How do you begin a new tradition? Your own backyard might be a good place to get started. Add friends, a few cocktails, a barbecue smoker that shows up hours before the guests, and a bluegrass band with a square dance caller, and you may be on to something.
That’s what Camilla Bradley and Joe Bardenheier were thinking when they planned a party for 150 friends at their house in Newport, RI this past August. The couple, who had been married earlier in the summer at a small ceremony and reception, wanted to celebrate with a bigger event later in the season. The duo decided their home — located on a secluded, peaceful property in the Ocean Drive neighborhood – lent itself perfectly to a hoedown, or “roastdown,” as they decided to call it.
“I like things that are annual,” says Camilla, the clothing and textiles designer behind CK Bradley, who has nostalgic memories of hoedowns she’d attend with family and friends as a young girl in upstate New York. “So calling this the ‘First Annual Roastdown’ is a way to have it evolve into a tradition. Plus, I have a thing for men in big belt buckles,” she says playfully. “This was the perfect opportunity for Joe to add to his collection.”
Though the party details – which included wildflower bouquets, bandanas as party favors, and guests delivered via hayride down a grassy road – were buttoned up, shirts and jackets certainly weren’t. “Newport is full of black tie, white tie, and formal dances,” explains the hostess, who requested that guests dress festively for the occasion. “For us it was a wonderful way of incorporating an unusual tradition: Leave your ball gowns and tuxes at home, and put on a cowboy hat and a plaid shirt!” Oversized belt buckles, cowboy boots, and jean jackets all made an appearance, and – since this is Newport, after all – ruffles and gingham were fittingly on display, too.
Where it came to the menu, Preppy Pig BBQ was “an obvious choice,” says the hostess. The caterer, which is based in Rhode Island and travels all over New England, cooks traditional barbecue of a kind rarely seen in these parts. In addition to signature cocktails, guests were greeted with scallops wrapped in house-cured bacon, buffalo-barbecue and lime-and-pepper wings, and bacon-wrapped jalapeños stuffed with cheese. The pitmasters, who had arrived early in the morning to begin smoking meat, also served up ribs, brisket, smoked turkey po’boys, and house made sausage, plus sides including sweet potato salad.
The southern equivalent, perhaps, of a New England clambake, true barbecue is prepared at low temperatures over a long period of time. The brisket, here, for example, took more than eight hours to cook. “We are traditional barbecue,” says Patrick DeSocio, Preppy Pig’s owner. “We’re not just throwing hot dogs and hamburgers on a grill. We hand select all of the food and the equipment that we use,” he explains. “It’s a craft, an art form.”
If barbecue is an art form, then Preppy Pig’s employees are performance artists. Dressed for the part, servers wore navy gingham shirts, cowboy boots, and signature needlepoint belts with the caterer’s argyle logo. The pitmasters got in on the act, too, wearing kelly green chef jackets and shorts custom-made by CK Bradley.
It wouldn’t be a party without music and dancing, of course, and Camilla and Joe, an executive at a web services company, agreed that a bluegrass band led by Greg Klyma would be the best fit. A square dance caller was also on hand to help get the crowd into the spirit. “It’s so much fun to go to a party where you learn something,” says Camilla. “It’s like summer camp!”
At the end of the evening, legs tired and bellies full, guests were graciously towed back to their cars via hayride once again. And although they may have recovered from the party, they haven’t forgotten the good times. “My girlfriends are still talking about ‘the brisket, the brisket, the brisket!’” says Camilla. Every host loves to hear the compliment that a meal left a lasting memory – this one should also prove to be helpful feedback for planning the menu at the next annual Roastdown.
All photos by Quísan of CQPhotography, except where noted. Click on any image below to launch the gallery.