It’s 5 p.m. and the late-August sun is beaming-hot while Claudia Mata Gladish, the founder of the CBD wellness brand Vertly, preps for a casual, end-of-summer meal in the backyard of her Craftsman-style home in Marin County, Calif. Before her guests arrive, she snips herbs from a verdant garden and creates table arrangements with her children, Nico and Mila.
Three years ago, to be closer to family, Claudia and her husband Zander Gladish moved from New York to Northern California, and reoriented their cooking and exercise routines, deepening their commitment to healthy living. In their wraparound backyard there are orange, lemon and apple trees, fragrant gardenias — and several poolside cannabis plants. “Cannabis has been legalized, decriminalized and normalized,” Zander says. “In Northern California, it’s not taboo to have a cannabis plant,” Claudia continues. “I think if people start to see it as a tool for wellness and not as just an illicit substance — which we don’t think it is — a lot of the negativity surrounding the plant will change.” Claudia and Zander are business partners in Vertly, and now work with local herbalists and hemp farmers to source all organically grown ingredients for their line of CBD-infused body spray, lip balm, and pain-relief lotion.
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In celebration of the launch of their face-care line, and to close out the summer, the couple gathered friends around a table surrounded by towering redwoods and coastal oak trees. “This house was the perfect place to grow up with three brothers, running around,” says Zander of the house, who inherited the land from his parents. “It’s a magical playground.” For dinner, he clipped fresh tomatoes for gazpacho, bunches of kale for salad, mint leaves for CBD-infused cocktails, strawberries for a jam cake and bright-white hydrangeas to decorate the table. “We only treat our plants with organic and natural ingredients — like neem oil,” he says, referring to the seed found in India and Pakistan that is often used as an organic pesticide. “It’s good for the cannabis plants as well as the roses.” To ensure quality and maintain control over the ingredients that go into Vertly’s products, the couple set up a lab in nearby Novato, where they are able to press their own oils and extract herbs over an intensive, weekslong process.
As guests — including a handful of New York transplants and former editors, friends from Mata’s time as accessories editor at W magazine — filtered into the yard, the soothing sound of a fountain blended with the patter of children’s feet playing on travertine stone. Twenty people gathered around a casual bar, sipping white wine or CBD-infused mint cocktails.
“We’re easygoing and drama-free,” says PJ Pascual, a New York-based stylist in town for the weekend. “Claudia and I are proof that in the fashion industry, if you want to, you can make real friends.” Claudia’s children know him as Uncle PJ; they twirl around him while she greets guests and puts final touches on the table. Below, Claudia and Zander share a few tips on how to create a low-key, seasonal meal that reflects your natural surroundings.
Create a Signature Cocktail
Zander pre-mixed several ingredients so that when guests arrived, he could join the party. The couple kept things simple and stuck to one signature cocktail, which included grapefruit juice, lime, soda water, vodka and fresh mint from the garden. Zander topped each drink with a couple of drops — 10 to 15 milligrams — of a hemp-derived CBD tincture, which is non-psychoactive and has calming properties. “It’s a nice mood setter,” Claudia explained.
Embrace Seasonal Ingredients and Your Natural Environment
On the table, there are rosemary sprigs plucked from a nearby bed, sprightly succulents and white hydrangeas and roses. Over the course of the night, various diners commented on the strong scent of rosemary permeating the air.
“Another great part about decorating with plants is their longevity,” Claudia said. “You can either plant them in your garden after or keep them as happy reminders of the night.”
For starters, they served chilled gazpacho made from their homegrown tomatoes. Then, guests dug into a garden-forward dinner composed of light summer dishes — kale-avocado salad, feta-corn tomato salad and green onion-mushroom orzo — and spicy-marinade flank steak, grilled on the spot and wreathed with fresh basil and rosemary.
It’s All About Family-Style
In keeping with the casual, communal mood of the night, Claudia set the table with wood benches in lieu of chairs. Salads were served from large wooden bowls that were passed among guests down the table. For dessert, she doled out blueberry crumble, strawberry cake garnished with homemade jam, and vanilla bean ice cream — on plates to be split by two people. “I love making two different desserts, and serving a different one to each guest to encourage sharing,” she said. “You can’t help but feel closer to a person if you’re sharing food.”
Arrange Your Table With Mingling in Mind
“Our forever house rule for dinner parties is to separate couples — since they most likely have dinner together every night anyway,” explained Claudia. “Zander and I also like to switch seats part way through the party. It helps make the vibe less formal and gives us a chance to connect with all of our guests.”
Invite in Spontaneity
As if an omen of summer drawing to a close, a chill came over the backyard as dessert wrapped up, and sleeveless guests wrapped themselves in borrowed sweaters from the host. Wine glasses were refilled, vape pens emerged and Zander dedicated his attentions to lighting up the tableside fire pit. “I would have never considered a fire pit for a summer dinner party, but it wound up being the perfect end to the night,” said Claudia. “Tonight, we wanted to be relaxed and stay cozy.”