Isabella Blow with shoemaker Manolo Blahnik (Shutterstock)
What makes a great host? Someone who invites you! I share Isabella Blow's sentiments...
"My style icon is anybody who makes a bloody effort," said Isabella
Blow (1957 - 2007)
At this time of year we’re inundated with advice on getting through the holiday/party season sanely. Happens every year, year in year out, but are we listening? Well, here we go – more advice.
First scenario - You don’t often gather friends around a table so you make up for it by preparing nine courses. They are all small but nine, nonetheless.
Let’s face it, we’re all bored by the dégustation menu concept. A mouthful here, mouthful there and nothing big enough to really taste. By the fifth course, I’m bored. Don’t bore your friends. Keep it simple and stay with them at the table with three (at the most four) pre-prepared courses.
A plate of asparagus with vinaigrette (or beurre blanc, previous post) is a course. A slice of terrine (bought from the French guy at the market) and a few cornichons (gherkins to you) is a course. A platter of nicely sliced tomatoes, some ripped mozzarella, some basil and olive oil is a course (don’t forget the salt and garlic). A Waldorf salad is a course (think Basil Fawlty). Prosciutto and melon (or figs) is a course.
Second scenario – I was asked how I managed the numbers. Their friends and extended family gather for a sumptuous feast of turkey, ham, prawns and up to seven different vegetables and salad. (Imagine for a moment what that all looks like on the plate.) I was asked, so I replied. I suggested that I would just never offer so many choices. She looked beatifically into the distance and sighed, “Ah, but they’ve come to expect it.” TOUGH!
It’s not the last supper.
After the first course, preferably vegetal (salad), think one protein, one carb, one veg, at the most two. Sounding like a dietician? Well check it out. Once you’ve had cheese or pudding, you’ve got the five food groups covered!
And stick the food down the table for guest to help themselves and pass on. You’re not a restaurant, canteen or a pub buffet. It’s friendly to pass, it creates intimacy and helps if conversation is touchy. “Could you pass the chutney?” “Have you had the broccoli?” “I adore mushrooms.” “I shouldn’t, peas make me burp.”
Third scenario – we arrive to eight glasses set up on the bench and some delicious toast fingers of chopped egg & top-notch anchovies, another with rare beef & pickled beetroot. After some Champagne we are directed to the table while SH discreetly sets out plates on a bench and pulls a couple of boxes from the refrigerator. She plonks some peeled, grilled capsicum at the bottom of each plate, tops with a ball of pre-wrapped, prosciutto-wrapped buffalo mozzarella. A scattering of oregano leaves, olive oil and voilà. She also removes a platter of thinly sliced cooked veal from the fridge, to allow it to come to room temperature. (Sorry no image. I was too engrossed.)
Main course to the table, vitello tonnato, the veal slathered in capers and a tuna mayonnaise, with extra in a sauce boat. Grilled broccolini accompanies as well as a salad of interesting green things, varied peas, beans, strips and leaves – superb. That is it.
After cheese – one perfect Délice de Bourgogne and some candied cumquats – comes a buttery raspberry cake with cream.
A perfect lunch for a warm day. We all laughed and gossiped and pledged undying love for friendship and each other.
There was no smell of burning martyr. SH is someone who makes a “bloody effort”, and her guests don’t have to suffer for it.
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