At Home with the Habitual Hostess Duo

“Life is Boring, It’s Your Job to Make it Fun!” - words to *host* by with Alston & Leigh

Article by Kellie Kerwin

Photography by Leigh Hansen, Habitual Hostess

Originally published in Greenwich Lifestyle

Describe what the Habitual Hostess is. 

The Habitual Hostess is the idea of celebrating occasions big and small. Inspiring people to have the party and enjoy the process while making memories. Our platform follows the seasons and holidays and reflects how we’re celebrating life with friends and family. 

How did you come up with the name and when did the Habitual Hostess launch?

We knew we wanted the idea to reflect hosting, and not just cooking. One night a few months before we launched, we were chatting about it over a glass of wine and the idea just came to us! We checked to see if the Instagram handle was available and luckily it was! We registered it right away and started planning. Our first Instagram post, thus “launching” the brand was on January 3, 2021.

How did the two of you meet and what made you decide to create a business together?

We met at the beginning of our Freshman year at the University of Alabama and have known each other for more than 20 years now! After college, we lived in New York City together. We were both into food and entertaining and Leigh has always been very into photography. We had this idea for a blog called Eat Pretty. But life was fast and we were both young and working – also very busy enjoying all New York City had to offer. Long story short, the blog never launched. Meanwhile, we both met our now husbands who both happened to be from Greenwich, CT. Leigh moved out to Connecticut after getting married and Alston moved to San Francisco for a quick stint. When she and her family made their way to settle in Greenwich, we started talking again about launching a creative outlet that reflected our shared passions. We were both out of the baby-phase with our children and looking for a little something extra – let’s call it a “passion-project.”

What's your favorite part about working together and the best thing Habitual Hostess has brought your way?

Our Wednesday “Cook Days” can often double as therapy sessions! At this age, who gets to spend almost an entire day a week hanging out with one of their best friends? We have met so many amazing local entrepreneurs, business owners and taste-makers through Habitual Hostess and that has been so inspiring! 

Tell us about the recipes you create. Do you try them out yourselves first? Are they passed down from generation or from scratch?

Yes! We test out each recipe we create or share. Sometimes they flip and it can take several tries before we get to the point of sharing. The recipes could be variations of something we’ve tried and loved in the past. We share tried and true recipes from others. And yes, a few of them are Southern recipes passed down from our mothers or grandmothers.

What's your favorite part of entertaining?

Coming up with new menu ideas and bringing that menu to life with friends. We love the feeling of our houses when guests are enjoying themselves. It feels happy and alive and the memories last way beyond the party. 

What is your favorite holiday?

Leigh: Christmas

Alston: Christmas for sure! It’s such a magical time of year! 

How did you grow the business to date?

We have been incredibly lucky to have some amazing cheerleaders on our side. We have had friends invite us to help them with small events for their businesses or social groups – thus spreading the word and sharing our Instagram account with others. 

Love that you include many traditions throughout your posts. Is it important for you to create new traditions and keep old ones alive?

Babs, from Brunch with Babs made a great point – it only takes two years for a tradition to be just that! We both grew up with lots of traditions and carry many of those throughout with our families. We’ve also started new ones! Our tip is: pick traditions that are simple and bring you joy, not ones that are stressful or unfulfilling just because you think you should do them! 

Where do you draw inspiration from? 

We both LOVE cookbooks and each own many. Alston also checks cookbooks out from the local library on a regular basis. We are also always inspired by our southern mothers who are forever hosting and enjoying life with friends and family. 

What's next for the Habitual Hostess?

Stay tuned for a monthly newsletter that will be a party planning one-sheet for a different party each month! We hope to inspire people to throw parties and host more. The newsletter will outline not only the full party menu but also hosting tips and a timeline that will keep you out of the kitchen and enjoying the party! 

What are your 2023 goals?

We had some really fun partnerships with lifestyle brands in 2022 and hope to have some partnership with food and beverage companies in 2023. 

Where can we find more about the Habitual Hostess?

You can follow us on Instagram @habitualhostess (where we shoot all of our own reels and Leigh does our photography) and https://www.habitualhostess.com.

Habitual Hostess (Fan Favorite!) Recipes

Pomegranate Cosmo
3 oz vodka
3 oz pomegranate juice (use Pom brand)
1 oz lime juice
1.5 oz Cointreau
Pomegranate seeds and thinly sliced lime wheels to garnish

Fill a shaker with ice. Pour all ingredients into shaker and shake vigorously. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with pomegranate seeds and a lime wheel.

Spring Pasta with Burrata (Sunday Supper Edition)

Serves 6

16 oz. box orecchiette pasta
2 cups shelled fresh English peas
2 cups sugar snap peas, sliced on the diagonal into 1” pieces
12 oz. pancetta, diced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup diced shallots
4 eggs
1 cup shredded Parmigiano
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1 teaspoon each fresh lemon zest and juice
Salt and black pepper to taste
8 oz. ball burrata cheese or fresh mozzarella, room temperature

Cook orecchiette in a pot of boiling salted water according to package directions.
Add English peas and snap peas during the last minute of cooking. Reserve ½ cup pasta water, then drain orecchiette and peas.

Meanwhile, cook pancetta in oil in a sauté pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 5 minutes. Drain all but 1 Tbsp. drippings from pan; add shallots and cook until softened, 3–4 minutes.

Stir orecchiette and peas in with pancetta
Whisk together eggs; gradually whisk in 3 Tbsp. reserved pasta water to temper eggs.

Off heat, add egg mixture to orecchiette, stirring, until sauce thickens. Stir in 1 cup Parmesan, dill, zest, and lemon juice; add more pasta water to reach desired consistency and season with salt and pepper.

Transfer orecchiette to a serving dish and top with Parmesan, dill, and burrata, torn into chunks.

Habitual Hostess serves recipes, tips, cocktails and JOY!

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