From her stylish homemade wedding to her excellent articles and recipes on The Kitchn, Anjali is often mentioned on this blog. She is also a delightful addition to our team of private chefs and we are so happy to have her share her Top 5 Entertaining Rules with you today. xo, LEH
Anjali’s Top 5 (highly debatable) Entertaining Rules
1. Keep a variety of shelf- or fridge-stable appetizers on hand.
Last-minute get-togethers are a lot more fun if you don’t have to battle your way through the supermarket in the short hours between leaving work and welcoming your guests. A few ideas: Keep a supply of popcorn kernels to make stovetop popcorn gussied up with finely grated Parmesan and black pepper. Keep bags of raw nuts in the freezer and oven-toast them with butter and spices. Freeze a batch of portioned-out cookie dough and pop it in the oven when guests arrive. Olives, nice pickles, good salami, and chocolate-covered dried fruit last practically forever and are almost universally irresistible.
2. Learn how to make a handful of cocktails and keep the components at the ready.
This year I made an effort to expand my home bar and learn how to actually mix a few drinks, instead of pouring booze and mixers into a glass and hoping for the best. My go-to cocktail is the Old-Fashioned, as it is tasty, barely requires any work, yet sounds vaguely glamorous. Gimlets are another easy favorite that sound fancier than they are. And I’m a fan of simple beer cocktails like the shandy (beer and sparkling lemonade), the shandygaff (beer and ginger beer) and my obsession this past summer: a shot of Campari topped off with a hoppy IPA. So bitter and good! Bottom line: you don’t have to be a professional mixologist with an arsenal of ingredients to impress guests with your cocktail-making skills.
3. Play an interesting board game.
I am a huge board game nerd from a family of board game nerds, and there’s nothing I love more than spending an evening with friends playing a game that everyone is fully engaged in. It’s better with groups of six people or less and best if it is a game that moves quickly (in other words, no Scrabble) and everyone has an equal chance of winning. I have a particular interest in indie board games (I told you! Nerd!) and my newest favorite is a game called Ticket To Ride: Europe. But classics like Scattergories, Jenga and Yahtzee are fun too. If you want to go full-on nerd, check out this annual list of the best board games for groups.
4. Get matching wine glasses. Don’t worry about the rest.
For some reason, after I bought a set of matching wine glasses, my parties suddenly felt like Real Grownup Parties. Who knew achieving adulthood and leaving college partying behind was just a matter of buying a set of not-very-expensive glasses from Crate & Barrel? The rest of my dishes, however, are a mishmash of cute thrift store plates and utensils, with the occasional special souvenir thrown in. That’s just me. As long as the wine glasses match, somehow the whole thing works.
5. Think like a boy and just invite people over already.
My husband doesn’t care if the toilet isn’t scrubbed and there are dirty dishes in the sink when he invites his friends over to play Rock Band or watch a football game. He just wants to spend time with his friends. I, on the other hand, feel the need to scrub the house from top to bottom before having people over, which leaves me tired, cranky and not in the mood to relax with friends. So I try to be more like a boy and just extend the invitation, even if the house feels messy and I’m too busy to do a top-down cleaning. I never regret it.