Notes From Party Central

Ben Fink

Savannah, not surprisingly, has its share of highly opinionated party experts. Johnathon Barrett is a native Georgian and an accountant who, with his partner, Tom White, has for more than 20 years been throwing about nine parties a year, from Christmas teas to ten-course feasts. Come spring, he occasionally hosts parties for the city's newest debutantes—effectively the hostesses of tomorrow—and he likes to offer the girls some practical advice: "If you've got a choice between cheap food and cheap liquor, go for the cheap food; people will say, 'She doesn't know any better.' With cheap liquor, they'll say, 'Her husband is cheap.'" Barrett also insists that one should never reply to invitations by phone or, worse, by e-mail. Another maven, Savannah's top caterer, Susan Mason, works by the motto "Never economize on luxury". She believes that party givers should serve several high-end signature dishes at all their events. Her lamb chops, hot crab dip, fried oysters, and crab cakes are perennial best-sellers—but Mason, who notes that she has catered weddings for the same three brides twice each, isn't one to rest on her laurels. She recently constructed five-foot-high strawberry "trees" to use as table centerpieces. "People take their parties seriously in Savannah," she says.