A Glossy Guide To Summer Entertaining

Devise the perfect SUMMER GET TOGETHER with our top tips for PARTY PLANNING

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Onion puffs and peanut butter and bacon hors d’oeuvres were apparently a feature of every party legendary socialite, Betsy Bloomingdale, hosted at her Holmby Hills residence in Los Angeles, now the home of designer Tom Ford. It’s these sorts of fun, retro elements that helped guests to relax and added to the sense of enjoyment. For in the pantheon of great American hostesses, Bloomingdale is surely at the pinnacle (alongside Nan Kempner, Elsa Maxwell and Elaine Kaufman), and it is acknowledged she taught her friend, Nancy Reagan, much about the art of entertaining. A member of Reagan’s “kitchen cabinet”, Bloomingdale mixed with politicos and royals (attending the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981), yet she managed to exude a sense of cosiness and spontaneity at her own events. Perhaps that’s because she was always well-prepared, as well as immaculately dressed (favouring a red dress for parties).

Below, four glossy summer soirées. Let’s hope Betsy would approve …

Clodagh McKenna On The Perfect Girls’ Get Together

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The Schedule: “I plan my menu a week in advance to avoid last-minute worries. I set my table the night before, as it’s one of the elements that I enjoy the most. I handwrite all the menus so that my friends can take them home afterwards. I place the menus over the napkins and then add a seasonal herb or flower sprig. On the morning of my supper, I bake my Rosemary Clodagh Bread, which is always a hit with guests and is so easy to prepare in advance. I create a summer cocktail, and set it up on a tray just before my guests arrive. My rosemary and lemon gin sodas are perfect for summer and look really pretty. I set up glasses, rosemary and lemon syrup (you can make this in advance), soda, gin and ice. I always have this on the kitchen table so my friends can help themselves. At the moment, my favourite starters are roast carrot soup with wild garlic and pecan, or a watercress, orange, feta, edible flower and fennel salad (just add the dressing at the last minute). I love serving big platters for the main course with meat or fish and vegetables all on the one dish. It looks spectacular and is so easy to serve. My spiced spatchcock chicken roast with whole fennel or parsnips underneath and sweet potatoes is a perfect crowd pleaser. I always make dessert the night before, like roasted peaches with rosemary and honey served with mascarpone or sometimes I serve a big piece of delicious cheese and a bowl of chocolate truffles, which can be assembled ahead of dinner and is stress-free.” www.clodaghmckenna.ie.

A Family Affair

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The Tableware: Nothing says summer more than a blue and white table setting, and the pretty Dovecote range from Marks & Spencer, above, (surprisingly it’s melamine) channels a vintage vibe with the mix and match trend. Aerin Lauder’s new home collection for Williams Sonoma is influenced by her grandmother, Estée’s, traditional blue-and-white china, while Ellen de Generes has also launched a Cobalt Blue Chevron range for Royal Doulton. Pick up great pieces by Paul Costelloe at Dunnes Stores and add to your collection.

The Menu: “Offer an Irish gin such as Gunpowder on arrival with a decorative garnish like a slice of pink grapefruit and juniper berries,” says event planner Maria Reidy. “Keep food light and seasonal and delegate if under pressure. Order a seafood platter from your local fishmongers to serve as a sharing platter to start. Prepare a dish in advance such as a slow-cooked tagine whose flavours will develop over a day or two. Finish with an espresso martini rather than a dessert. I use an Irish roasted coffee called Silverskin. Coloured and mismatched water glasses alongside wine glasses reduces formality, or if you are going for a more polished look, hire sumptuous linen. The best part is it arrives freshly pressed and can be returned unwashed. I always recommend this option for my clients.” www.mariareidyevents.com.

The Lobster Lunch

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The Summer Food Trends: “We have noticed this summer’s food trends are all about artisan butcher shops and fishmongers, with people placing a priority on provenance, starting to cook from scratch and being more experimental. Vibrant sauces and dressings to accompany grilled meat or fish will be popular such as salsas, chimichurri, (a traditional Argentine sauce with fresh herbs and lemon juice), and miso (available in Asian markets). The latter is delicious as a glaze on meats and fish or as a salad dressing. We have also noticed the return in popularity of the classic new potato. Serve boiled with fresh herbs and butter or roasted with sea salt, olive oil, garlic and rosemary — they never disappoint. Antipasto and mezze platters are great for fuss-free entertaining — Sheridan Cheese Mongers have everything you need for this. I absolutely love lobster and have found it to be a popular crowd pleaser; you can pretend you’re in the Hamptons and enjoy the decadence and drama of this choice. Buy from your local fishmonger, making sure the lobster is still alive. To cook, bring a large pot of water to a gentle simmer. Season the water with lemon, parsley and a bay leaf, place the live lobster straight into the pot and cover with a lid. Depending on the weight, it should take approximately twelve-15 minutes to cook. Remove from the pot and cool slightly before serving. We love to serve them simply with some melted butter and lemon juice or also as mini lobster rolls on a brioche bun with some basil, parsley and tomatoes mixed through the meat.” www.blacksheepfoods.ie.

The Wine: “Lobster is quite rich and ritzy so it needs a fairly rich and ritzy wine,” says Mary Dowey, THE GLOSS’s wine editor. “Best all-rounders are a fine, full-bodied Burgundy (Mersault or Puligny-Montrachet), or a full-bodied, richly-textured champagne (Krug or Bollinger). A less expensive option is a good New Zealand or Australian Chardonnay – the latter ideally from Margaret River or the Yarra Valley. These will suit most lobster main courses. If it’s in a salad, or Asian-style, or cooked with tomatoes, then a rosé champagne would be delicious.”

Friday Supper Club

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The Flowers: Olivier Bescombes, artisan florist, advises: “When it comes to home entertaining simplicity is most effective. The choice of a nice container is half the job done, while opting for the element of either flowers or foliage on their own always creates an impact. Remember; you don’t always have to mix everything, and also three is a magic number in terms of visual balance. If you go for a mix, keep in mind that three elements will be plenty; having an uneven number is probably the only rule that I stick to at Les Fleurs.” www.lesfleurs.ie.

The Glasses: Riedel tumblers, especially from the Vinum range, are found on all the best-dressed tables. Wine buffs acknowledge they really do enhance the aromas and flavours of the wine styles for which each bowl shape is designed. Champagne coupes are also making a comeback (even though serious winos prefer their champers in flutes or better still, white wine glasses). The cocktail trend is probably partly responsible – and they do look dramatic.

Budgeting: Trish Deseine, THE GLOSS’s food editor: “After three or four rounds of nibbles – the retro versus on-trend ratio should be around one to three, no matter how food fashion-forward your crowd is, always make room for sausage rolls or devils-on-horseback. Then serve a couple of dishes, one veggie, one not, requiring only a fork or a spoon to eat. This is where my killer chilli recipes never let me down and also why the gospel according to Ottolenghi was written in the first place. A useful tip is to serve good bread with fancy butter and/or a whole wheel of cheese. It always comes in handy for when the munchies hit.”

Penny McCormick

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