Belle of the Ball… At Home

It’s as if I was in someone else’s home for the day; the kitchen feels new, bright. The house is clean and pristine, and smells of basil and garlic and red wine. The old-school hip-hop music blasting is a bit of a disconnect, but comfort and stress are all part of the hosting game for me. The preparations for a dinner party, a holiday meal, or just setting-up for a plain old party are easily just as fun as the event itself. I always get this “down to the wire” incredible rush while I stir away. I always sip a cocktail in the process. Hosting, for me, is like a personal induction into the “you did it” hall of fame.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again- great food, lots of laughs and being with my loved ones are all I need on a Friday night. We, as ‘humans of the 21st century’, get sucked into the corporate orb and mired in the messes of life; we forget to do the few simple things that keep us “us”, and keep us whole- for me, that’s hosting.  I’m generally self-effacing, but it’s my duty to be honest: I am a kick-ass entertainer.

Looking back, I loved watching my mother and father prepare for their friends to come over to our house. My mom would line her hunter-green, marbleized cheese board with the most delectable French cheeses and dried fruits and nuts, and my father searched for the perfect hearty red wine to serve with the meal, or as their “pregame”. Savory bite-sized treats and color-coordinated bowls of berries lined their dining room and the over-eager toasting and clinking of their glasses was a clear sign that the guests and the hosts alike were “loosening up”; after a while, the clinking even started to annoy me.  I relished in hearing the echo of laughter from what was a truly good time, and from a young age, I began to visualize what hosting would be like for me when I would be mature or capable enough to buy, prepare and carry it out all.

One of my closest friends is an excellent entertainer and cook. She prepares her food with passion, she times everything perfectly, and she always presents a little touch of herself in her decor: shabby chic. She makes INCREDIBLE cocktails and always plays the trans or other dance music to keep her “assistants” entertained. I like to credit her as one of those who had a helping hand in my unabashed love of hosting.

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Beef, Mustard, Spinach and Buffalo Mozzarella rolls
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Fig, Date and Apricot Chicken in the works…

The other night, I invited over some family friends over for a night of eating, drinking, and general merriment. This was one of my most successful dinner parties to date, so I thought I would share a few tips to help make your next hosting experience a winner:

  • I write my ‘menu’ about a week before the event:
    • I fine-tune my menu several times (right up until several days before the event) but write down a general outline of what I want to cook to assist in the entire process, from purchasing, to organizing, to cooking itself.
    • Canned and packaged (though I never use these) items can be purchased several days in advance, leaving the produce, dairy or meat to be purchased the night before or the morning of, for absolute freshness and less weight on your poor, carrying arms.
  • I start cooking the night before:
    • Having one of the main dishes cooked and ready-to-go before the day-of saves time, and saves your ass too, if your house decides to burn down.
  • I cook according to what must be served last:
    • If I am serving 3 appetizers and 3 main courses, I cook the appetizers first and the main courses last. This way, I can pull the mains out of the oven at the last minute- hot and ready, and I can focus on entertaining or having a drink(s) with my guests when they arrive.
  • I set the table in advance:
    • Who the hell wants to deal with that the day of?!

Though these tips only touch the tip of the iceberg, I hope they begin to help you in organizing your next dinner or get-together with friends, food, and drinks!

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