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Are You Down with Downton?

Simply splendid! Host the definitive Downton Abbey Watch Party with this easy guide

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Downton Abbey, upstairs
Throw a lavish meal like the Crawley family does in Downton Abbey Courtesy photo
Downton Abbey, cooks
Prepare the meal ahead of time, so you can watch the show. Courtesy photo
afternoon tea, Hotel Granduca, August 2012, tea service
The simplest thing to do is to host an English Tea. This lavish spread is from the Hotel Graduca. Courtesy of Jeff Myers Photography/Hotel Granduca
British Isles, Rice Village, store
Visit British Isles in Rice Village for authentic British food, drinks, decorative wares, and memorabilia. Courtesy photo
Antoinette floral sofa, Boubon & Bloom, rental
Rent the Antoinette flora sofa from Bourbon & Bloom. Courtesy photo
Downton Abbey, upstairs
Downton Abbey, cooks
afternoon tea, Hotel Granduca, August 2012, tea service
News_Marcy de Luna_Pool Party Libations_Pimm's Cup
British Isles, Rice Village, store
Antoinette floral sofa, Boubon & Bloom, rental
Davon Hatchett, head shot, column mug

If you’re like much of the country, you are currently dying with anticipation for the new episodes of PBS “Brit-hit” Downton Abbey hitting the airwaves on Sunday night (8 p.m., Channel 8).  If so, you may have found yourself floor-pacing, fidgeting, hair twirl, and/or nail-biting in an effort to dissipate your anxious impatience.

What’s a devoted "Abbey-ophile” to do until the season three premiere?

 There’s no better way to obsess responsibly than to throw oneself into event planning mode. 

Break those nervous habits by harnessing all of that tense energy and redirecting it towards planning a simply splendid Downton Abbey Watch Party. There’s no better way to obsess responsibly than to throw oneself into event planning mode.

Worried about trying to craft your own party plan? Don’t fret! I’ve got you covered with a ready-made party blueprint. Ready to get started? On your mark, get “fête,” go!

Develop a British Accent 

Let’s get right down to the first order of business: setting the tone. If you have yet to discover the “amazing-ness’ that is British Isles, prepare to have your mind blown. Houston has a bit of the UK right under our noses in Rice Village since 1993. British Isles is an Anglophiles dream rife with authentic British food, drinks, decorative wares, and memorabilia. It is the absolute perfect resource for Downton Abbey party planning.

If you really want to imbue the English spirit, you may also want to consider renting some items. Houston vintage rental company Bourbon & Bloom has the perfect fixtures to set the stage. Rent the “Antoinette Floral Sofa” for additional seating; the “Culver White Table” to serve as a drink station; and a few “Mercury Glass” votive holders for lighting ambience.

Raise Your Pinky or Raise Your Glass

Now let’s talk food and drink. The simplest thing to do is to host an English Tea. There are different types of tea parties you can host depending on the type of delectable bites you want to serve.

Traditional bites like scones, tea biscuits and cakes can be picked up at British Isles or any specialty market/bake shop. The same goes for tea—you can pick up a box of Twinings Earl Grey and Darjeeling to keep it low-key.

 If your Downton Abbey enthusiasm has hit a fever pitch, however, you may want to host a bolder menu. 

If your Downton Abbey enthusiasm has hit a fever-pitch however, you may want to host a bolder menu. With the sinking of the Titanic being a major impetus for the onset of the drama, take your menu planning cues from the affluent lifestyle indicative of the ship's voyage.

That said, naturally champagne should be one of the tipples of choice. Brands to try include Lanson (available at Houston Wine Merchant), Ruinart and Billecart Salmon Brut.

The Crawleys also frequently drink Madeira wine and Pimm’s in the series which would make fun drink choices as well.

If you’d like to serve a specialty cocktail, the inventive culinary mind behind the website TheKitchen.com created a series of drinks inspired by, and named after, each of the Crawley sisters: "Lady Edith," the "Lady Sybil," and the "Lady Mary." The cocktails are made with distinctive ingredients such as Lillet Blanc and sloe gin.

Of course you should also have tea and lemonade on hand for any John Bates-esque teetotalers.

As for a decadent menu, the one below is a carte du jour that even the tart-tongued, lip-pursing Dowager Countess of Grantham couldn’t resist. Comprised of dishes that are traditionally British or that nod to authentic British cuisine (menu adapted from DowntonAbbeyCooks.com), feel free to serve some or all of the menu, or tweak it to add some personal touches and options (click links for recipes).

Appetizers:

Main Course:

Dessert:

Let's Table This For Now

Next, create a lovely tabletop with just a few Edwardian touches to set the scene. Buy a few yards of toile fabric from JoAnn’s and use it as a table cloth.  Serving tea at your watch party? Then pick up a porcelain teapot from British Isles and pick up a few mismatched antique tea cups from resale spots like The Guild Shop (guests can even take them home as mementos of the evening). If you are serving champagne let your guests sip it in style from these pretty champagne coupes from Anthropologie.

How About A Little Action?

It’s always nice to put the “entertain” in your entertaining with activities to keep the guests energized, excited and engaged. Here are a couple of fun ideas:

• Watch the show Andy Cohen “Watch What Happens Live” style and take a shot every time the Countess makes a tart remark or one of the characters says a designated buzz word
Give your guests a quiz to determine who’s most down with Downton. Give the highest scorer(s) a prize

Now that your Downton Abbey season 3 premiere watch party details are in order you can stop obsessing and start preparing to have a most resplendent affair worthy of the Crawley family. After that you can then start obsessing over the watch party for season 3, episode 2.  

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