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Casual Summer Hosting:

Tips and Finds



 

The long days of Summer are typically my favorite for hosting. Guests inevitably linger well after dinner for drinks and conversation, their sense of time betrayed by the late hour of sundown. Hosting is my love language. I think I inherited that trait from my Grandma Jeanne, who was famous for her lavish Maryland crab feasts. Her formal dinner parties were well attended by esteemed and interesting guests. Despite being unable to swim, she kept an immaculate pool for festive Summer soirées. This Summer would have been a tough one for Grandma Jeanne and has been a tough one for me, challenged to connect without speaking my love language. This week, I thought I would share some of my tips and Summer 2020 finds for hosting a casual supper - in the spirit of sending a little love from our house to yours.


Image Above: Tobacco Leaf Tin Plate from Biscuit Home


When I plan a dinner party, I start with the meal. Growing up, my Mom taught me to make something familiar when hosting guests so you don't end up ordering a pile of pizzas when a dinner experiment fails. To guarantee a hit, I stick to a handful of favorite recipe resources. In Callie's Biscuits and Southern Traditions, Heirloom Recipes from Our Family Kitchen, Charleston's biscuit queen, Carrie Morey, shares her favorite family recipes. It is a must-read for any Southern chef. The slow cooker pulled pork with vinegar-based BBQ sauce is our personal favorite and always a crowd pleaser.


Image Above: Callie's Biscuits and Southern Traditions, Heirloom Recipes from Our Family Kitchen


The newest staple in our library is Cúrate, Authentic Spanish Food from an American Kitchen by Katie Button, featuring recipes from her wonderful Asheville restaurant. This book makes it surprisingly simple to cook Spanish dishes at home, like delicious Patatas Bravas with Allioli and Confit Piquillo Peppers.


Image Above: Cúrate, Authentic Spanish Food from an American Kitchen


I'm also fortunate to have an extensive collection of recipes from my Mother and Mother-In-Law stored in my recipe tin. Calvin and I both grew up in households operated by women who could cook the heck out of a meal. The advantages of this legacy aren't lost on us. Pulling a card from this box is like betting on a sure thing. It houses the secrets to my family's "funeral chicken" and Calvin's family's Sunday roast.


Image Above: Recipe tin from Rifle Paper Co

 

Next, I plan drinks. I firmly believe that you never scrimp on booze for guests. I suggest forming a good relationship with your local wine shop. There are a lot of fantastic, budget friendly wine options and a good wine shop can help you make a selection for your meal at your desired price point. When we're hunting a great value, we often target something from Washington State. Due to the unrelenting heat this Summer, we have been enjoying a lot of white wines served in my current glassware obsession - mint green stemware from Estelle Colored Glass, a business created by another South Carolina woman who was inspired by her grandmother.


Image Above: Mint Green Stemware from Estelle Colored Glass


For non-alcoholic beverages, I like to serve sun tea or water infused with whatever we have on hand - citrus, herbs, cucumber. This year we've been getting a lot of use out of our iconic water bottle from Blenko Glass Company. Everybody's Grandma has one and I'm now fully prepared to be a Grandma someday.


Image Above: 384 Water Bottle from Blenko Glass Company

 

Setting the table became my responsibility around the age of seven or eight. Mom taught me the correct placement of plates, glasses, and cutlery and put me to work. I took great pride in the work - rushing around the garden with shears, selecting greenery for centerpieces. I don't think she was anticipating that level of commitment. When Grandma Jeanne visited, she would follow behind me with various critiques. She taught me to use the knuckle of my index finger to ensure all place settings were spaced evenly from the table's edge. She taught me how to properly fold a napkin and that you can't go wrong with hemstitch linen. At the time, I recall resenting the feedback. How dare she question the Martha Stewart of Second Grade! Now, when I'm putting the final touches on a tablescape for guests, I find myself frantically circling the dining room, shoving plates with my knuckles until they are perfectly even. This Summer, I've been shoving around a lot of East Fork Pottery, made in the Blue Ridge Mountains. They released their Lapis color and it has been the perfect addition to round out our casual Summer tabletop collection. These dishes are our go-to for breakfast, lunch, and dinner - colorful, beautifully made, durable, and machine washable.


Image Above: Multi-color plates and bowls from East Fork Pottery

 

To our friends and family: we miss you at our table and hope to spend many long, relaxing evenings together soon. In the meantime - eat your BBQ, drink your white wine, and be merry!

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