I love to entertain. Entertaining is project planning with a heaping side of pretty. It touches on all my most basic instincts and
neuroses quirks – namely a love for organizing, scheduling, cleaning, decorating and, of course, food.
It’s such a big topic and so deeply personal — how we invite others into our homes, and the experiences we choose to give them while they are there, is the foundation on which our societies are built. I am sure I won’t even scratch the surface of the traditions and time-honored strategies that guide people all over the world in creating memorable experiences for friends and family.
So I’ll simply start the dialogue with a look back on my favorite entertaining “wins”. Believe me, there have been failures. Some of them quite epic. But these strategies are the ones I come back to time and again, because they worked, and simplified the experience of entertaining (as much as I love it) so that I could focus on what mattered most — time with those who matter.
Designate an unofficial (or official) hosting partner. This role sometimes falls to Gary, but if I know I’ll have a particular guest attending who is also a fantastic party planner, chef, or bartender, I will more formally solicit their services. This differs in a very important way from the “how can I help?” guest in that your co-host understands the flow of the entire event start to finish, as well as the answers to key questions people will ask (do you recycle? are there onions in this? where’s the other bathroom?). Make sure they understand the details and yes, invite them to take part in the proverbial sausage-making — they’ll be indispensably at your side ensuring a fabulous time is had by all.
A fancy adult beverage to get the party started. This is as simple as an unexpected glass of champagne or prosecco to celebrate a baby’s first birthday, or a sangria infused with fall flavors at a barbecue to celebrate the end of summer (here in the land of high humidity, some of us celebrate that August is finally over). This easy addition sets the tone for the party and tells your guests they are extra special. My friend Kerry introduced me to a particular guest (and Jenn) warm-weather day-drinking favorite — the Pimm’s Cup. We like it with fresh strawberries and mint, as in this epicurious recipe.
“ice cold sangria” by Jakub at foodiesfeed
Visually stunning trays of deceptively simple hors d’oeuvres, appetizers, snacks. Whatever you call it, make it beautiful and low-maintenance. For outdoor entertaining I like colorful platters of roasted vegetables — red peppers, deep green asparagus, yellow squash, golden tomatoes, aubergine eggplant, and artichoke green artichokes. In temperature-controlled settings, you can’t go wrong with a cheese and charcuterie board, made extra special with unique accompaniments and extra pretty with edible decorations such as violet champagne grapes, radiant cut figs, textured walnuts and almonds, and dried fruits for a little sweet sparkle.
I could go on and on about cheese. Good potato or tortilla chips paired with a colorful selection of dips work in any environment; try a quartet of red bruschetta, lemon artichoke pesto, green tomatillo salsa, and my go-to fan favorite, Ina Garten’s pan-fried onion dip.
photo by Jezz Timms via unsplash
Sticky notes. I wish I could remember where I first learned this trick (probably Martha). Plan the dishes you will serve each item in ahead of time, and place a sticky note under the dish to remind yourself later. My family mocks my obsessive planning mercilessly, but it is a lifesaver when the last-minute frenzy of plating family style dishes is in full swing. They no longer mock me. Not only do they always know exactly how to transition dishes from pot to plate when assisting me in the kitchen — I’ve now seen more than a few sticky notes grace the table of my mother, sister and aunt when they play hostess.
Simple desserts. Because let’s be honest, baking is not my strong suit. But also, because after a day of eating, drinking, and making merry, most of us just want to linger over that last glass of wine, enjoy a cup of coffee, and simply relax and take it all in. I find that the most simplest of sweet treats hits the spot. A plate of truffles after a fancy dinner party. Freshly warmed cookies after a Sunday supper. Scoops of gelato or make-ahead ice cream sandwiches after a barbecue.
“dark chocolate3” by Jakub at foodiesfeed
Follow my pinterest board if you’re always entertaining and looking for more ideas and inspiration.
What’s your favorite entertaining win? I would love to hear about it!