One of our main philosophies, learned from mother dear, is that if you take the stress and performance out of entertaining and just “have people over,” you have more fun. We always keep it casual at our place. One dish in the oven, people gathered around the kitchen island, enjoying a few simple appetizers, a bowl of nuts and a glass of decent white wine. This is how we roll and we don’t often deviate to anything fancier than that. But recently I was reminded that there’s something to be said for old-fashioned entertaining too.
After a Friday night in Pennsylvania, Andy and I were about to head back to the city when Mom said “We’re going to Art and Terrie’s for dinner tonight.” Art and Terrie are our friends cum family that live in Connecticut and so of course there is an open invite for Andy and me too.
Hours later the four of us arrive at Art and Terrie’s house and I’m glad we dressed up. Art is in a crisp, pink plaid shirt and slacks. Terrie looks stunning in a grey dress with gold jewelry, hair perfectly coiffed. We are offered anything from the bar or pink champagne (who says no to champagne?). We enjoy light hors d’oeuvres, including a four-cheese pate that has been molded and topped with toasted walnuts. It’s so gorgeous, Dad thinks it’s dessert.
In the kitchen I can see that everything is made or ready to put in the oven. No frantic, last minute preparations. We are not roped into setting the table. That was done hours ago. Most tables are set. Terrie’s table has been laid – it’s gorgeous. China, silver, beautiful water and wine glasses and a winter floral centerpiece fashioned by the hostess. To say nothing of the rest of the house, which looks like it has been holiday decorated by Martha herself.
We enjoy Oyster Bisque (so rich and delicious the table was noticeably quiet for five minutes), followed by a salad with cranberries, avocado and red onion. Art and Terrie are the kind of hosts who make sure your glass is never empty and who don’t want you to lift a finger when you come to their house. They clear the dishes and plate up the main course: succulent beef tenderloin and dauphinoise potatoes. After dinner we sit by the roaring fire and exchange gifts while we enjoy that last glass of a Spanish red wine. We don’t even have to go back to the table. Dessert–French Silk Pie–is delivered to me on the couch.
I love the casualness of “having people over,” and losing the stress and performance means that we can do it more often. But Saturday night I was reminded that, once in a while (and especially for the holidays), it’s nice to be entertained. Terrie is obviously a natural—didn’t break a sweat. And Art is a great sidekick. I was in awe of this duo who made even old-fashioned entertaining look effortless. It’s not of course, but that’s the gift. In all they do, great entertainers say essentially this: “Come in. Everything is ready for you. We’ve worked and worked and cleaned up all the messes, showered at the last minute, lit the fire and put on the music. All so you can relax and share our hospitality. Sure, it was a lot of work. But you’re worth it, and together tonight, what we share is worth it.” That’s the gift we received from Art and Terrie this Christmas.
They also gave us these awesome Three Many Cooks chef’s jackets.
Love it – I had this exact discussion with my mom (an ex-hippie who never “entertains”) over the holidays. I can’t wait for the day I at least have the option of entertaining – not available currently in a tiny NY apartment…
Andie Reid says
I’m still old-school enough that whether or not the food is elegant or simple, I always “entertain”. I don’t want help in the kitchen. The table is set before people arrive. Dinner is in a stage of readiness. I don’t allow guests to clean up. It lets all of us to just relax and enjoy each other’s company instead of focusing on getting dinner on the table. But this makes me want to go the extra mile and pull out my white tablecloth. 🙂
Lovely. I always find it to be such a wonderful treat to be “entertained” in someone else’s home. There’s really nothing better!
You’re right Maggy, there IS something to be said for good old- fashioned entertaining. I loved everything about that night—the food , the specially set table, the general festiveness of it all. So much thought and preparation went into every detail.
If I had written this piece, we’d have been ogling a photo of that creamy oyster bisque, although the simple grated horseradish topping was brilliant–especially in contrast to those wonderfully rich potatoes.
Don’t I have a wonderful best friend!
Great post! Love how you summed it up: “Come in. Everything is ready for you. We’ve worked and worked and cleaned up all the messes, showered at the last minute, lit the fire and put on the music. All so you can relax and share our hospitality. Sure, it was a lot of work. But you’re worth it, and together tonight, what we share is worth it.” I agree it can’t be like that at every gathering, but it is nice to give and receive that kind of hospitality from time to time. You gals look gorgeous in your jackets! 🙂
Barbara | Vino Luci Style says
I need to write a post, ‘In Defense of Just Having People Over.’
I love to entertain and have my friends enjoy the experience you shared with Art and Terrie. They show up and everything is ready; whether it’s for a holiday feast or a backyard barbecue.
Then I broke my leg almost 11 months ago and am still recuperating from extreme damage to ligaments and muscles. While back in the mood to entertain I have had to be realistic. And that realism means people help more…and you know what; we’re having fun with it!
I’ll have the main course and some sides done but there is always a salad to put together, maybe a vegetable to roast and, just because it’s the way I role…a photo to shoot prior to serving!
Company on Saturday commented on the difference and how much fun we’ve had cooking together as well as how much they love seeing my process for taking photos (It’s really simple. Hurry, I’m balancing on one leg here!).
I look forward to the day when I CAN do it all but I’ve also learned it’s nice to make it easier on myself just because, no injury required.
I love your gatherings Maggy! good food, good people- that’s all you need.
David Anderson says
You’re right–Terrie (with Art tending to the bar, the fire, and the signature Art welcome on the front step) has her own unique style. Love it.
Kristin Murdock says
Love this! I completely agree, there is a place for both types of entertaining. It makes me excited for the day when I have a home and can entertain friends.
Torrie @ a place to share... says
What a great, great article.
In fact, I felt as if I was there myself for a moment! …daydreams:).
As someone who likes to entertain (although infrequently) I think half the fun is the planning — who am I going to have over, what will I serve, what kind of music, how will I decorate. . .the anticipation on my part and then seeing my guests enjoy themselves and be relaxed and the interaction between good friends. Lovely!