Last week I hosted my first real party or meal here since moving back. I don’t know why it took me so long. I had that, ‘I still haven’t gotten to..’ feeling about just about everything here, but heck it was time, especially since I’ve been the guest of these sweet friends and it was my turn.
I told my friends and family last week I was busy getting ready as, ‘The bloggers are coming for lunch,’ and everyone was, oh totally get it, and good luck. LOL! They knew that my blog buddies would probably take pics and share and there was a little bit more expectation than usual.
Mary Ann, who writes Classic Casual Home on the left, came from San Francisco, where I wrote about lunch at her gorgeous apartment, Cindy, who writes Rough Luxe Lifestyle center, came from Carmel Valley, and Elizabeth, who pens The Vintage Contessa (also goes by Contessa), came from Orinda, all long drives of over and hour! I called this photo The Three Graces, as they are all the most lovely, kind and sweet friends.
I spent the early part of last week, freaking out, tidying, and probably unnecessary things like sweeping the porch and cleaning out the toaster (oh brother), and fretting over what to serve for lunch. I finally settled on a favorite recipe from my friend E, who entertains easily and often (something I aspire to), and a fall salad I make all the time. Those two dishes plus a cheese, fruit and cracker board, and cookies from a French bakery in town, made it simple.
I was overthinking it way too much, focusing on what everyone else does, and trying to reinvent the wheel of lunches. GAH! Maybe the best thing is fall back on what you can already do well, and for me that is salads and appetizer boards. Not stellar, but this really works, especially with a group of women!
When hosting a gathering, it’s easy to get hung up on the details. I come from a mom, bless her heart, who was a perfectionist and had very high standards, so much so that she rarely, if ever entertained because she wanted things, ‘just so’. That mindset gets you nowhere because it prevents you from having a lot of fun. It gets you focusing on the floor that needs refinishing, your salad forks that are worn out and whether your glasses match, and other dumb stuff.
You can see here I didn’t have matching glasses- had to use purple and blue. I used some tortoise looking tumblers for flowers. I am not a good floral person, but bought these mums at Bunches, and added olive tree clippings from the yard. Trader Joes has these great autumn colored mums also.
The runner from Crate & Barrel was something I added to brighten up my black steel table. That is also where I bought my gold flatware, pretty inexpensive, which I thought would be useful for Thanksgiving too. The black plates are on sale right now at Pier 1, and the little tree tags are from Crate & Barrel also -on sale now for $2! I love the cork with sparkle on the edges. This would be cute for a Christmas lunch. I was kind of mixing my seasons here.
If you can think about enjoying your friends and making yummy food, you have all the elements you need. I really tried to do that and remember that even if I didn’t have any pictures on my walls, a mirror in the bath, matching wine glasses, all my friends would think of is how nice it was to be at someone else’s home and love catching up. Try and think about that instead of making things perfect.
Most people who like to entertain have list of dishes that work they can rely on without stress. With that in mind, here are the simple things I served that you might try or some variation of them and plan a gathering. The best way also seems to be if you designate a particular day- say like every other Friday to host people, and do it. The more you entertain, the more you’ll be at ease and enjoy it.
1 large box of pre-washed mixed greens
1/2 red onion cut in half rings
1-2 red and green pears cut in long slivers
1 Honeycrisp Apple cut in small cubes
1 bag of Trader Joes’ Candied Pecans
1/2 package of herbed goat cheese
Toss ingredients with dressing and then add small dabs of the goat cheese and lightly toss again.
For dressing combine 2 parts olive oil, 1 part apple cider vinegar, add about a tablespoon of maple syrup and a tablespoon of dijon mustard, plus flaky Maldon sea salt. Whisk together and adjust to your taste. Sometimes I’ll add a squeeze of lime or clementine to this dressing. This is a basic and you can add or change the fruit according to season. It’s also great with pomegranate seeds and plain walnuts toasted.
Next to the salad I added a bowl of two shredded rotisserie chickens, so people can add some protein to their meal if they wish, or not. Elizabeth is gluten free so I knew she couldn’t eat my other dish, the orzo, so I was hoping adding the protein would make it more of a meal for her.
Orzo With Roast Vegetables
This recipe from my friend E is adapted from the Barefoot Contessa recipe. I changed it up a bit and added asparagus, and squash, olives and toasted almonds and removed the eggplant, and pine nuts.
1 lb box of Orzo
1 red onion cut into 1 inch diced
2-3 garlic cloves diced
1 asparagus bunch cut into 2 inch pieces
1-2 orange, yellow or red bell peppers cut into 1 inch diced
1 yellow squash cut into 2 inch chunks
1/3 cup olive oil
juice of 2 lemons
3/4 lb feta , 1/2 inch diced
toasted sliced almonds
1 cup pitted Kalamata and Castelvetrano olives mixed
Toss the veggies with 1/3 cup of olive oil, 1 t. of salt, 1/2 t of pepper and spread on baking sheet. Roast for 40 minutes at 425, turning once at about half way through.
Meanwhile boil the orzo, drain and set aside. When done add the roasted veg and all the pan juices and browned bits to the orzo. Add lemon juice and olive oil, salt and paper to taste, toss and let sit until room temp. Before serving add feta and olives, and almonds. This tastes even better if made the day prior.
Below, my tray of veggies before roasting..
The cheese and fruit board was a made of brie, goat and manchego cheeses with pears, figs, apples, an assortment of crackers, including some gluten free ones, dark chocolate, and walnuts and pecans. I love my new cheese board, which I also got at Crate & Barrel that is part marble and wood. I needed something larger and it’s the perfect size.
I had bottle of still and sparkling water, and wine on hand. Cindy brought a lovely Rose we enjoyed.
I also made something I call Audrey Palmer. I named this after my friend Audrey who always loves them. This is a house specialty and like an Arnold Palmer is half tea, half lemonade, but you use sparkling lemonade, so it makes it a bit more fun and festive. That day I used the San Pelligrino Lemon Mint and Tejava. Pour it all into a pitcher and add lots of ice.
I had the front patio door open. It was a beautiful fall day!
We loved Elizabeth’s bag and especially her pom poms!
I hated to see them leave. Like any fun time, the afternoon went by in a flash and everyone had to get on the road before traffic…
I hope this gives you a little motivation to have friends over. I’m no great cook or entertainer, but now that I’ve done this, each time is easier and I can use the same menu with some variations and changes.
Thank you Cindy, Elizabeth and Mary Ann for letting me share this and your photos too. I feel so lucky to call you ladies my friends!
What’s your tried and true recipes for entertaining? Do you have a strategy for entertaining without fuss? Love to hear any tips you can pass on!
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