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Host Story: Richard and Rana Florida throw an intimate dinner party for their interesting friends

Richard and Rana Florida have a swish party pad, a sense of whimsy and interesting friends. But their best dinner-party trick may be keeping their cool in chaos

Host Story

Richard and Rana Florida are such seasoned travellers that they’ve cut their packing time down to zero. Stashed in a hall closet in their Rosedale house are two Tumi bags full of toiletries, phone chargers and various other necessities, so they can hop on a plane at a moment’s notice. Because of the hectic schedule, Richard, a professor of business and creativity at U of T’s Rotman School of Management, and Rana, the CEO of Creative Class Group, the couple’s consulting company, consider staying at home something of a treat. And when they’re in town, they’re always entertaining friends.


Poolside drinks and hors d’oeuvre

Moët & Chandon champagne with raspberries and mint

Skewers of fresh bocconcini, tomato and basil

White bean bruschetta by Mario Batali (see recipe). The Manhattan-based chef is an old friend of Richard’s; they met at Rutgers university, where Batali studied.

The Barefoot Contessa’s Middle Eastern vegetable salad (see recipe)


Grilled lamb chops with mint and olive oil Salmon, halibut, fennel and pepper kebabs

Dipping sauce of Greek yogurt mixed with shredded cucumber, lots of fresh dill, lemon, sea salt and cracked pepper

Quinoa with toasted pine nuts


Baklava served with vanilla gelato and grilled figs and topped with pistachios and sprigs of mint

Blossom-topped Belgian chocolate cupcakes from Eat My Words

The Floridas’ party hub, weather permitting, is their renovated backyard, where a new pool is set against the backdrop of lush ravine trees. On this particular night, there was a gathering of eight: Frank Toskan, co-founder of MAC cosmetics, and his partner, hair­stylist Darren Zakreski; society maven Lynda Prince and her husband, Jonas, chairman of the Realstar Group; Victoria Jackman, executive director of the Hal Jackman Foundation; the Floridas and me.

Rana stocked the poolside cabana with fresh fruits, Belgian chocolates, rock candy and marshmallows from Summerhill Market, and she put out about a dozen whiskies, from Glenlivet to Tyrconnell (Richard is a devout duty-free shopper). Obsessed when it comes to the details, Rana runs an evening with the precision of a drill sergeant and the energy of a racehorse. But she also knows that good parties need relaxed hosts: “If you’re not having fun, then neither are the guests,” she says.

Growing up as one of six children of first-generation Jordanians in a Michigan suburb, Rana was schooled in the art of dealing with chaos: at any given time, friends and family members might drop by unannounced. There were no crashers at the gate this Saturday night, but the hosts did field a few curveballs. One couple got the time wrong and arrived an hour early (just as Rana was getting changed), and another was held up and came almost an hour late. During this interval, corks popped on bottles of Moët (served with a sprig of mint and raspberry in the glass), while, inside, disaster struck.

It was a new server’s first time at the house. Rana’s usual guy, Eliano, hired from the local events company Spinradius, was out for his birthday that night. The novice helper started a kitchen fire while toasting bread for the bruschetta. After Rana and the server threw the engulfed tray in the sink, she implored him to take the edge off with a drink. He declined, but the guests drank a toast to the (burnt) toast.