The holiday season is a time for family, friends, and fun. For April “Dr. Patty” Patterson, her fiancé Marco Britt, and their 18-month old daughter Penelope, it’s also a chance to highlight and celebrate their own different Christmas cultures. Patterson—a Boynton Beach native—was raised in Stone Mountain, Georgia, and continues the hearty Southern traditions of her childhood. Britt, who was born in Italy and raised in Miami, remembers Christmas filled with Italian flavor. “I have wonderful memories of eating huge meals of Italian food, especially the meat sauce that my mom, aunt, and cousins made,” he says.
Patterson is a cosmetic dentist and owner of Dr. Patty’s Dental Boutique in Fort Lauderdale (with a second location opening in Miami soon). Britt is senior counsel for the Cisneros Group of Companies in Coral Gables. The couple met four years ago on the dating app Bumble, and found an instant attraction. Patterson says she took one look at Britt’s picture and told herself, “That is going to be my husband.” Britt says his reaction was similar after their first date. “I thought she was a force of nature,” he confesses. “That was enough for me.”
The couple hopes to marry in Italy. They’ve spent the last few Christmas holidays in Italy, where they have a second home near Venice. But due to the coronavirus, they decided to stay stateside and embrace Miami this year. So for their 2020 Christmas celebrations, the couple highlighted the best of their respective cultures, inviting friends to enjoy a comfortably modern country Christmas with Italian flourishes.
Since their house is located on Lake Galloway, Patterson and Britt wanted guests to enjoy the golden sunset out back. “We have ducks and Egyptian geese in our lake as well as boaters, and it’s fun for our friends to admire the beauty of nature,” says Britt.
The couple greeted guests in their fireplace room that was decked out for the evening with the help of Chris Weinberg, owner of Chris Weinberg Events. “We had fun arranging this indoor/outdoor event,” Weinberg says. “It was delightful decorating the cozy, intimate fireplace room where cocktails and appetizers were served as well as the outdoor dining table.”
The fireplace space, designed for Christmas by Johanna Dilone, creative director of Gilded Group Decor, paired the best of modern and country styles. She layered textures and patterns within the color palette of whites, blacks, and greens adding a hint of Italian flair in a nod to Britt’s background. “I love bringing in the multicultural elements and playing with different ideas that are classic yet do not clash with each other,” says Dilone.
The result? A neutral, clean, Christmas look including seasonal pillows in buffalo plaid, fresh eucalyptus branches in an Italian glass floor vase, a wood storage ladder stacked with holiday elements, and gifts wrapped in a mix of ivory and black paper patterns with burlap and black print ribbons. On the mantel was more fresh greenery.
Sophisticated yet simple, the Christmas tree was the surprise element in the room. Rather than select a traditional fresh pine, Dilone constructed a minimalist architectural wood piece with a rustic feel; a true showstopper. “Given the structural design of the tree, dressing it with ornaments would not have worked so we chose a faux pine garland with succulents and pine cones with the intent of creating decor that is both unexpectedly beautiful and sustainable,” says Dilone.
As guests mingled, they were treated to live music provided by the Zanadu Group’s guitarist Anthony Sattel and vocalist Michelangelo Mejia, who entertained with a mix of Christmas carols and regular standards. “Having music reminds me so much of my childhood. I just love it,” says Patterson.
Guests sipped the evening’s signature drink of sparkling watermelon lemonade with vodka and white wine garnished with lemon wedges and a sprig of rosemary, while munching on passed hors d’oeuvres created by Catering the Event by Susan Bleemer. Keeping with the party theme, there was a mix of Southern delights and Italian sweets like bacon- wrapped baked five-cheese mac served on a parmesan crisp, classic mini fried chicken and waffles served with homemade buttermilk gravy and topped with honey, bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with smoky Southern ham, and Italian risotto cake crowned with fresh arugula and melted asiago cheese.
Patterson’s close friend Charisse Sands waltzed around the room with Penelope. “We are having such fun,” says Sands, who met Patterson in 1998 during college. “I love this understated holiday decor. It makes me feel warm and welcome, and proves that Christmas does not have to be just red and green.”
At sunset, guests were escorted out back to enjoy the lake view and prepare for the holiday meal. The rustic wood table with cane back and linen upholstered dining chairs complemented the indoor decor. For the table design, Dilone took the opportunity to surprise guests again, conceptualizing and creating a layered mix of country textures, cozy feelings, and contemporary accent choices, including pine-scented candles inscribed with “Buon Natale” (meaning “Merry Christmas” in Italian).
She made the centerpieces a blend of four types of pine greenery with succulents, pine cones, and green Italian ranunculus framed in black iron holiday lanterns. “The table accents are natural wood elements, fresh artichoke flowers, and green amaranths draped at either end,” says Dilone.
The charger plates—designed in Christian Lacroix-inspired black and white watercolor stripe—were a gift from a Paris-based friend of Patterson. They matched the place mats that Dilone created custom for the event. Patterson’s collection of smoke glass, gold-rimmed crystal goblets blended beautifully with the Goa-inspired, modern shaped flatware, a unique mix of stainless steel with forest green resin handles.
As the guests took their seats and dinner was served, they began their holiday meal with local fried green tomatoes topped with remoulade over fresh greens, followed by seared rack of lamb with thyme, rosemary, and dijon crust served over a bed of Southern lentil ragout. The third course was crisp pan-seared duck breast over classic succotash topped with local raspberry chutney. Oyster Bay sauvignon blanc and sparkling Prosecco by Syltbar were paired at the table.
“Making a Southern Christmas dinner was fun for us,” says chef Bleemer. “It was a perfect mix of foods for the theme of the party. And the dessert of tender poached pears sautéed in bourbon over a sweet creamy pecan sauce is April’s favorite.”
All of the guests were so happy with the cuisine that they gave the chef thunderous applause after dining. They enjoyed spending the evening with such charming hosts and a fun-loving group of friends who offered kindness, goodwill, and holiday cheer.
The way Patterson and Britt celebrate the cultures that made them who they are helps them bring out the best in each other as a couple; a perfect example of what is best and most meaningful about the Christmas season. “I borrowed these Southern traditions and incorporate them into our holiday festivities now,” says Patterson. Britt agrees, reflecting on the evening and recalling holidays—and traditions—past. “We always decorated our trees together and shared our traditions,” he says. “I am used to entertaining other people during the holidays. It feels natural to me.”