I love, love, love having people over, whether it’s for some food, tea, board games, or tragic whiskey drinking. To me, it’s a landmark of finally living in my own place with only my own schedule to accommodate, wrapped in a little bit of smug satisfaction at having brought the party to my doorstep.
This past Sunday, I had some friends over for brunch, which was organized partially because I hadn’t thrown a holiday party, but mostly because I desperately wanted to make the cinnamon toast French toast recipe out of my newly acquired Smitten Kitchen cookbook. Blogger power!
Entertaining, especially in the cramped quarters of New York City, can be daunting. There are so many sane reasons not to have people over – the preparation, the inviting, the pestering for RSVPs, the menu, the shopping. And once you get the group together, there’s the figuring out how to serve everyone, the squishing, making sure everyone has what they need, the music (!) and then, oh yea, being able to enjoy it without running around like a chicken without a head.
Or like Lola.
Remember Lola? I’ve been feeling like her all week.
THE SIMPLE BUT SAVORY MENU
Piles of soft scrambled eggs – easy to cook in bulk, and incredibly forgiving
Assorted sausages from Faicco’s – cut into bite sized pieces for easy self-service and eating
Oven baked smoked bacon – also from Faicco’s – good and cheap at $5.99/lb
Cinnamon toast French toast – we made our way through two pans of the stuff, with some happy guests carrying off the leftovers.
Cheese plate – the stoic but noble standby for those eating lulls, and post-event chats
Plenty of coffee
Mimosas cobbled together from guest offerings
Baking the cinnamon toast.
Piles of completed toasts.
An unexpected exercise in creative geometry.
A cheese plate.
A few things I’ve learned about entertaining in living quarters the size of a pea that are worth passing along?
#1 – Keep the atmosphere relaxed and casual.
A multiple course sit-down dinner is probably not the way to go. I’ve had people over game night, brunch, tea and snacks – scenarios that encourage comfortable interaction in close quarters, while also leaving guests feeling free to come and go during the course of the gathering. Since there is comfortable seating for about 6 people in my living room (8 if you’re feeling cozy and optimistic) having guests rotate through over the course of a few hours allows for more people to attend. More people, more fun. Write that down. There will be a test.
#2 – Keep last minute prep to a minimum.
In my small combined living room/kitchen, activity in the kitchen is activity everywhere. If your place is anything like mine, pick recipes that allow for minimal last minute preparation to keep the frenzy to a minimum, but also to free yourself up for the fun part…hanging out with your guests. Recipes get extra points if they are resilient enough to taste great when they’ve cooled down and/or have spent a few minutes neglected on the stove. Any little item that can be prepped beforehand should be.
For this past Sunday’s brunch, I lightly poached the sausage to keep frying time to a minimum, prepped the crowd-friendly French toast recipe an hour before guests were due to arrive, and laid the bacon out on a baking sheet, ready to be slipped into the oven.
#3 – The guest list is all.
Let people know what to expect. Cramped quarters? Flights of stairs? Animals? Your carefully edited group of guests should include zero high-maintenance friends, and your list of yes-es will be a self-selected group of people ready to have a good time come hell or high water.
Any other ideas from you smarties out there?