Liza Utter's Tips for Entertaining
Today on The Daily Meal
Some hosts are born with the entertaining gene. Week after week, they can put together a delicious menu, create a stunning table, and bring together friends from various parts of life for an evening where the chatter continues late into the night and glasses never seem to go empty. The rest of us are left wondering: How do they do it?
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a newbie host, there is always something to learn when it comes to stress-free entertaining with style. That’s why celebrity restaurateur Liza Utter is launching a new series of classes around the nation entitled “Life of the Party.” Utter has a unique talent when it comes to bringing together people and making them feel welcome. In just hours, one night a month, Liza will take hosts of all kinds and help them decipher the secrets of how to host a party — and help each guest discover their own signature style.
So how does she become inspired? We recently sat down with the entertaining ingenue to talk about hosting with style, get a peek of the party essentials in her pantry, and chat about the kind of gathering she’d throw if guests were coming over at the last minute.
With the class, you seek to inspire women an encourage them to find their own, stress-free style of entertaining. When it comes to hosting your own parties, what is one of your "Liza signatures?"
Inspiration! My parties are inspired by my life — where I've been and what I've seen in magazines, recipe books, you name it. A color can inspire me. Last year I had a party with big giant paper lanterns in a gorgeous celadon green. Why? Because I saw the most beautiful green apples at the farmers' market.
The best part about creating your own style is that you have the freedom to mix it up: You can try anything. My advice is to stay inspired and excited about entertaining. This is what will make a lasting impression on your guests as they walk out the door. My new class helps hosts tap into the part of themselves that gets excited about life and then teaches them to apply that to entertaining.
We don’t entertain today like our parents or grandparents did, or according to the "rules" as published by Emily Post. Instead, invites might come via email or text as we squeeze in parties into our busy schedule. What is one mistake or misconception you see modern-day hosts making?
Considering that anything goes these days, when it comes to entertaining, you would think it would be a huge relief of pressure for the modern-day host/hostess. But I find that this can bring on even more stress as they are not as confident without the do's and don'ts. That leaves more and more people opting to make a reservation to avoid the pain of taking the time to figure it all out (not to mention the physical and time demands it takes to throw even a small dinner party). And I get it — I have two small children, a husband, a dog, and a hungry pea hen who just adopted us. Now more than ever, people who think about entertaining are searching for some guidance, so redefining what hosting means has never been so important.
Some of the stress of entertaining stems from worrying about whether your guests will feel at home. What are some simple and effective ways a host can put both him/herself and the guests at ease?
A party's success starts at the top. If the host feels relaxed and comfortable then their guests will as well. That is why this class is so important and relevant to the modern day host. It’s a chance to shed those undermining fears, insecurities, stresses, and anxieties and replace the nagging panic attacks with a new and fun approach to hosting. After all, it doesn't matter how tasty the food is or how beautiful your table top looks. It will be you that is most remembered long after the party ends! Everyone has the potential to be a fantastic, knockout host — it's just a matter of looking at things a little differently. There is nothing better than seeing the light bulbs go off in people heads. It makes me very happy.
Part of being prepared for entertaining is having the right essentials on hand. What foodstuffs for entertaining do you always have in your pantry?
Having things on hand is a big part of being a relaxed host anytime! I’ve always got:
• Truffle oil: Because it makes even scrambled eggs for a crowd sexy!
• Coarse Kosher salt: I use Morton's to add flavor and a little pizzazz by taking a pinch and squeezing it between my fingers as I sprinkle it over the top of whatever I have prepared. The coarse grind adds some glimmer that I think makes the food pop.
• Frozen whole wheat frozen tortillas: They make for the perfect thin crust pizzini (mini pizza) appetizers.
• Hard, dry cheese: Like Parmigiano, Asiago, and Pecorino. These are essential for my last minute entertaining: Grate some Parmigiano and you can make a cheese pizzini with the tortillas or slice it and you got a lovely pairing for a glass of wine. Or, toss it with some greens, drizzle truffle oil on top, and you have turned an everyday salad into something special.
• A couple of cans of chickpeas: Makes whipping up homemade hummus in minutes a breeze.
• And I’ll add everyone should have a set of 6-8 white cloth napkins that can double as cocktail napkins. Oh, it's so lovely to pick up a cloth cocktail napkin. They feel luxurious and they don't stick to your fingers when they are wet. Serve a glass of wine, cheese, put out your napkins, and you'll be hosting like a pro! And I couldn’t entertain without my mini Cuisinart chopper. It saves me so much valuable time. From chopping mint, parsley, cilantro, garlic, shallots — it even makes hummus.
If you were hosting a party this weekend, what would the theme be? What would you serve?
I think I am actually hosting a party this weekend [Editor’s Note: It's Friday. You THINK?!) Anyways, I’m already inspired by the bounty of fresh fruit and vegetables exploding from farmers’ markets. I love apricots, so I might start with an apricot Bellini and a grilled apricot pizzini with Manchego cheese drizzled with aged balsamic. My tablecloth? White, with orange and green accessories like napkins, rings, plates. I would have a giant bowl of fresh summer fruit in the middle of the table and tons of little votive candles. I’d serve my Confetti Couscous and add summer fruits like peaches, apricots, plums, or mangoes. See? If you are having fun and are inspired, it’s not so much about how “perfect” everything is (in fact, sometimes it's the perfect parties that are the most boring) — it’s about what you bring to the party. Who you are, your own unique specialness, your spirit, your life — this is how you become “the life of the party!”
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