Tag Archives: easy entertaining

Party Hosting Tips From Abroad

Hello, friends. The crocuses are blooming in the Midwest which means that spring is finally here. In the weeks to come, I’ll be taking our parties into the garden. In anticipation of springtime gatherings, today I am sharing some of our favorite party hosting tips from France, Italy and beyond….

It was through my travels abroad that I developed my love of entertaining. In every European country I explored as a young adult, local families welcomed me into their homes and shared food with me. That generosity and kindness was life changing.

When I returned to the United States, I continued to study the food and traditions of foreign cultures with the goal of adding more intimacy and creativity to my own gatherings. I am happy to share some of my favorite tips with you.

France: Get out the table linens, even for ordinary dinners.

When visiting my friend Mildred in Paris, I am always amazed that every morning fresh linens are brought out to cover the dining table. It makes even the simplest meals seem chic. For example, one night we ordered takeout sushi which she served on ceramic trays over a vintage chinoiserie table silk. It was impeccable. So pillage your grandmothers chest of tablecloths and set a lovely meal for your guests.

Denmark: Light candles to create a comforting environment for loved ones.

Creating coziness is what the Danes refer to it as “hygge”. It can be accomplished by putting some logs on the fire, placing a throw on the sofa and cozy pillows on the floor, and filling your dining table with the soft glow candle light. My friend Astrid is a master at creating hygge. Upon entering her home, she offers guests a pair of slippers and always has warm blankets to snuggle in. When I sit down for a cup of coffee with her, I want to stay put for hours. That is hospitality.

Here is more inspiration on creating coziness at home.

Italy: Always have two bottles of wine on the table, and two in the kitchen ready to go.

Living in Italy was a feast for the senses. I learned so much from the families I visited and it was a true challenge to select my favorite entertaining tip from a culture built around the dinner table (I could write an entire book). However, one thing that has truly stayed with me was my host country’s reverence for wine – from growing and harvesting grapes, to the art of wine making, to sharing toasts with friends. Wine was a supporting character at dinner and it made every occasion a celebration.

Find more inspiration from Italy here.  

Spain: Have friends over for shared tapas, rather than a full meal.

Nothing can stress a host out like trying to execute a perfect dinner party. Tapas are the perfect way to avoid this trap. Traveling through Spain, some of my family’s favorite treats have been premiere packaged seafood served with vermouth or wine. Just open the can and serve! From tuna in olive oil, to white anchovies in vinegar (not the kind you find on pizza in the U.S.), to razor clams in brine – it is all delicious and can be found at specialty grocers throughout the States. Pair them with a loaf of bread and some olives and host a low-fuss cocktail party. For vegetarian and vegan friends, add a plate of grilled eggplant with olive oil and sea salt or a simple heirloom tomato gazpacho. Easy.

For more ideas on tapas, check out this post on my travels in Madrid.

This week I am off to New England. My travels will take me to Boston, Massachusetts, and Kennebunkport and Portand, Maine. I’ll be sharing photos on Instagram! Happy spring.




A (Beyond) Easy Cocktail Party Inspired by Madrid, Spain

Hey friends! So we’ve made it through the holidays (whew!) and now, for those of us who live in cold weather climates, we’re entering the doldrums of winter….which may or may not last until mid-May. To keep our spirits bright during these grey, wintry days, our January posts will be devoted to comforting, nourishing foods that keep us well fed, as well as simple activities that help us connect with family and friends.

For this post, I’m putting together a cocktail party that is SO EASY to execute you have to try it. The inspiration comes from my travels in Madrid, Spain.

Madrid is a beautiful city with great art and culture, beautiful architecture, and delicious food. The nightlife is both inviting and exciting! Once while in the city, my girl friend and I were eating at a restaurant near Plaza Mayor when we were whisked away by a group of local gals who took us on a dancing adventure until the wee hours of the morning. They remained our friends throughout our visit, meeting us out for drinks and introducing us to more people each time. This type of hospitality is not unusual in Madrid. There is a sense that everyone is welcome, and certainly the more the merrier.

In neighborhoods throughout Madrid, once the sun sets the streets come alive with late night wanderers for whom the bars serve up drinks and tapas until sunrise. My favorite pubs in Madrid are the Siderias or cider bars. There, you can experience one of the best culinary pairings I’ve ever tasted in my life – cider and blue cheese! These flavor companions are the foundation of this cocktail party.

The Party

Theme: Spanish tapas

Featured Flavors: Hard cider and blue cheese

Number of Guests: The more the merrier

Advanced Notice: None. This party is so easy that you could whip it together in minutes!

Invitation Type: Simple text or phone call

The food for this party requires no prep – simply unpackage and serve! It also doesn’t require a large space – we just spread our food across a coffee table and invited guests sit on floor cushions as we shared appetizers in a casual and cozy setting. Our menu consisted of:

Tapas: blue cheese montaditos (small, open-face sandwiches), mixed olives, dried fruits, nuts, cocktail shrimp, and pickled veggies. For the vegans, I substituted Treeline aged cashew cheese (which is earthy and delicious).

Drinks: Hard cider and Spanish red wine

Blue cheese tapas





Table of food

What could be easier than this? The holidays are over, but we don’t have to put entertaining on hold. And we certainly don’t have to make entertaining difficult. So pick up a baguette, some blue cheese, and a bottle of cider on your next trip to the store…and then invite some pals to share.