Wow! Thanks for the feedback, Rebecca! Did you happen to try the signature shot? What was it this year?

  3. I did try the shot this year. Ricky was passing them out like candy! If I recall, they were made with some kind of delicious cream. I had at least 2....or 3!!