let's party

July 27, 2015

It's nice when you plan a party, do all that work, and next day you consider it a success.  Both my husband and I love to throw (and attend!) parties and I feel that over the years we've developed a very casual, easy-does-it style.  My decorations are always simple and my food is always easy and, for the most part, do ahead.  Just this weekend we had a dinner for 14, including some of the women from my knitting group and their spouses. 

When planning a party, big or small, I like a theme to get me started on my decor and menu.  This could be a color, or a country's traditional cuisine, something growing in my garden, or even a disaster!  Once I was planning a party that happened to fall on the same night as the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. I recreated as best I could the last meal served in first class the night before the disaster.  We must take our inspirations where they come!

On the Thursday before the Saturday night party I sat outside with a stack of cookbooks hoping for inspiration.  One of the first cookbooks I thumbed through was Ojai's Table, my current favorite.  I found this quote below the recipe for an olive oil cake I'd been wanting to make: "Sun, stone, drought, silence and solitude: these are the five ingredients that according to Italian folk traditions, create the ideal habitat for the olive tree."  I looked up at one of our own olive trees and I had to agree--she was looking magnificent even with our year's long drought. She's thriving; no, she's flourishing.

The olive tree quote got me to thinking; I would celebrate the olive:  olive branches to decorate the house and olives in as many menu items as possible.  And add to that: corn, summer squash, tomatoes, oranges, lemons; all things fresh and local from my own backyard.


Honey Marinated Pork with Orange Gremolata from Ojai's Table
Ina's Corn Salad
Sliced Tomatoes

Pecan Orange Olive Oil Cake from Ojai's Table
with Lemon Curd

Can you guess what flower this is?  Nope, not Queen Anne's Lace.  It's carrot!  I let a small patch of carrots go to seed, and was rewarded with these beautiful flowers that smell like CARROT!

We've enjoyed our homemade pear vodka and eau de vie de poire all summer.  We have a few more pears growing in bottles again this year.
eau de vie de poire

My husband and his buddies like simgle malts so we always set out a few.  However, it turned out that martinis were really popular at this gathering.  One of our friends mixed a batch of them, and they were so popular, he had to mix a few more batches!
I received this from my mother for my birthday.  The Napa wine country is Giants country!

My blue and white platters are enormous and work so well for a buffet.   With all these platters and the food that goes on them, you can imagine it's quite a lot of work.  I do all the set-up and cooking on my own, but when it comes to the serving and clean-up, I surrender!  I have a rule: more than 10 guests and I hire help.  I have a young woman who lives a few blocks away who will come over for the evening and help.   I've developed a relationship with her over the years, she knows my style and knows her way around my kitchen.  That extra expense is worth it--I get to spend time with my guests and enjoy the party, and don't have to face a mess before bed!  That is the one gift I give myself as a hostess, and my husband appreciates it too.

I picked little sprigs of herbs to place around the house.  Very fragrant.

We serve the food buffet style and everyone will come to the table with their plate and wine glass.  We put salt and pepper on the tables, a few bottles of wine and a jug of water, then it's serve-yourself style.

The harvest on party day.

Ina's corn salad was a bit hit!  This is going into my party recipe rotation!
The pork loins were marinated in orange juice and honey and served with gremolata, also a huge hit.  The gremolata was made with Italian parsley, mint, garlic, olive oil, plus the zests of a few lemons and oranges.  I felt it was a bit too strong so I added some Parmesan cheese to mellow it out.  It was a winner that is going into the party recipe rotation too.  In fact, all these recipes are.  This recipe, the corn salad and the dessert were all new to me.  It may sound risky to do that, but I've had pretty good success.  More often, like this dinner, I'll find recipes I'll want to make again and again. I really do recommend Ojai's Table.

Wedge salads are back!  They look beautiful on the buffet table and everyone loves them.

A selection of hand knitted shawls to pass out when the sun goes down and the weather gets cool.
"Sun, stone, drought, silence and solitude: these are the five ingredients that create the ideal habitat for the olive tree."


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  1. I love your idea of having shawls on hand for the cool evening - how thoughtful. What a lovely setting for a party.

  2. What a beautiful post kristen : I would love to attend one of oyur party : everything looks so nice...your friends are lucky people to knw you !!!your idea of giving shawls to your friends when the weather gets cooler is such a sweet attention !!
    Wishing you a lovely day,

  3. Beautiful post! Being Italian, from Sicily too I can only agree on the olive tree. I love your selection of shawls. A wonderful friend of mine used to have a clothing line (!?) adorned with crochet shawls available to her guests.But she was living in a castle like house and the terrace was huge..... Thank you for being such an inspiration, Kristen, I'm always delighted by your creations.

  4. Thank you so much Daffy, Isabelle and Asteride! I love getting your comments and very happy you enjoyed the post.

  5. Beautiful post, beautiful party.


  6. I think it's so great that you host so many parties. I love seeing the photos and especially seeing what you will be serving. I don't only come to your blog for the knitting:)

  7. Beautiful party. Buffet style is my go to for entertaining. It allows me a chance to catch my breath and they can help themselves. I applaud your idea of having a woman to assist, so you can mingle with your guests. The menu sounds lovely. I love Ina Garten’s recipes. The shawls are a nice touch when the sun goes down.


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