Make it colorful and fun: alternatives for cheese boards, knives, serving bowls. I have a friend who grew up in England. One afternoon last spring, we sat out on her patio overlooking the valley with a light breeze blowing over our shoulders. We were having tea served in exquisitely painted china that her father collected decades ago, some light crackers, and slices of cheese served on matching silver plates. So elegant and light – so her. Later this summer, I visited another friend. We sat in her living room as her kids chased each other around in the backyard with a water hose. As they squealed, we chatted over tumblers of wine coolers, crackers and cheese served on dinner plates. We all have different ways to entertain, all different styles. Even for the friend who’s coming by for just a moment, we offer a little liquid refreshment and/or something to…

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Enjoy the relaxed pace and informality of a timeless continental style. One of the reasons I became a restaurateur is that I love to entertain. And, one of my favorite ways to entertain guests follows the Italian Aperitivo style: informal and wholly intimate. It’s a time to invite everyone – it can be a group of only friends after work or add family and have everyone all at once. This style is not about impressing people with your silverware and fine china. It’s all about the spirit of the gathering; making everyone feel welcomed and together as one happy group. It’s really a very simple way to socialize over light cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. Aperitivo is also not about impressing anyone with your kitchen prowess. Very often, Italians serve prepared foods that they’ve picked up at the local market to make it easier. Aperitivo itself is more of a prelude…

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The mystery of poaching eggs is lifted. I love poached eggs. My mom and dad used to have them with toast just about every Sunday morning. It’s a fond food memory for me. I think more people would eat them at home were it not for all the mystery of how to actually make a perfect poached egg (and that most people think it’s almost impossible!). Ask a dozen people and you will get a dozen answers. The problem is a lot of people are just guessing and the reality is, there’s no real “recipe” for the perfect poached egg. It’s like boiling potatoes – you either do it this way or that. I found this idea from Epicurious.com. They call it their “foolproof” method, and I have to agree. It’s so simple and works every time. Check my video to see how easy this is. First step, pour water…

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The secret: estate sales, flea markets, thrift stores. And they’re fun! For some folks, having the perfect set of home entertaining “ware” is a matter of inheritance. If you are one of the lucky ones to have inherited crystal, china, and silver–family heirlooms–then you have my envy. Not me, not my mother. She didn’t want anything that my grandmother had. To be honest, I have no idea what my mother passed up and certainly don’t know what happened to those pieces. My parents preferred a very casual form of home entertaining, so the thought of polishing silver and washing crystal and fine china was just too much of a hassle. I get it.  I have great friends who love to entertain like that – no silver, crystal, etc. and they throw some of the best parties around! One couple not far from me—celebrity film writers—own the biggest collection of mismatched…

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Bringing you 2 fabulous spritz drinks to help you keep cool during California’s dog days of summer-early fall. It’s not the end of summer in California until we endure those final “dog days” through early fall. It’ll be boiling here until Halloween! Sad for most kids because they’ve started school by now. Nice for us adults because we can sneak a dip into the pool with a nice spritzer before the kids get home from school! When entertaining at home, we look for smooth, refreshing adult beverages for our guests. The easiest and most refreshing are the spritzes; a simple combination of wine (sparkling or not) and soda.  You can add liquors or bitters to alter the flavors. They’re really the easiest of cocktails to mix. You can watch me mix the Aperol Spritz here on my video. Fun fact: Why are the last of the hottest days of the…

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Nothing fancy and so very easy; you can even serve this recipe at room temperature! A long time ago I learned that the tomato is a fruit and not a vegetable. So, for years now I have been enjoying the expressions I get when someone asks me to name my favorite fruit and I say “tomato.” Okay, so I’m siding with the botanists here because nutritionists still categorize it as a vegetable. Maybe it’s both! Uh oh, now I’ve just triggered a new conversation that’ll take at least an hour or so for people to Google on their phones. You know me and how much I love triggering conversations! It’s an art! Seriously, though – fruit or veggie – the tomato is lovely to behold and sweet to eat no matter the variety – especially when it’s in season like it is now. I love them on anything – pasta,…

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With so many options, designs, and ideas sometimes it’s hard to settle on a choice – unless you have some professional help. They say that if you really know what you want in life, making decisions is easy.  But, that theory doesn’t always apply evenly to all things. Picture this: you move to a new home, and you want everything fresh. So, you start with wine glasses. Seems simple enough, right? You go to a store where you know the selection will be excellent, and suddenly you realize – oh my gosh, there are so many! How do I choose? The problem for all of us is that we can’t always picture in our mind what kind of dishes we want for daily use, what style of silverware, table service, or even shape of wine glasses! How about those wine glasses? Go to your favorite store and you will find…

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Spare yourself the last-minute run-around – get these 8 handy home bar tools now.    Next to food, drinks are a main hospitality ‘go-to’ especially if you plan to get serious with home entertaining. Of course, I’m talking specifically about adult mixed drinks. Whether you plan to mix something as complex as a Commonwealth (with 71 different ingredients!) or as simple as a Negroni (equal parts, 3 ingredients), you need some essential bar tools. Before you wave me off and say, “Fran – I’ll improvise,” think about all the tools you have for preparing and serving food. As my dad always said, “You’ve got to have the right tools for the right job.” You wouldn’t forget spoons or forks, would you? Serving plates and bowls? How about cookware and a set of wooden cooking spoons?  We all have our ‘must haves’ in our kitchens. So, why is it any different…

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You’ll be ready for just about anything if you keep these items in stock at home at all times. I keep my pantry well-stocked at all times. I owe that habit to years in the restaurant business. One of the chef’s assistants always ran a thorough checklist of the pantry at the opening and closing of the restaurant. It would be unthinkable to open the doors with a ‘short’ pantry. The reasons for keeping a well-stocked pantry at home are not so different than for a restaurant. At a restaurant, it’s a matter of efficiency. If you run out of ingredients, you’ll have disappointed customers. At home, let’s say you have guests coming over for lunch or dinner. Do you want to run out of groceries just as you start cooking? If you keep these 7 items in your pantry you’ll be able to create all kinds of meals at…

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If you love frozen grapes, you’re going to absolutely swoon when you try this idea. One of my favorite summer treats is frozen grapes. I love them, don’t you? They’re so easy to do – clean them, dry them, place them on a dish or pan, stick them into a freezer and then once frozen just store in a Ziploc! They’re really a great snack on hot days like the ones we’ve been having lately here in Beverly Hills. Moms all over the world freeze grapes for their families. You can take them on camping trips, to the beach, to a game, or just have them around the house for whenever. My mom experimented with other fruits you can freeze, like watermelons, bananas, and applesauce. Freezing fruits is a fabulous snack for the kids, but how about a frozen treat just for the adults? I found an answer on JulieBlanner.com,…

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La Dolce Vita with a Negroni cocktail recipe: gin, Campari, Vermouth and a twist of Orange peel. Even if you’ve only been following me for a little while, you know that I love anything Italian and I’ve been very fortunate to travel to many different parts of that magical country.  Although, I must admit that I favor Tuscany for its food and wine. During my visits, I have met some wonderful friends and made the most incredible food memories. Once, I spent several days with some friends in the tiny town of Savigno, Italy where I learned how to make pasta. To be a true pasta master takes enormous dedication and ‘time on task’ or practice – practice – practice.  There is no shortcut for experience. Maybe it should come as no surprise that I’ve also collected some great recipes and cooking ideas during my travels there. I love all…

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A popular ornamental plant is our favorite home flower decoration – hydrangea! The name “hydrangea” may or may not ring any bells. But if ornamental horticulture happens to be your “thing” or if you have ever seen the plant and its distinctive bloom, you might ask, “What’s that flower?” You may see hydrangeas at florists, but it’s also just as likely this favorite ornamental plant already lives somewhere in your garden. It’s a favorite of landscapers and garden hobbyists because they are hardy plants, the blooms are huge and last a long time, and it has a long flowering season (from early spring to late autumn). The best part is that the cut flowers look fantastic in a vase in just about any home. My mother had hydrangeas in the front and backyard. I’d cut the blooms and stick them into vases. We were surprised by how long they lasted. …

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