I'd have to say I get my love of entertaining from my mother. She always had an open door policy for dinners, cooked enough for our already large family but always had left overs for the walk ins. She was the first to offer her home, yard and pool to people with not as lovely an option to host their birthdays, reunions and pig roasts. I think mostly because she wanted to be in control, but also because she really loved to get everyone together, sit back and know she helped to make everyone happy and comfortable.....and drunk and bloated. Wait, now that I think about it, it may have been because when it was time to go to sleep she could just Irish goodbye it and walk upstairs to her own bed. That sounds more like her, and actually a lot like me now!
I take that back, Poppy will probably grow up to say she gets the love of entertaining from her father. The actual entertaining part, comes from her mom mom. Patrick is the most gracious host and is the biggest supporter of getting me out my shell and being more social. He's always the first to say, "come on over to our house, you and your closest 8 friends and family. I'll text Kaitrin and tell her we're coming." He plants the seed, I make it grow, that sly fox. I'm not complaining, I love it and I wouldn't change the spontaneity of it, but that initial rush where I'm vacuuming dog hair, scouring the fridge for snacks and signature cocktails, foraging the neighborhood for fresh flowers and greenery and sending ongoing grocery list texts to Patrick, is a bit intense.
To keep myself and my relationship in tact in times such as these there are a few things that I always have on hand and some tricks up my sleeve for any drop in entertaining moment.
Good Cheese, Pretty Crackers and Dried Meat- Nothing gets the salivary glands going like some salty meats and stinky cheeses. I love a truffle tremor for a nice soft spreading cheese, a hard mellow Manchego for thin slicing and a really gross blue cheese, like a stilton, for some marbled prettiness. Serve on a cutting board, scatter some rosemary crackers, cut a few slices off an aged log of Genoa, pop a pile of fresh or dried fruit, olives or caperberries on there and nestle up a little honey pot for some sweet drizzle and you have yourself a nice little hostess starter pack.
Champagne or Prosecco, Aperol and Club Soda- I have yet to find a cocktail that is as beautiful, easy to concoct, refreshing and a total crowd pleaser, like an Aperol Spritz. The orange bitterness and that quick Champagne buzz gets me every time. Since you're diluting with the soda water, your drunk is slowly progressive, you're hydrating and intoxicating at the same time, therefore the hang over is minimal to none! Magic elixir of pure boozey genius, and its really pretty.
Lots of Fresh Fruit, Especially Citrus- Fresh fruit is always a staple in our home, and like I mentioned above, great on the cheese platter, but there is nothing like a fresh squeezed lime or blood orange in your margarita or gin and tonic. Ok, I sound like a real lush, but the signature pretty cocktail makes all the difference in the world. Getting your guest respectfully drunk gives the illusion that you really thought this thing out, not just threw it together 20 minutes prior.
Salad Stuffs- A plain salad on its own can be a really a bummer at a dinner party. No one wants to be the guy that brings the salad, unless you spice it up! Throw in something seasonal and pretty and definitely make your own dressing! (a little lemon juice, dijon mustard, shallot and olive oil, S&P) Side note, don't tell my guests, I find a salad is a great way to clean out the fridge when all my farmers market finds start looking a little sad. Slice it pretty, toss it with your vinaigrette, add a nut or crumbled cheese and you have some noteworthy roughage to accompany your protein, that people will actually want to eat.
Grilled Meat- We live in Southern California, so therefore have the luxury to grill all year round, which is a godsend. I love the grill for entertaining big groups of people because It's easy clean up, gets the men out of the kitchen and huddled around the grill, and a well charred piece of pork, steak, fish, or marinated vegetable for all you vegans out there, is a great accompaniment to your last minute salad. Throw together a quick horseradish cream, chimichurri, salsa verde, garlic taziki, or a zhuzhed up A1 sauce on the side and you'll look like you're doing big things. Little tip, take some of that citrus and grill it too, soo pretty as a garnish on the platter.
Tablescaping- Even if the food ends up sh*tty at least you can present it properly. For table settings, I like to keep it simple and stick to the basics. White plates are my first choice, helps the food pop, and if I feel I need to add a little color it would be with a side dish or glassware. LOVE me some glassware. Wooden bowls are my staple for salads, sauces and sides, reminds me of my grandma and her retro bowls from the 50's she used to put out. Maybe lay down a simple runner or wrinkled linen table cloth if you like but not necessary, scatter some assorted height candlesticks, definitely need some fresh flowers or greenery, linen napkins of course, assorted vintage glassware and I think that's it. Turn down the lights, pop open a bottle of wine and dig in. Hopefully at this point the Aperol Spritzs have kicked in nicely so if the meat is overcooked no one will notice, or care.