Prepare for summer soirées with these tips and ideas …
For those who want to outsource entertaining, Sally Ann Luykx has been in the catering business for 25 years. Whether she is catering for an intimate dinner party for ten guests or weddings for 300, she provides the same level of commitment. Visit her website for a range of menus and entrees for reheating or freezing to use at a later date, wine suggestions are also included; www.sallyann.ie
For something more casual, order a pizza van from The Food Junkie. Not just any van – a vintage Citroen food truck which houses a wood fired pizza oven. As for the pizzas, they range from chorizo to garlic-infused smoked pancetta, roast beetroot to bell peppers, using only the freshest ingredients, which are sourced locally when possible; www.foodjunkie.ie. For those who prefer to make their own pizzas, forget the Ooni pizza oven, it’s all about the Gozney Dome now which is even more sleek and versatile. It steams, grills, roasts, smokes and bakes.
Retro Pina Coladas are trending, so best stock up on paper umbrellas and maraschino cherries. The rum, coconut cream and pineapple juice drink echoes the trend for feel-good cocktails. Of summer sipping, Oisin Kelly Bar Manager from Sidecar at The Westbury, says “The old favourites of Spritzes, Mojitos, Tom Collins are back in swing. The trend is really becoming “the same but different”, with guests discovering variations of the drinks they know. Negronis are becoming the White Negroni, Old Fashioneds are becoming Manhattans. The Aperol Spritz has been replaced by the new grapefruit version. Mix one part grapefruit juice, two parts Aperol, one part champagne. We’ve discovered giant ice cubes are crucial to avoid watery drinks – OXO does a good tray to make them.
Adding personalisation is an extra flourish to any placement. If you’re handwriting isn’t up to par, The Designed Table has teamed up with Irish calligrapher Laura Chacon O’Neill to create a range of name cards. Hostesses can order beautifully written place cards, on a range of colourful cards from lemon to pistachio, direct from The Designed Table. Turnaround is five working days, €45 for eight cards; www.thedesignedtable.com
If you’ve studied party pro Fiona Leahy’s Instagram you will have noted a sparseness and lightness to her recent event table settings. Tables are neither groaning with flowers nor food – there is an elegant sufficiency. For one recent event Leahy used a coloured candle in lieu of flowers – a sustainable, cost cutting alternative. We stock up on colourful Kunst candles, sold in pairs at Nordic Elements (from €3) and those at Sostrene Grene. As for colour, lemon – from mimosa to actual lemons – is a seasonal staple for decorating and shouldn’t be knocked.
Use some new cookbooks to plan your menu, we work backwards from dessert per Trish Deseine’s advice. A must buy is Anna Higham’s The Last Bite. Higham is the executive pastry chef at The River Café and in this, her debut cookbook, she includes 150 recipes spanning cakes, tarts, jams, meringues and ice creams teaching the fundamentals of accomplished desserts, in an approachable, unintimidating style.
For main courses full of colour and packed with interesting takes on classics Ixta Belfrage’s Mezcla does not disappoint. Belfrage is the co-author of the bestselling Ottolenghi Flavour and in Mezcla she draws upon the culinary traditions of her childhood growing up in Italy, Mexico, and Brazil. This collection is ideal for those who like to experiment in the kitchen and thrive on fusion cuisine. Elena Silcock makes a convincing case for salads as centrepiece in her new recipe book Salads Are More Than Leaves. Tempting dishes include a red pepper and bavette steak salad and a peach panzanella. She suggests making three of her dishes and serving them feast-style. For the time poor and those in search of vegetarian recipes David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl’s Green Kitchen: Quick + Slow is useful. The Danish duo have a successful blog Green Kitchen Stories. Their approach is to provide quick recipes for busy days and others for slow days and evenings.
The conversation starters
We may be discussing relationships quite a lot this summer, and not just the Love Island variety. A four-part drama, Marriage, exploring the subject and starring Nicola Walker and Sean Bean is coming to BBC1 and iPlayer. Given Walker’s growing legion of fans (she starred in The Split and Unforgotten) in awe of her quietly sensitive, emotion-packed performances, this will have viewers hooked. Also to be discussed: At the Table by Claire Powell – this year’s beach read about a couple (the Maguires) who break the news they are divorcing to their 30-something children over lunch at the Delaunay. Dessert is abandoned and the sassy, smart story unravels from there and is full of feeling.
Main photo credit: Lisa Corti tablelinen, available at Brown Thomas; www.brownthomas.com