Beauty & the Beet

A vibrant vegetable inspires the design and menu of an intimate dinner party hosted in a picture-perfect setting east of Atlanta.

Not long ago, people regularly hosted friends for drinks, dinner and dessert, all served with a side of rich conversation. Recipes were culled from family archives and the pages of cookbooks, and tables were set with fine china and florals. A fine cognac or other digestif would signal the end of a carefree evening. But with today’s more work, less play culture, a traditional dinner party has all but grown scarce.

Enter the ladies of Sufficiently Amused. This Atlanta trio’s pop-up Sunday suppers are helping to fill the void left by the endangered dinner party, while bringing good food and deep conversation back to the table.

“The goal of Sufficiently Amused is to create an environment where people can gather to indulge their senses—not only in thoughtfully prepared food, but also in the company of interesting individuals,” explains chef and Sufficiently Amused owner Tracy Mitchell (who also owns Bad Dog Taqueria in Emory Village). “I like to think of food and great company as the great equalizer. We’re all different, but in those few moments at the table we come together to savor an experience.”

Their inaugural fête took place on a warm Sunday evening at New Moon Gardens in Lithonia, Georgia. The farm’s owner, and friend of Mitchell, David McMullin, had recently finished restoring the dilapidated late-1800s property. Creating a unique ambience for their guests wasn’t the only objective of the evening; it was also about proving that beets are making a culinary comeback. “‘Break it Down: The Organic Beet Box’ was the name of that night’s dinner,” says sous chef Juliana Shields. “For everyone who thought they disliked beets, we took them by surprise.” From the opening cocktail to the cheesecake dessert, each item on the evening’s menu prominently featured some variety of beet, including the pizzas that were grilled over an open fire pit and served to guests as they arrived. Next, they stepped inside the rustic-chic barn to commence their six-course beet-centric meal, with highlights such as toasted farro served in miniature mason jars and herbed-green custard with beet oil. The company’s resident sommelier, Susan Maschal, was also on hand, pouring rare but perfectly paired varietals.

Designer Walter Mazzanti of Abitato Inc., who frequently collaborates with Mitchell, was at the helm of transforming the empty barn into a cozy space. “This evening was all about the food, so I didn’t want to create anything too distracting. I did, however, want to juxtapose the farm’s ruggedness and beauty with clean, contemporary lines,” he says. Mazzanti repurposed a weathered feeding trough found on-site into a centerpiece that was styled with twinkling candles and different beet varieties, cut in half to reveal their vibrant color and texture. Custom ikat table runners added yet another punch of color next to the sleek white chairs and striking modern chandelier. As day faded into dusk, Mazzanti’s decision to up-light the ceiling’s rafters cast a warm glow just as the final courses were being served.

Like any great dinner party, this one was memorable until the final moments. “It was getting dark, the music was amazing and everyone was enjoying the warmth of the fire with their fellow diners,” recalls Mitchell. “It was magical.”

DINNER COMPANY Sufficiently Amused; INTERIOR DESIGN Walter Mazzanti, Abitato Inc. (404) 786-0676