Or, “Do I really have to write that?” I always talk about entertaining at home but what about when you’ve been invited to someone else’s home for a dinner party or an afternoon in the back yard?  Do you need to send a Thank You note (I’ll get to email later) or is just saying ‘thank you’ as you leave enough?  Expressing your gratitude at the end of the day or evening is critical but so is taking the time to actually write a thank you note later and here’s why. Think about how much time you put into planning and executing a gathering at your own home.  It doesn’t matter if it’s just family, business colleagues or your best friends who are the ones on the invite list.  You expend effort and energy on the planning of the guest list, the menu, cooking or picking up from your favorite…

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4 is not a number no matter how many chairs are in your dining room! My kitchen table seats only 3 and my dining room table has only 6 chairs.  So, how many plates do I really need?  I need a lot more than 6!  I can honestly say that I get asked that question by almost every client I have.  The answer is that everyone needs at least 10 even if you only seat 6 at your table and here’s why: First, you will sometimes choose to use some regular plates (not serving pieces) just for serving the food that you’ve made.  Perhaps the meal is more casual and you don’t feel the need to pull out your platters and, whatever you’ve created will fit just fine on a dinner plate.  That’s why if your table is like mine and you’re serving 6 you will need more plates. Second,…

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Do the Wine Math: It’ll save your party every time. I get asked a lot about how much wine is needed for a party and my answer is always the same: do the Wine Math. No, it’s not New Math which is very complicated and completely unnecessary. It’s Old Math where we use addition, multiplication and a very small amount of division. All you need are some numbers to start. Wine math is just that simple. First you have to know how many glasses are in a bottle. Then you need to figure out the kind of party you’re having, how long it will last, the number of people that are coming, and exactly who you’ve invited (meaning what type of wine drinkers they are). Once you figure all of that out, it’s a very quick calculation. Of course, if you’re having a break-up pity party with just you and…

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More important, how to I obtain it? I often talk about sophisticated living and how everyone can live their lives that way.  But, I think many people are confused about what I mean and how to achieve it in their daily routines. Most people assume that to live a sophisticated lifestyle you have to have a lot of money and spend it lavishly.  I’m here to tell you that sophisticated living has absolutely nothing to do with how rich you are or your spending habits.  Instead, it has everything to do with putting effort into what you choose to surround yourself with – the items you touch on a daily basis, the things that you use not only with your family but also with your friends and colleagues when you entertain.  It has to do with everything that lives behind the cabinet doors in your home. Your cabinets should be…

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An adult drink with champagne that only looks fruity sweet (it isn’t). It’s summer and that means outdoor or indoor fun with friends and family and usually in a group.  I always recommend greeting your guests with an adult beverage when they arrive.  A summer punch sets the tone for the party and lets everyone know that you want them to have a great time. The easiest way to serve an adult summer punch to a group (with very little effort from you-the host) is with a batch cocktail or fun punch.  Punch can be colorful and is definitely made ahead of your guests’ arrival which takes a lot of the stress out of making sure that first glass of ‘welcome’ is ready when they walk through the door. Set up a beverage area with the punch bowl, cups or small multi-colored glasses and, of course, napkins.  Add flowers and…

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This is the little party treat that will make a big splash at your next gathering. There are so many different ways to entertain guests: with mixed drinks, fun appetizers, and tasty finger snacks. This idea is an instant party all by itself: champagne jello shots. When I first tasted these at a friend’s party a few years back, I was genuinely surprised. The taste is just like a little shot of champagne, with a touch of sweetness that will make just about anyone at your party smile. They’re so light and pretty. And, they’re incredibly easy to make. Ingredients 2½ cups of champagne separated. In my video where I go through the recipe, I used Gruet Brut Rose. I recommend a sweeter variety. Dry champagne may be my preferred beverage but not for jello shots – it will be just too dry. 3 envelopes, Knox Gelatin 3 tablespoons, granulated…

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It’s a quick home recipe for roasted asparagus that’s perfect for any meal. I love the taste of fresh asparagus. And, the best way I know how to prepare them is roasting them with this very simple recipe. The first tip: read my earlier post and video on selecting, prepping and storing asparagus. Yes, there’s a little trick to it, but only very little. The big reveal is that we peel the skin of the lower stalk of the asparagus spears. This way you get to enjoy more of the asparagus instead of snapping the ends off and tossing them away. Less waste, and more roasted veggie to enjoy. Roasted vegetables are the simplest and tastiest way to make a perfect side dish for any meal. The best vegetables to roast are the ones that are in season and for me, when it’s Spring, that means asparagus. Second tip for…

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My three most favorite types of citrus zest: curly, sliced, and fine grated. I’m sure most of you have already run into “citrus zest” as an ingredient in a recipe. I can think of several mixed drinks that call for it as a garnish. You will find it in everything from appetizers to desserts. The zest of citrus fruit (mostly oranges, limes, and lemons) is the outermost colored part of the rind. This is what contains the oils that give the flavor. When preparing zest, you want to stay away from the bitter pith or white inner layer. What does zesting do for dishes? The best way I can describe it is that it adds a wonderful flavor dimension to just about any recipe. Citrus is one of the acid flavors in the four fundamental elements of good cooking- Salt/Fat/Acid/Heat – by Samin Nosrat chef and James Beard Award winning…

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Often overlooked by you, but not by your guests. As my mom used to say, “A little soap goes a long way.” I’m not sure this was what she was thinking of but the sentiment is good.  Checking for that little bar in the powder room isn’t usually the first thing you think of when you’re hosting a group but it definitely needs to be on the last-minute checklist. I prefer small bar soaps for the powder room because they can be changed frequently and will always look fresh. They don’t drip like liquid soap dispensers often do – making a complete mess, and they’re not as clumsy as large soap bars. That’s why I don’t like to use them no matter how pretty they are. I’ve even seen a clever dispenser that dropped little flakes of soap on your hand.  The soap flake idea is novel, but the flakes…

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An easy recipe for shrimp cocktail that’s tasty and lovely to look at. I have never met a “starter” I didn’t love. There are so many great ways kick-off an evening of fun with your friends or family but, for me, there’s just something about a great shrimp cocktail before dinner that sounds perfect. It’s one of the reasons that you’ll find it on every appetizer menu for the big steak houses around the neighborhood. Some restaurants serve them simply prepared and some serve them fancier (like when they serve the shrimp on top of dry ice so that it comes to the table ‘smoking’) but in the end it’s all about the perfectly poached shrimp and the flavors of the sauces the shrimp are served with. It’s actually much easier than you think to create the absolutely perfect shrimp cocktail every time.  One of the significant advantages of poached…

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What you need to know about the top 10 essential tools for your kitchen. A client of mine just bought a second home near a lake. She faced the same problem all cooks face when stocking a new kitchen – what are the basics necessary to prepare meals for her and her family?  What are the absolute essential kitchen tools? One of my favorite websites, Bon Appetit, posted an article titled 10 Essential Tools for Beginner Cooks. Here are my notes on the ‘Essential 10’. The first item is a 10” stainless steel skillet. “Stainless steel” because you don’t want anything that will chip, stain, or break. Personally speaking, ‘non-stick’ surfaces are a ‘non-starter’ for the “essential” list because this will be your workhorse tool. Nothing against ‘non-stick’ (I have a small one for my morning eggs) but they do need a bit of extra care to protect them from…

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At your next dinner party, try these ideas to keep a fun night really rolling. I can’t tell you how many different dinner parties I’ve attended. Maybe almost as many as I hosted? I’ve been invited to some that were absolutely fabulous events, many were really enjoyable and memorable, and everyone had a good time. Thankfully, I’ve only been to a handful that stood out for the wrong reasons. But as it turns out, those are the ones that taught me the most about what dinner party guests really care about most. First off, dinner parties are all about the gathering—who you invited, be they friends, family, or colleagues, and why. Maybe it’s a seasonal thing. Perhaps it’s a birthday, anniversary, or another type of celebration. But whatever it is, and whoever comes, don’t forget that it’s all about the sharing: food, beverages, and conversation. If you put on a…

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