Modern Hostess: The Nuts and Bolts of Being a Hostess (or Host!)
There is nothing I love more than having friends over for treats that I’ve prepared myself, whether it be for dinner, cocktails, snacks or desserts. Hosting a party at home boasts some major advantages over going out. Firstly, you can probably prepare a meal for 4 of your friends for the same price that you would pay for food and drinks for one at your favorite high-end restaurant. Having an at-home party also means that you can enjoy the comfort of your own space and not have to deal with such annoying matters as figuring out transportation, being on time for your reservation or guest list, dressing up appropriately, or running into people that you’d rather not see. Even if you are into going out, it can be fun to have people over before you head out so that everyone has an opportunity to connect and have a couple of drinks before the madness begins.
It seems that a lot of people stress about having people over … but it’s actually really easy! There is no need to be fancy or complicated unless you want to be. That’s the beauty of an at-home party… you’re in charge, so you choose what to prepare. I throw dinner and cocktail parties at home often, and through my experiences, I have learned what I believe to be some helpful things to keep in mind when hosting a party at home.
Throughout my hosting endeavors, I have found that what’s most important about a dinner or cocktail party is not what you’re serving, but rather the environment that you create for your guests. So it doesn’t really matter if you make spaghetti or Kobe beef strip steak, beer or champagne… as long as your guests are having a good time, and the food and drinks taste great, you’re a superhost.
The most essential component of an enjoyable at-home party is a warm and inviting atmosphere for you and your guests. Have your appetizer (if you’re serving one) set up for when your guests arrive, and offer everyone a drink as quickly as possible. If you’re serving drinks, have your glasses and bottle placed out on your counter or table, ready to be served. These small touches will make your guests feel welcome, and will get the party started promptly.
Be sure to monitor your guests throughout the evening. When I say monitor, I don’t mean watch over them in an obsessive way; just pay attention to your guests’ party needs, and ensure that everyone is comfortable. Doing things like making sure their glass is full and asking if anyone needs anything are simple gestures that show how much you truly care about showing your guests a high-quality time. I promise you, these good deeds will not go unnoticed!
Here’s a great idea for an appetizer: Home-made bruscetta. And guess what- it’s extremely easy to make and virtually impossible to screw up. The only thing to keep in mind is that this is an uncooked recipe, so using the freshest possible ingredients is essential. Here’s how you make it:
-baguette (any variety of your choice)
-4 to 6 tomatoes (Roma are best, but whatever is freshest will taste great)
-1 small onion
-2 cloves fresh garlic (garlic powder or garlic in a jar simply won’t work in this recipe)
-3-5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
-1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
-handful of fresh basil leaves (if you can’t find fresh, DO NOT use dried. Just omit them, or use fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley)
-salt and pepper, to taste
-2-3 tbsp Parmesan cheese (optional)
-Preheat oven to 375 F.
-Slice baguette into thin slices. Spread bread slices in a single layer on a baking sheet (if you can’t fit it all at once, you can bake the bread in several batches). Drizzle with about 1-2 tbsp of olive oil, or if you have a cooking brush, brush each slice lightly with oil. Bake for about 7-10 minutes, until bread is crisp. Let cool.
-Meanwhile, prepare the tomato topping. Chop tomatoes, onions and garlic as finely as you can, and combine in a bowl. Add about 2-3 tbsp of olive oil and the balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. At this point, you can refrigerate the mixture until you’re ready to serve it. Just before serving, carefully chop or tear the basil (it bruises easily, so be careful) and add it to the tomato mixture, along with the cheese. Stir to combine.
To serve, place the tomato mixture in a bowl with a spoon and arrange cooled toasted bread slices around it so that your guests can top each slice themselves. Enjoy!
All pictures courtesy of Jordan@plener.ca