Food from the Hart

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The 15 Minutes Blitz: Turn Your Home from Disaster Zone to Party Ready

In Features on October 6, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Entertaining is difficult enough when you have time to organize, but what do you do when you only have minutes to prepare? Don’t panic, it’s entirely possible to pull it together.

You’ve already stopped by the market and picked up a few cocktail essentials and now with fifteen minutes left you have to make your home guest ready.  There’s no time for a full-scale clean, but a tidy home always looks more inviting.  Crank up some energy pumping tunes, grab the disposable wipes and get moving.  Here’s an easy fifteen minute plan:

Entryway or Foyer (1 minute)

Hang up coats and hats; organize umbrellas and any shoes.

Living Room (4 minutes)

Straighten up coffee and side tables. Neatly stack magazine and books. Throw out old newspapers. Hide computer cords and laptops behind sofa cushions or in the bedroom. Fluff sofa cushions and pillows, fold throw blankets.  Wipe down tabletops.  Give the room a quick spray of Febreez or other air freshener.  Light any scented candles.

Kitchen (5 minutes)

Empty dishwasher if full, then load dirty dishes.  Wipe down surfaces and counters.  Put away any pantry items left of the counter.  If you don’t have a pantry for storage, neatly organize dry goods.  Fold and hang dish towels.  Give the floor a quick sweep, take out any left over trash and turn off the lights.

Bathroom (4 minutes)

Put dirty clothes in the hamper and toiletries in a drawer or cabinet.  Fold and hang towels neatly.  Give the sink and toilet a quick wipe.  Take out any over flowing trash and put a new bag in the basket. Light a scented candle.

Close Door to Bedroom (30 seconds)

A quick note, if you have a studio apartment, quickly make the bed as best you can.  If you have a screen dividing the space, now is the time to use it.

Turn Off the Music (30 seconds)

Turn off the high energy music and put on a more soothing playlist for background when guests arrive.

Follow this plan and you’ll be amazed how quickly you can turn a disaster zone into a tidy space for entertaining.  You might even have enough time to pour yourself a glass of wine and take a deep breath before the doorbell rings.

For no-cook hors d’oeuvre ideas, click here.

Adventurous Entertaining: 10 Unique Foods to Try at Your Next Dinner Party

In Features on September 26, 2011 at 5:42 pm

Conventional wisdom says cook what you know when having a dinner party.  This certainly makes sense if you’re hosting the boss or the in-laws, however if it’s a casual evening with good friends, why not experiment? Here’s a list of easy-to-use and interesting ingredients that will add a little whimsy to the same old dinner party meal.

Bamboo Shoots

Bamboo shoots are cut as soon as they begin to emerge from the ground, yielding a tender, ivory colored vegetable. Fresh shoots can be found at some Asian markets and farmer’s markets in spring and summer. Canned shoots are available in gourmet grocery stores all year. To use, add to a classic stir-fry, asian inspired soup, or sautéed spinach. Bamboo Shoot Recipes

Cloudberries

Cloudberries are most commonly found in the colder climates of New England, Canada and Scandinavia.  They resemble a raspberry with a distinct amber hue.  They’re too tart for eating out-of-hand, but make excellent jam or pie filling. Cloudberry Recipes

Farro

Part of the wheat family, Farro dates back 20,000 years ago.  Once the primary grain cultivated by Egyptians, the grain slowly lost popularity over time to higher yielding, easier to grow grains. Thanks to the efforts of some inventive Italian chefs, Farro is making a comeback.  Farro has a rich, nutty flavor and can be used in pasta, bread or as a healthy alternative to risotto. Farro Recipes

Hominy

Native to Northern America, Hominy is dried white or yellow corn kernels from which the hull and germ have been removed. Hominy is sold canned, ready-to-eat or dried (which must be reconstituted before eating).  It’s commonly used in Southern and Latin American cuisine as a side dish or part of a casserole. Hominy Recipes

Jerusalem Artichokes

Also known as sunchokes, jerusalem artichokes are not artichokes at all.  Rather, this vegetable is variety of sunflower with a lumpy, brown-skinned exterior that resmebles gingeroot.  The white flesh is nutty, crunchy, sweet and best when purchased from October to March. They can be eaten raw in salads or cooked by boiling or steaming and served as a side dish.  Jerusalem Artichokes also make wonderful soup. Jerusalem Artichoke Recipes

Nopales

Popular in Mexico, Nopales are oval-shaped leaves from the nopal cactus plant.  They range in color from light green to dark green and have a delicate, tart flavor, similar to green beans.  To prepare, use a vegetable peeler to remove the thorns, cut the flesh into thin strips and simmer in water until tender.  Nopales can be added to everything from salads to scrambled eggs. Nopales Recipes 

Pluots

Also known as plumcots, pluots are a cross between a plum and an apricot.  Pluots taste more like and plum than an apricot, while plumcots have more apricot flavor than plum. They are most readily available from May to October and taste great when eaten alone or baked in pies or tarts. Pluot Recipes

Quince

Dating back some 4,000 years quince has only recently gained popularity in the United States.  The yellow hued fruit looks like a cross between an apple and pear.  Inside, the flesh is hard and white with a slightly astringent, tart flavor.  Quince is not suited for eating out-of-hand, but make delicious jams, jellies and preserves. They can also be poached or braised for wonderful results! Quince Recipes

Salsify

Salsify is a long parsnip-shaped root vegetable with a taste that resembles artichoke hearts.  Although Salsify is more popular in Europe than the United States, it can be found in speciality grocery stores fall through spring. Salsify makes a wonderful side dish or used in savory pies and soups. Salsify Recipes

Yuca

A staple of African cuisine and native to South America, Yuca has a tough brown exterior that when peeled reveals a white starchy flesh similar to a potato.  Yuca can be poisonous and must never be consumed raw.  Yuca is available year around and is best when boiled, roasted or cut into thin slices and fried.  Yuca Recipes 

A Fresh Start: Give New Life to Old Pantry Items

In Features on September 12, 2011 at 9:53 pm

Well Hello Again!

After a brief summer hiatus Big Parties / Small Spaces is back and better than ever!

As summer comes to a close, kids are back to school, the leaves begin to change and the long summer days slowly give way to cool autumn nights.  September is a time of new beginnings.  So naturally what better way to kick off the unofficial start of fall than some advice on giving seemingly old food a new life.  Here are some great tips to turn garbage disposal bound items into something worth writing about.

Bananas

Of all the produce out there bananas always seems to go bad before you know it.  Just when you’ve eaten half the bunch the other half is brown mushy.  Don’t let a family of fruit flies set up shop on your counter and give one of these ideas a try.

      • Add some slices or a smashed banana to your favorite pancake recipe for a little extra kick in the morning.
      • For an evening treat, take out the blender and add banana to classic pina coloda or daiquiris recipe.  It might be just what you need to bring back that summer feelin’.
      • If you’re on a health kick, bananas can actually be substituted for eggs in most baking recipe.  Half of a large banana is equal to one large egg.  Give this cholesterol saving tip a try next time you whip up a batch of cookies or a cake.

Bread

This is another classic pantry culprit that turns stale in the blink of an eye.  There’s nothing worse than throwing out really good bread that’s just a little past it’s prime.  Make the most of it with one of these quick and easy suggestions.

  • If the bread is just a day or two old and a little hard it can be revived.  Sprinkle the loaf with a little cold water and place in a hot oven (400 degrees) for 5-7 minutes.
  • Looking for a quick lunch or dinner salad?  Take a page out of the Italians cookbook and make Panzanella.
  • For a sweet treat, whip up a super simple Bread Pudding. This is an easy, all purpose recipe you can tweak anyway you like. Gather 3 eggs, 2 cups stale bread cut into 1 inch pieces, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 cup raisins, 2 tablespoons butter, 4 cups whole milk, 1/2 teaspoon, salt, pinch of nutmeg. Scald the milk in a small sauce pan.  Add butter and bread. Beat eggs light and add with salt and spice to bread mixture.  Bake lightly in moderate oven a 375 degree oven about an hour.  Serve warm.

Coffee Grounds

I know, who saves these? It might seems crazy, but you can get more out of coffee grounds than a good cup of joe.

  • Take the coffee ground out of the kitchen and into the bathroom. Mix 1/4 cup of coffee grounds with an aging avocado for an invigorating face mask.  The avocado will sooth irritated skin while the caffeine from the coffee ground will tighten fine lines and wrinkles.
  • For those with a little pest problem, coffee grounds works as a great all natural bug repellent.  Place a line of ground anywhere there is an ant problem, the ants won’t cross it.  It’s a wonderful way to stay “green” and keep your kitchen clean.
  • Add a little coffee kick to brownies, cake or cookies.  Fold a few tablespoons to batter before baking for a bold, unique flavor.

Beer

It’s rare beer last long in my household, but every now and then there are a can or two hidden in the back of the fridge.  Instead of ditching the left overs, or drinking it, try some of these unique ways to give old beer a new lease on life.

  • Use as a marinade for beef, chicken or pork.  Add marmalade or jam for an adventurous flavor or keep it classic and mix with soy or worcestershire sauce.  The longer you all the meat to sit the better!
  • Make Beer Can Chicken.  Simply open a full can of beer and place a chicken on it as a stand. Rub with chicken with olive oil, season with salt and pepper then throw on the barbecue or in the oven. The result? A moist and delicious chicken that is sure to be a hit.
  • After a long day, open a can of beer and use one in a warm bathtub.  Beer is an excellent skin conditioner and makes for a luxurious soak.  Add in a few bath crystals, a little oil and left the healing qualities melt the day away.

10 Things You Never Knew You Could Grill

In Features on May 21, 2011 at 11:01 am

Okay, so living in small spaces not many of us have a grill, but any of these items can be made on a grill pan for the same effect. If you’re lucky enough to make a meal on a gas or charcoal grill this summer, give one of these surprising foods a try. I promise you’ll never reserve the grill for only red meat and chicken again!

  1. Cheese – Choose a dense cheese or one with a strong rind like, Halloumi, queso fresco or Brie (with the rind on).  Brush each side with a little canola or olive oil and grill over medium-low heat until grill marks appear.  Serve with fruit or tomatoes as an appetizer or an unexpected dessert.
  2. Melon – Watermelon, cantaloupe, or honeydew make great grill mates.  The heat from the grill caramelizes the sugar giving the melon a wonderful smoky flavor.  Try eating with fresh prosciutto and mozzarella cheese for a riff on a classic appetizer.
  3. Shellfish – Throw some oysters or clams in a grill basket and put directly on the grate over high heat.  Cover and cook for 4-5 minutes until the shells open.  Serve with fresh squeezed lemon juice, cocktail sauce or mignonette. You could even toss the bivalves in some pasta with garlic and olive oil for a simple weeknight meal.
  4. Pizza- Roll pizza dough out and brush one side with canola oil or a hearty olive oil.  Place directly on the grate and cook for 2-3 minutes until grill marks form.  Brush the uncooked side with more oil and flip, cook for another minute or so.  Put your toppings on.  Cover the grill and cook for another 10 minutes until the toppings are done and dough is crispy.
  5. Avocado – Cut in half, remove pit and skin. Brush with canola oil or a hearty olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Place on grill over medium-high heat.  The result is a creamy, rich flavor that really brings out the best in the avocado.  Serve as is or add to guacamole or salad for a smokey twist.
  6. Pineapples, Peaches, Nectarines – Cut in half, remove pit and brush with canola or hearty olive oil.  Grill over medium-high heat.  Like the melon, the result is a beautiful caramelized version of the fruit.  Serve as dessert with ice cream or whipped cream.  For a savory twist, cut and use in a fruit salsa or relish.
  7. Romaine Lettuce – Wash and dry well.  Brush with olive oil and place directly on the grill grates over medium heat until the lettuce begins to wilt.  Serve as a side dish to chicken, lamb or beef or as a warm salad with a vinaigrette.
  8. Herbs – Throw a sprig of rosemary or thyme on the grill for 30 second to a minute just to heat and release oils.  Add to marinades or even cocktails.
  9. Cake – Choose a dense cake like pound cake.  Brush both sides with melted butter and put directly on the grill over medium heat.  Cook just until grill marks for.  Serve as dessert with chocolate sauce, fruit or ice cream.
  10. Citrus Fruit– Cut lemon, lime, orange or grapefruit in half and place directly on the grill.  Cook until grill marks form and serve as a garnish for fish or chicken.

If all this grill talk is making you long for more than a grill pan, check out this nifty indoor grill.

Vodka Infusions

In Features on May 19, 2011 at 1:25 pm

Forget buying flavored vodka off the shelf.  Get creative and make your own vodka infusions! It’s easy, budget-friendly and makes great cocktails or as ice-cold shots for a dinner toast! Here are some combination I like, but anything goes, try some of your own.

Vodka Infusion Recipes

Start with 4 cups of premium vodka.

Raspberry-Orange 12 ounces (3/4 pound) crushed raspberries; 12 ounces (3/4 pound) oranges, unpeeled and sliced.

Cucumber-Mint 16 ounces (1 pound) cucumber, sliced; 12-15 mint leaves.

Lemongrass-Grapefruit 2 stalks lemongrass, crushed; 12 ounces (3/4 pound) ruby-red grapefruit, unpeeled and sliced.

Pepper Medley 1 serrano pepper, stemmed and sliced; 1/2 jalapeno pepper, stemmed and sliced; 1/4 habanero pepper, stemmed and sliced.

To Make the Infusions

Combine the flavorings and vodka in a jar or empty vodka bottle.  Close the container tightly and let stand at room temperature for 1-2 weeks.  The more mild combinations like Cucumber-Mint will need a little more time than the powerful Pepper Medley. Strain the vodka and discard any solids.  If there are any small solids left in the vodka strain again through a coffee filter.  Store in the refrigerator in an air-tight container.  The infused vodka will last for up to three months.

Dining Alfresco! Summertime Picnic Guide

In Features on May 18, 2011 at 12:24 pm

It’s May. And while it might not feel like it now, summer is right around the corner.  If you’re like me than you are itching to grab a blanket, some friends, good eats and celebrate being outside.  This isn’t always an easy feat in a city full of concrete.  Lacking significant backyards urbanites flock to the grassy oasis of Central Park.  As the weather heats up, forget having a party inside and throw a picnic party! It’s a great way to celebrate a romantic mid-day lunch or a boozy afternoon of frisbee with friends.  Regardless of the occasion, this is your ultimate guide to bringing you big party from a small space to the great outdoors.

Best Picnic Spots for Any Occasion

Romantic Party for Two

Shakespeare Garden

Located on the West side at 79th Street, the Shakespeare Garden is an often overlooked area of Central Park.  This lovely hideaway is bursting with beautiful plants and flowers that pay homage to Shakespeare and his many famous plays. The smell of rosemary will dance off your nose as you wander the winding flora filled paths.  There are several secluded nooks and small grassy knolls, perfect for an afternoon tryst for two.

Great for the Group

Sheep Meadow

15 acres of open grass make this an ideal spot for hosting a picnic party.  Located right off the 66th Street transverse in the center of the park, it’s easily accessible for East and Westsiders alike. Even better, the restrooms are right next door!  Word to the wise, bring your blanket and set up camp early, Sheep Meadow is always crowded on those perfect New York days.

Bring the Games

The Great Lawn

The Great Lawn, great for many reasons! First, it’s smack in the middle of the park between 79th and 85th Street.  Impossible to miss for even novice park explorers. This 55 acre green oasis leaves plenty of room to host everything an ultimate Frisbee game to tag football. For a more organize day of sporting fun, the Lawn has eight regulation sized baseball diamonds. The diamonds can be reserved for a fee.  For reservation information go to the Athletic Permits page of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation page.

Iconic NYC

Cherry Hill

Overlooking the Lake and the iconic Bow Bridge, Cherry Hill is nestled west of Bethesda at 72nd Street.  The hill got its’ name from the wonderful Cherry Blossoms that bloom every spring. Cherry Hill also features the Cherry Hill Fountain, another spot featured in many movies and television shows. No matter where you pop-a-squat you can be sure you’re taking in a piece of New York some only see on the big screen.

In a World of its Own

The Conservatory Garden

There aren’t many places in New York where you can truly get away from it all. The Conservatory Garden is a place you can.  It’s the only formal garden in Central Park and features three individually curated gardens; English, French and Italian. Located off 5th Ave at 105th Street, the garden is quiet with a number of secluded spots, perfect for a peaceful afternoon of al fresco dining.

Essential Tips for Successful Picnicking

Two for One – To keep your butt and food dry, try laying out trash bags under the blanket, when you’re done, simple lift the blanket and use the trash bags for garbage.

No Glass Allowed– Bring glass to a picnic is often just asking for trouble. Opt for cans of beer or boxes of wine instead.  I’m not suggesting gas station white Zinfandel, there are plenty of quality boxed wines on the market now.  Here are a few of my favorites, I promise they won’t disappoint.

Blackbox Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles ($22, 3 liters)

French Rabbit Pinot Noir Vin de Pays d’Orc 2006 ($10, 1 liter)

Three Thieves Bandit Pinot Grigio 2006 ($9, 1 liter)

Set the Mood– Okay, you’re outside, how much more mood do you need? I would answer, you can always make a party more festive with a little music and soft light.  Bring along an I-pod and cordless speakers, if you don’t have one, ask a friend.  Music, even in the park can make all the difference. If you’re hosting a late-afternoon / evening shindig, consider bring battery operated tea candles for a little extra ambiance.

Keep it Clean– There’s nothing worse than being in the great outdoors with sticky, dirty hands after eating.  I suggest stocking up on wet wipes or for a greener option, pack a wet towel or dishcloth in a ziploc bag.  You’ll be happy and so will your guests!

Cold is Key– Lots of water is a picnic must, especially on a hot day.  Purchase bottled water the night before and throw in the freezer before you go to sleep. Make sure to empty out a little water before putting them in the freezer.  Use the frozen bottles as ice packs to keep your food cold and as an added bonus you’ll actually have cold water to serve guests. This little trick also cuts down on the amount of stuff you have to carry!

Must Haves– There’s no doubt, picnicking can be a pain.  The planning, organizing and schlepping is enough to give anyone a headache. Here’s a list of frequently forgotten picnic necessities.

  • Wine / bottle opener (if you’re not convinced about the box!)
  • Napkins
  • Glasses
  • Knife
  • Flatware
  • Plates
  • Water
  • Wet towel or wet wipes
  • Trash bags
  • Cutting board
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
Get the Gear

The market place is flooded with a plethora of picnic supplies.  You can find everything from all-in-one picnic baskets on wheels to collapsible chairs.  Here are some of my favorite website to get the latest in picnicking gear.

Everything Picnic, www.everythingpicnic.com

Picnic Fun, www.picnicfun.com

Picnic Baskets, www.picnic-baskets.com

Picnic Food Favs

I could go on for days about good picnic food (I’m clearly a huge fan of dining in nature).  Of course your menu will depend on what type of picnic party you’re hosting. An intimate sunset for two, baseball game for 20, impromptu afternoon for six, each occasion calls for a different spin.

Regardless of the event, anything you bring to a picnic must be easy to eat, easy to transport, require little onsite prep and not temperature sensitive. Be creative with your menus!  To help get your juices flowing, here are some of my personal picnic classics! Remember, never hesitate to take the stress out of cooking and go pot luck!

Make a Meal of It

Perfect Oven Fried Picnic Chicken

Old-Fashion Coleslaw

Fingerling Potato Salad

Mint and Lime Infused Watermelon Slices

No Silverware Required 

Greek Salad Pitas

Turkey Club Wraps

Chips and Salsa

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Nosh Fest

Charcuterie Platter

Assorted Cheese and Bread Basket

Fresh Fruit

Chocolate Brownies


Shop Smarter: How to Navigate the Meat Counter Like a Pro

In Features on May 12, 2011 at 9:32 pm

It’s no surprise a meal is only as good as the quality of ingredients used in the recipe.  Yet, when it comes to purchasing meat most consumers seem to forget the timeless logic, “you get what you pay for”.  Many of us mindlessly grab the cheapest strip steak or ground beef, whatever is wrapped in the open display cases never giving a second thought to where the meat came from.  Whether you are planning a party for 8 or a quiet dinner a home for 2, it’s important to pay attention to the meat you buy.  While it might seem crazy to spend $10 a pound for organic chicken, trust me, it’s worth every penny.

Tips for Negotiating the Meat Counter

  • Look around at the walls, floor, windows and display cases of your butcher or grocery store.  If things look dirty from where you stand, the back areas where the meat is stored will likely be dirty as well. Just because a store has a “brand” name doesn’t mean they sell quality meat.  Trust you judgement!
  • Take a breeze over the meat display case.  All the protein should be organized and separated in different areas.  Meaning, lamb shouldn’t be on top of beef, on top of chicken.  Cross contamination of proteins can lead to foodborne illness.
  • If you can, avoid purchasing anything pre-packaged in plastic.  It’s always better to get something freshly cut.  You don’t need to buy the most expensive cut like filet mignon to have a good meal.  There are plenty of delicious alternatives like flank or hanger steak that won’t break the bank.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the butcher where the meat comes from, whether it’s organic or free-range.  You will pay a premium for certified organic meat, but it really is worth it.  It not only tastes better, but it’s a much healthier way to go.
  • You can tell almost everything you need to know about meat by just looking at it.  Meat should look matte and dry, never bloody and wet. Protein that is bloody tends to be flavorless and tough.  Quality beef has a dark red, almost purplish hue and creamy white threads running through it.  The white threads, called marbling, is what gives meat flavor.
  • High quality pork, like beef, should be dry and without blood.  Likewise, always look for chicken that has Chicken creamy white or yellow skin without any blemishes or bruises.

Quick Guide to Cuts of Beef


10 Questions NOT to Ask at a Dinner Party

In Features on April 10, 2011 at 2:11 pm

It might seem like common sense but it’s always nice to have a little reminder. When at a dinner party, especially with folks you don’t know, avoid getting into deeply personal issues or cracking that joke that’s just a little insensitive.  You never know how people might react and in some cases the wrong comment or question can throw the mood of a party.  Especially when you are in a small space and it’s difficult to gain distance between you, the inappropriate comment and the offended party.

Do your best to gauge the mood of the party and let the host be your barometer for where the conversation is going.  On the flip side, if you are the host think about the group you invited and make a judgement call.  How personal / political can we get? Sometimes it fun to get into a heated conversation with the right group, but again know your audience.  And if there is ever a question, air on the politically correct side of the fence.  While there could a number of questions that might turn an evening, here are a few key ones to avoid:

  1. You look different, did you lose weight?
  2. You look terrible, are you feeling OK?
  3. How much does someone in your field of work make?
  4. How much does an apartment or house like this cost?
  5. Why aren’t you drinking?
  6. Should you be eating that?
  7. Isn’t that your (pick a number) glass of wine?
  8. Why aren’t you seeing anyone?
  9. Who did you vote for? / What party are you affiliated with?
  10. When are you due? / When are you going to have kids?

 

 

Entertaining Etiquette: How to be a Larger than Life Host in a Smaller than Most Space

In Features on April 9, 2011 at 11:17 am

Remain Calm

I know I have mentioned this before, but it’s true. Your mood sets the tone of the party.  Take time to enjoy the guests you’ve invited and the work you put into crafting a beautiful party.  Your relaxed and joyous attitude will radiate to your guests, ultimately making the party a great success.

Be Warm and Welcoming

Make sure every person feels welcome and at home. Greet all arriving guests with a smile and a hug – even if this means excusing yourself from another conversation. If you are co-hosting the party, one person should be in charge of greeting guests at the door while the other works the room and tends to guests needs.

You’re the Glue

Circulate among your guests.  Provide introductions to newcomers, try to offer more detail than just, “Bob this is Jim”. Point out any commonalities or shared interests.  Make sure to stick around long enough to help the conversation get flowing and then gracefully make your exit.

Keep an Eye Out

Stay on the look out for guests that might need a refill.  On the same token, watch out for anyone who has had too much. Rescue others from long, boring conversations and draw shy guests out of the corner.  Most importantly try to spend time with all your guests so everyone feels involved.

Make a Toast

Even if you’re simply having a cocktail party, it’s still nice to kick off the evening by saying a few words.  Don’t feel you have to deliver a long diatribe, but welcome everyone to the party, thank the chef (if it wasn’t you) and certainly thank you guests for coming.  If you are celebrating a special event such as a birthday or anniversary make sure to mention it.  Toasting turns any ordinary party into an occasion and is a great way to connect with your guests.

You’re the Leader

As a host, it’s your job to invite guests to sit down, start eating, begin another course and give directive to when the meal is over.

Be Appreciative

This is the most important!  Make sure your guests know you appreciate their attendance and tell them how much you enjoy their company (even if you don’t). Don’t forget to send thank you notes to anyone who contributed or brought a gift. It might seem old fashion, but a personal note goes a long way.

 

 

And That’s Why you Have a Plan B: What to Do When Things Go Wrong

In Features on March 30, 2011 at 9:18 am

Ok, so throwing a party it’s a matter of national security.  If the evening takes a wrong turn chances are no one will suffer.  However, even the best laid plans can be derailed by unforeseen circumstances.  In the event you happen to find yourself in the middle of an entertaining Bermuda triangle, remember there’s always a way out.  Good hosts always have contingency plans. Here are a few to keep in your back pocket:

Someone Needs a Watch

Guests are late? Don’t panic.  Better late than never, right? Wait 20-30 minutes and then start without them.  Make sure you keep the booze flowing for the guests who managed to make it on time.  This would also be a good time to break out emergency hors d’oeuvres.  The last thing you need is a small room full of people drinking on empty stomachs!

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner… Bet You Can’t!

All the guests have arrived, plus some you didn’t expect! Greet the unexpected additions with a smile and do your best to quickly rearrange the table.  If you’re table is already at the max, roll out plan B.  Move everyone to the sofa and floor and gracefully turn your dinner party into an indoor picnic.

Party Foul

The party gets going and one too many hand gestures later a guest spills a glass of red wine on your white sofa or breaks a piece of Aunt Margaret’s china sending penne marinara all over.  Avoid yelling profanities, though it might be what you’re thinking.  Quickly clean the mess up and do your best to breeze over the incident.  Ideally, the guest should apologize profusely and offer to do what they can to fix the situation.  If not, chalk it up to the cost of entertaining and don’t tell Aunt Margaret!

Burnt Chicken Sucks

With the disruption of late guests who bring friends then spill on your carpet, you over cook dinner.  Don’t make excuses.  Best course of action, laugh and pull out the take-out menus.  If you seem ok with it, your guests will too!

One Serving Short

Your Osso Bucco might be getting better with time, but when you go to serve it your realize there’s not enough.  If you’re plating the meal simply serve less to each guest.  You might even consider serving on a smaller plate.  This will give the illusion the portions are bigger.  If you’re going buffet style make sure you and any family members / co-hosts take last.  Last resort supplement the meal with extra salad or bread.

He’s Been Over-served

There’s always one guest who over-indulges. If you know this person is a usual offender, cut the problem off before it gets going. “Forget” to serve he or she that second glass of vino. If things get out of hand take away the car keys, cut off the booze, and start pouring the water.  Try not to let someone else’s misstep transcend your party.  Contain the situation to the best of your ability and worse case put drunk Debbie on the sofa or in a bed to sleep it off.

And the Politically Incorrect Jokes Come Out

In most cases there’s nothing you can do to avoid someones’ inappropriate humor.  However, once the off-color comments start rolling do your best to interrupt the story.  If that doesn’t get your guest to cease-fire, politely ask for their help in the kitchen and gently explain their quirky sense of humor is making other uncomfortable. And before the night is over make sure to quietly apologize to any guest whom might have been offend.

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