One of the first things you notice when meeting Anna Weinberg is the speed at which she operates. Her conversations are rapid fire dialogues punctuated with hand movements that emphasize specific points. But one would assume it’s par for the course for one of the partners behind Big Night Restaurant Group, the hospitality management firm that owns some of San Francisco’s hottest restaurants including Leo’s Oyster Bar. Yet, with all the hustle of running an restaurant empire, Anna takes a more laid back approach to entertaining in her home. We sat down with Anna for a quick conversation when she was on set for our Seafood PB Party to hear her thoughts on our Island Chic aesthetic and tips on how to throw an island inspired in your own home.
Congratulations! Your restaurant, Leo’s Oyster Bar, was named Bon Appétit’s Best Designed Restaurant of the Year in 2016. Its decor is testament to the rise of island inspired decor. Why do you think this trend has risen in popularity recently?
What’s fun about this look is that it can read Hawaiian, Caribbean or tiki. At Leo’s we mixed the motif with a speakeasy and Mad Men vibe that makes it uniquely ours for the restaurant. It’s quite mallable in that way, but the main thing with a tropical theme is sticking to a muted palette of peach, pink and green – and not going too bright. I think if you stay muted, it will be chic – very Beverly Hills hotel.
Themed parties are making a resurgence for entertaining. What are your thoughts?
All of our restaurants at Big Night Restaurant Group have a theme, so I am biased. I think an island chic party would be great for any kind of housewarming party where you have a new outdoor space. It would also be a fun family dinner for a teenager’s birthday – it feels age appropriate, but not stuffy, and more elegant than a kid’s birthday. Yet, I also love the idea of a tropical Easter with a honey-glazed ham.
Your team at Leo’s created a fantastic menu for our Party Planner, but what would you serve for your own island themed dinner party?
This lends itself to so many different types of cuisine. Because we’re Leo’s Oyster Bar, we’re going with seafood, but you could also go more Hawaiian with skewers with pineapples and meats. If you want to BBQ, you could do skewers with ham, pineapple and nice summer vegetables. I like to go heavy on family-style appetizers, then choose something for the main course that doesn’t have to be served – like a lobster roll that can eaten with your hands instead of a multi-course meal with formality.
How would you recommend our audience bring in a bit of island chic to their next dinner party?
I love the melamine plates with the palm leaf – they definitely don’t read melamine. But you can also bring in an island vibe with simply adding few banana leaves on a white platter when serving your main dish. The easiest thing in the world is to buy sheets of banana leaves, cut them up, and line them on a platter to make food pop.
Any tips for island chic table decor?
If you’re using a tropical table cloth, photograph a small piece of it, then print it to use for the name cards.
A big thank you to Anna for all these fabulous ideas! If you are in the Bay Area, be sure to visit Leo’s Oyster Bar or any of the other Big Night Restaurant Group restaurants. For the rest of us, be sure to check out our Seafood PB Party for a little taste of island chic!