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Summer Entertaining: The Last-Minute Dinner Party

We asked some team members to share how they pull off summer entertaining with panache instead of panicking. Jennifer, a writer at the global support office, is the first in this series. She describes herself as an adventurous, independent woman who will always sacrifice sleep in the name of fun. (Isn’t that what coffee’s for?)

I have dinner parties because I like my friends. They’re smart and they make me laugh. Ostensibly my friends come to my dinner parties because they like me too…but I suspect a large motivator is really the food! Entertaining really is that simple of an equation to me: good friends + tasty food + refreshing drinks (and hopefully a decently clean house).

The “host deserves to have a good time” philosophy is important to me so even if I’m throwing a last-minute gathering, I try to work out the details ahead of time so I can truly relax and enjoy the time I have with my friends. My kitchen is separated from the rest of my house so the more I can prepare ahead of time, the better, and serving the meal family style or on a buffet helps too.

I love experimenting with new recipes so I’m always trying something new out on my friends but my typical M.O. is to serve the best of what’s in season. Searching Whole Foods Market® recipes by ingredient is really helpful to find new inspiration.  I participate in a local CSA  farm share program so it’s easy for me to showcase the fantastic organic produce I receive in recipes like Minted Orzo and Zucchini Salad and Cherry-Cucumber Coolers.

I like to change it up with little surprises. Sometimes it takes the form of a special treat, like sending my friends home with boxes of homemade candy or jars of my garlic quick pickles. Other times I have fun coming up with a menu theme, like “foods that start with P”: Prosecco peach purée cocktails (aka a Bellini); pasta with peas, pancetta and Parmigiano Reggiano; poached pears and panna cotta.  It’s fun to incorporate music as a theme too, like hosting a cocktail party where the cocktail ingredients such as coriander, lemongrass, hyssop and galangal are track names from MF Doom’s instrumental Special Herbs series.

The main thing is, I try to keep it easy and I don’t let much get in the way of having fun. I mean, that’s the whole point, isn’t it?

What inspires you to host a summer dinner party and how do you keep it low-stress?