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.
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.