Midsummer's Herb-Inspired Dinner Party

Photography by  Sera Petras

Photography by Sera Petras

Also featuring...

Thyme and Garlic Stuffed Sea Bass Recipe


Almond Cake Recipe featuring Strawberries, Goat Cheese Mousse, and Lavender Honey

This weekend we braved the scorching weather here in Oklahoma, up into the 100's Fahrenheit, and attended a friend's barbecue. While the get-together was wonderful, the heat was not and had me dreaming of some spring gatherings we have featured here over the last few years.

If you've been a fan for a while, you'll remember this beautiful herb-inspired dinner party at the Clifton Inn in Charlottesville, Virginia; captured by Sera Petras and styled by Ashley Gray. This team did an amazing job of creating a truly 'Cottage Hill' evening and entertaining their guests. We love how this simple but elegant evening feels like the perfect end of week celebration to gather with friends, eat amazing dishes, and have good conversations with sweet friends.

Scroll past the first set of images and party gallery for recipes.


Have a real, beautiful dinner party you'd like to share with our readers?

Or, a recipe or tutorial on how to create an elegant and meaningful evening for your friends?

Click here to share it with us!


Herb Dinner Party with Summer Recipes on Cottage Hill-166.jpg

Full Party Image Gallery

Stuffed Sea Bass Recipe


1-1 1/2 lbs whole sea bass or bronzino

kosher salt or sea salt

fresh herbs such as thyme, bay leaves, fennel, dill or parsley




Select three whole fish from your local fishmonger, with 1-1 ½ lbs of whole fish per person. 

With the fish on a tray or cutting board make diagonal slashes just scoring the skin.

Do this starting just behind the fins and continue to the tail of the fish.

Season each fish inside the cavity and out with kosher salt or sea salt.

Also, stuff the cavity with fresh herbs, garlic and lemons.

Softer herbs like thyme, fennel, dill or parsley are excellent choices.

Roast the fish in the oven 400 degrees Fahrenheit, standing them upright as they would swim.

The fish are done when a skewer inserted next to the spine near the head feels hot to the touch and the flesh firm. 

Almond Cake with Strawberries, Goat Cheese Mousse, and Lavender Honey

 Almond Cake

3/4 cunsalted butter

1 cup sugar

2 cups almond flour, toasted

2 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp sea salt

4 eggs

1/2 cup milk

1 tsp vanilla extract


Cream the butter and sugar until smooth.

Blend in the eggs one at a time and beat until fully blended.

Add milk and vanilla and mix until just combined. 

In a separate bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and sea salt.

Beat the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until creamy.

Spread into a greased 9 x 13-inch cake pan and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.

Goat Cheese Mousse

3oz fresh goat’s cheese

2-3 tbsp heavy cream

Pinch of salt

2 tsp honey


The goat cheese should be a room temperature for this.

Whip the cream to stiff peaks and let rest.

Blend the honey into the goat cheese and fold the cream into the goat cheese using a rubber spatula.

Let set in the refrigerator until chilled.


1/2 cup halved ripe strawberries

1 Tbsp. granulated sugar


Toss the halved berries in sugar and let sit until they make their own syrup, about 30 mins.


1/4 cup wildflower honey

 1/8 tsp dried or fresh lavender flowers

Place honey in a warm place with lavender flowers. Let this infuse for 8 or more hours before serving.

To assemble

Cut the cake to the desired shape, and place a dollop or a quenelle of the mousse beside it.

Spoon the strawberries over the cake and onto the plate letting the syrup run.

Put a drizzle of the honey over everything and garnish with some peppery arugula.

Full Story Credits

Photography by Sera Petras Photography Styling and Coordination by Amanda Gray, Ashley Baber Weddings  Venue, Food & Drink by The Clifton Inn Flowers by The Arrangement Company Calligraphy & Paper by Leen Jean Studios China & Linens by Festive Fare Models Lisa Mims & Holly Hudson