By Caroline Biggs

Published on June 15, 2015

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Photography by Brittany Ambridge

When sommelier Helen Johannesen unveiled her latest project—Helen’s, a 200-label wine shop on Los Angeles’s Fairfax Avenue—her dear friend, textile designer Heather Taylor, had an inspired notion. “I decided to bring together my best girlfriends, all creative professionals, in honor of Helen,” says Taylor. The guests included florist Holly Vesecky (of Hollyflora), photographer Jeana Sohn (of Closet Visit), and gifting expert Simone Le Blanc, who all gathered in Taylor’s backyard for an early-evening tribute amid the soft glow of string lights. Chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo—whose latest restaurant, Jon & Vinny’s, shares work space with Helen’s—concocted a menu of California-inflected Italian dishes to accompany samplings from Johannesen’s cellar. “Bringing wonderful food and wine together is such a gift for any party,” says Johannesen, who poured Bisson’s Marea Cinque Terre, Montevertine’s Pian del Ciampolo, and Castello di Verduno’s Nebbiolo. “It creates the perfect balance for putting guests at ease.”

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PLACE MATS Diamond in baby blue by Heather Taylor Home $100/set of four, domino.com/summer15 NAPKINS Diamond in baby blue by Heather Taylor Home $80/set of four, domino.com/summer15 PLATES Heath coupe in linen $34 each, heathceramics.com PLACE CARDS calling card in eggshell paper stock $24.50/set of 50, paperchasepress.com

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Shop owner Beatrice Valenzuela samples the first course.

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Taylor, the evening’s hostess.

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Hollyflora’s creations were arranged in vintage brass vases.

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Designer Lauren Soloff (left) with Johannesen, the woman of the hour.

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The chefs of LA hotspot Jon & Vinny’s—which shares its West Hollywood work space with Helen’s—dished out a flavorful spread of Italian cuisine.

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Chefs Dotolo (left) and Shook—of Animal, Son of a Gun, and, most recently, Jon and Vinny’s—supplied the evening’s fare.

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Plush sheepskins dress a farmhouse-style bench, handmade by Taylor’s husband, Alex de Cordoba.

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celery salad
serves 4 to 6
1 head celery, sliced thinly on
the bias, yellow leaves reserved 
1 cup dates, pitted and quartered
1 cup almonds, toasted
1 cup shaved Parmesan
1 cup olive oil
juice of 2 lemons
salt and pepper, to taste
Toss all ingredients except the celery leaves together in a large bowl. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if necessary. Garnish with the celery leaves and serve immediately.

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pesto pasta salad
serves 4 to 6
1¾ cups parsley, chopped
2 cups basil, chopped
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
2½ teaspoons lemon zest
5 cups arugula, chopped
2½ cups extra virgin olive oil
⅓ cup lemon juice
¾ cup pine nuts, toasted and chopped
1 cup grated Parmesan, plus additional for garnish
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 pound dried pasta, such as orecchiette or penne rigate
Whisk all ingredients except the pasta together in a medium mixing bowl. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Drain the pasta and transfer to a large bowl. Toss the pasta with the pesto and garnish with Parmesan. Serve warm or cold.

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olives
serves 4 to 6
2 cups olives of your choice (such as Castelvetrano)
1 cup good-quality olive oil
pinch crushed red pepper
3 sprigs thyme
1 sprig rosemary
1 fresh bay leaf
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 strip lemon peel
1 strip orange peel
Place everything except the citrus peels in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until the olives are warmed through. Remove from heat and add the citrus peels. Serve warm.