A doctor, a lawyer, two accomplished pianists, a gourmet cook and several savvy antiques collectors are all in the room. But there are only two people. That’s because between themselves, Dr. Quinn Peeper and Michael Harold can lay claim to all of those titles.
And more often than not, the guests at their frequent parties are of an equally talented ilk. Case in point: a dinner for nine that Peeper, a physician in private practice, and Harold, an attorney, hosted last summer. Like the 17th and 18th century tradition of salons, where leaders of art, politics and fashion gathered, the evening was designed to showcase the talents of all those in attendance: Peeper, Harold, writer Mimi Read, former congresswoman Lindy Boggs, Peeper’s parents Coy and Bette Lynn Peeper, opera singer Tania Tudlow, jazz singer Anais St. John and pianist Philip Melancon. Hosts and guests took turns performing pieces from Cole Porter, Bizet, and Mozart, while dining on a menu of hors d’oeurvres—grilled duck breast brochettes, tomato bacon windows, and jumbo lump crab salad with endive leaves. These were followed by a delectable, four-course dinner of oyster Rockefeller soup; field green salad with caramelized pears, Stilton and pears; herbed rack of lamb with port-wine reduction sauce, accompanied by spicy vegetables and baby potatoes, and vanilla pots de crème with Florentine cookies—all from Chez Nous.
“It was a party for friends who are all involved with entertaining in some way,” says Peeper, a concert-level pianist who has performed for audiences as Carnegie Hall. “We like to have small, intimate dinner parties. That is a better way of getting to know people than at a cocktail party.”
Though there is nothing formulaic about Peeper and Harold’s get-togethers, there are some recipes to their success. Avid auction enthusiasts and seasoned travelers, they collect—among other things, coastal landscapes, silver and china—and believe in using their belongings on a daily basis, for aesthetic and practical reasons. “We broke all the every day china learning to live with granite countertops,” says Peeper. “The fine china and crystal is all that’s left, which is why we use it every day.”
As an obstetrician who’s frequently on call and has to be available on a moment’s notice, Peeper always sets the table in advance—usually the day before, and regularly uses a different set of china for each course of the meal. Details like ribbon-adorned invitations, handwritten by calligrapher Suzanne Koretzky, and floral arrangements by Dunn & Sonnier lend a special, personalized touch to each affair.
Peeper and Harold’s meticulously appointed, 100-year-old home, decorated by award-winning designer and writer Rosemary James (Peeper’s previous home decorated by James won Metropolitan Home magazine’s Home of the Year in 2001), is an integral part of their soirées as well. James’ penchant for neoclassic, Directoire furnishings and gilded finishes was executed to superb effect in both the formal living and dining rooms and in the foyer, which holds a baby grand piano and is used as a music salon. Peeper himself designed the addition across the rear of the house—a screened-in porch with a breezy, Caribbean feel, which makes it comfortable for entertaining even in the summer months. Just beyond the transitional indoor-outdoor space, a large French Quarter style garden, lush with greenery and flowering plants, provides another spot for guests to convene and share the social, culinary and cultural delights that Peeper and Harold bring together with what seems like effortless finesse, but is actually a combination of complementary skills. “We both excel at different things,” says Harold, who enjoys cooking for guests. “I find preparing food to be just as therapeutic as a run in the park or a piano lesson. If you mess up as I do on a regular basis, guests are remarkably forgiving as it’s the company that matters.” •
THE MENU To Start grilled duck breast brochettes tomato bacon windows jumbo lump crab salad with endive leaves
Soup Oyster Rockefeller soup
Salad Field Green Salad with Caramelized Pecans, Stilton and Pears
Main Course herbed rack of lamb with port-wine reduction sauce, accompanied by spicy vegetables and baby potatoes
Dessert vanilla pots de crème with Florentine cookies