Entertain With Confidence

By Marsha Fottler.

The last two years have seen an increase in home entertaining partly because most of us have felt too poor to do anything else. Game night, Sunday brunch, cocktail party, book club, movie night, dinner for eight – we’ve all been doing it with optimism and tiny budgets. But for many young people new to living independently, the thought of inviting people over and negotiating the role of host is daunting. Well, America being the self-help nation that it is, practical solutions are on the way from Denise Vivaldo in her book The Entertaining Encyclopedia. It offers strategies and recipes from this professional Los Angeles caterer.

With color photos and drawings to reinforce the recipes and guides to successful entertaining, there’s even a full bar guide that tells an uncertain host how how many bottles of wine and glasses he or she will need for 6 guests up to 75. Vivaldo explains how much ice to buy and as well as the types of glassware to stock. Apparently, nobody ever buys enough ice.

The first part of the book is devoted to the six elements of entertaining (theme, location, decor, food, beverage, entertainment) and the second half contains recipes and kitchen tips. I tried this one and it works.

“If wax drips on a bare tabletop, use a hairdryer on low to soften the wax, then scrape it up with a credit card,” advises Vivaldo. “For linens, peel off as much wax as you can by hand, then place the cloth wax side down over the sink, pour a kettle of boiling water over the wax, then scrape the fabric with a credit card. For glass votive holders, freeze the votives overnight. Then, hold them upside down and tap on the bottom until the wax pops out.”

Here are two appetizer recipes from author Vivaldo so easy you’ll want to try them this weekend. The cocktail is divine anytime, but would be a particularly festive brunch alternative to the more common Mimosa.

Fresh Figs: Cut a dozen fresh figs in half and place cut side up on a serving dish. Spoon 1 teaspoon ricotta cheese atop each fig. Drizzle with a little honey and sprinkle with cracked black pepper.

Stuffed Mushrooms: Buy a package of frozen precooked meatballs. Thaw them and cut them half. Place inside mushroom caps and sprinkle with a little mozzarella cheese on top. Place on a baking sheet and bake in a 350-degree oven until cheese melts and meatballs are heated through, about 15 minutes.

Fruity Champagne Cocktail: 2 tablespoons chilled orange juice, 1 tablespoon chilled unsweetened pineapple juice, 1 tablespoon chilled cranberry juice, 2 dashes orange-flavored liqueur and chilled Champagne. Pour the juices and liqueur into a Champagne flute. Top with Champagne and serve immediately. For extra extravagance drop a fresh raspberry into the glass.

(The Entertaining Encyclopedia by Denise Vivaldo. Robert Rose Inc, publisher. Paperback. $24.95)

Flavors and More – February 2010

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