Gifted Hostess Series, episode one

February 05, 2016

I'm fortunate to know many gifted hostesses who know how to throw terrific parties of all kinds--big and small, casual and formal.  But whatever their entertaining style, all great hostesses have one thing in common:  their guests have a good time.  Readers often tell me they are afraid to entertain--and it's not the work they are afraid of but the fear that their parties will be no fun!  So what makes a good party?  I think most of us would say good food, a well-stocked bar, interesting guests, with music and decorations being a big bonus.  But that's way too general.  This post begins a new entertaining series showcasing some fantastic hostesses, sharing their specific tips with menus, recipes and style hints that you can incorporate into your own party giving.

The hostess sets the tone for the evening.  If she is calm and genuinely happy that you've come, then the party has a 100% chance of being a success.  The only way I'm able to keep calm is if I'm organized and have not taken on more than I can handle. For the menu, I allow one difficult dish and everything else has to be fairly easy. And if I've learned anything from hosting 100-plus parties, it's to do as much as possible ahead of time.  I know I've got to do some kitchen duties while the guests are here, but EVERYTHING possible has been prepped before hand.  I didn't invite my guests over for them to wonder where I am, only to have me emerge from the kitchen pink-faced and frazzled from cooking!  Lately, I've been hiring a kitchen helper, and what a Godsend, but that's a recent gift I give myself.  Kitchen help doesn't mean my menu changes or that I still don't prep everything I can;  it simply gives me an extra hand while serving and someone to do the dreaded clean up.  Money well spent, and even my husband agrees with that.

I'm happy to kick off this series with one of my favorite hostesses, Rene.  You've met her on this blog many times.  She has a gorgeous apartment in the city with a view to die for.  (San Francisco is the city, the lovely city by the bay, of which she has a beautiful view).  But tonight's party is at her vineyard home in the foothills of the coastal mountain range, close to where I live.   I love to be entertained there!  The occasion was the January meeting for our "party group", a monthly gathering  of friends that meets the 2nd Friday of every month.  We've been doing this for close to a year now and it's been a great success, but more about that another time.  For now, enjoy some pictures, a fabulous (and fabulously easy) ice cream recipe and a few of Rene's entertaining tips.

Another table was set up in the living room.

Our Friday night parties are pot-luck, with the hostess making the main course and the rest of us with the sides. Just before dinner we get to work in the kitchen, and below, the buffet is set.

Come with me, let's snoop around the house!

Look what I found in the guest room--Kaffe's Afghan KAL!
Rene is an accomplished knitter and quilter who loves color!



Mini Gougere Puffs
Crab Spread

(This was my contribution.  I served 1/2 cup portions in tiny glass mugs.  A hit!)

Beef Bourguignon, from San Francisco a la Carte
Fresh Peas
Fresh Green Beans
Carrot Puree
Noodle Casserole

Fresh Berries
(The BEST lemon ice cream!)

Take away tips:
  • A bowl of lemons, or any seasonal fruit, makes a beautiful centerpiece.
  • Cluster candles in decorative votives on a platter for a glowing focal point.
  • You don't always need a full bar; Rene and Brian served a selection of wines, and spoiled us by serving several selections from their own vineyard.
 Please click here to leave a comment.

Come back next week for my Valentine's Party.


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  1. Love the idea of this new series. Can't wait for more! Real eye candy during a drab part of the year (in southern Ontario anyway).

  2. Dear Kristen

    You know by now how I/ we your blog followers love your articles. It had to be you to come up with the latest, the 'Gifted Hostess Series'. Can't wait for the next episode.
    Thank you for brightening up my day.


  3. I want to be friends with your friends! ;)
    This looks like a fun series!


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