Entertaining Tips for 75.4 Million Millennials

My love for entertaining began during my early years as young nurse in Boston, Los Angeles and Washington DC. I loved entertaining friends by creating thoughtful buffets on a very tight budget!  I quickly learned some very basic rules.

Tip #1 “Keep it simple until you gain confidence!” 

My very first soiree was a cheese quesadilla buffet in LA, at which I served one drink, a Tequila Sunrise.  Just imagine 24 year olds drinking tequila in the guise of a pretty red and orange drink sliding down so refreshingly!  My friends enjoyed returning time and time again for the exact same buffet, albeit with minor tweaks and subtle additions, as I grew more confident and as budget would allow. I laugh when I think back, that even as a 24 year old, I had daisies on my table seven days a week, regardless of whether or not I could afford them!  I would eat Kraft’s cheese macaroni if I had to, but I would never sacrifice my bouquet of daisies! (Age 24)

Tip #2 “The power of improvising!”  

The menu selection for one of the very first dinner parties we hosted in Washington DC as a couple, called for stuffing a chicken under the skin with “pate’de foie gras”.  I trotted across the city to a gourmet shop on my way to the hospital to purchase this ingredient I had never heard of.  When I went to pay for the Foie Gras, I practically fainted when the clerk told me it cost $50, Needless to say, I couldn’t buy it because I only had $5!  Uh, oh! Fois gras taste with a Spam budget!  The clerk suggested I substitute chicken pate’.  No one knew the difference, and it was absolutely delicious. The bigger picture was that the chicken was stuffed under the skin! (Age 27)

Tip #3 “Go with the flow!”  

My husband spent an hour creating an Italian buffet centerpiece by artfully carving a super large heirloom tomato and stuffing it with 25 carefully rolled sardines, intertwined with a parsley mixture. Our piece of art was immediately scooped up and eaten in its entirety by the first guest who arrived, before any of the other 30 guests walked in the door!  Stunned, I thought quickly and substituted a couple of artichokes from the kitchen to fill the hole that was left on the platter. It looked beautiful. I learned how to “resuscitate” the art of the platter! And there began my journey to figuring out how to “make it nice” and how to “make the ordinary extraordinary”.  And ps, did I mention that that guest ended up asking for water for the rest of the night?!  (Age 29)

Tip #4, “Think ahead!” 

How many times, have I selected a menu and shopped for the ingredients, only to realize while cooking, that I didn’t have a zester or the double boiler?  Or, I’ve selected a menu that requires three of the same pans when I’ve only had one. Or, ..here’s a good one…….loaded the cookie sheets up with six lobsters only to realize that they don’t fit into the oven and you can’t cook them all at once! Plan your menu, then take kitchen inventory.  You may not always be cooking at home!  If you don’t have the right cooking equipment wherever you are, change your menu. Your wallet will thank you!  (I still do this!) (Age EVERY!)

Tip #5, “Minor Disasters may not always be averted!”  

I was invited to work as a crew member on a dinner party at the home of Martha Stewart, our then neighbor, for 800 guests.  Before I could blink, I found myself in the position of Co-Chairperson of table and tent design. Martha had just partnered with K-Mart and wanted to use her baby blue and white striped sheets as tablecloths.  She had the mill send over bolts of fabric for my committee of 13 to turn into 88 tablecloths.  The day before the event, she asked that we try a couple of cloths on the tables to see how they looked.  I said I didn’t think it was a good idea because it was raining and I was worried these freshly steam-ironed cloths would wilt. Nonetheless, she wanted to see them on.  As my friend and I lay one cloth, then another, carefully on the tables, Martha’s kitty jumped up and ran from one table to another with muddy feet.  The tablecloths came home to be redone, the sun came out the next day and the fundraiser was a huge success.  The party was beyond gorgeous, in all of its blue & white finery, exploding with the simplicity and complexity of gorgeous green topiaries and ivy wrapped tent poles. I learned that minor disasters may not always be averted but certainly can be remedied.  BUT, that it’s always a good idea to have everything ready well in advance (Age 38)

Tip #6, “Always be prepared with back up linens!”  

We had a black tie New Year’s Eve dinner party for 10.  I set each place setting with its own votive and had votives scattered around the table on mirrors. Twenty-four white and silver balloons hugged the crystal chandelier, with cascading ribbons weaved in and out of the flowers and place settings.  At midnight we all stood up and exuberantly exploded our celebratory New Year's poppers!  In a nano-second, the streamers turned into a million little fires which worked their way up ALL of the balloon ribbons en route to the chandelier!.  Stunned, everyone pick up their champagne and every other liquid, and tossed it at the ribbons until the fires were doused! YES, that actually happened.  Everyone was given more champagne and escorted to the living room while the table was reset with freshly ironed white linens which I just happened to have in the drawer.  They returned. The entrée was served, and the party continued into the wee hours of the morning……Maybe this needs to be about safety instead of linens, but I’m pretty sure we all got that… ( Age 34)