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Effortless entertaining

The name of this post is a bald-faced lie. A ruse, a marketing hook to make you read on.

You see, there truly is no such thing as effortless entertaining. But you can make it look effortless. All it takes is a little … effort.

Ah, delicious irony.

In point of fact, there is a perfect inverse relationship to the amount of effort you put into entertaining, and the amount perceived. Cut corners and skimp on prep, and you will look like a crazed weasel throwing pans and dishes around. Make a plan and start well in advance, and food magically appears as if on command from a sparkling clean kitchen.

DPaul and I entertain a lot, and over the years we’ve developed a few tips and tricks. We’ve learned a lot from über-organized kitchen mavens like our friends Anita and Kathleen, and DPaul himself, being one of the more detail-oriented people I’ve ever met, brings a lot to the table, so to speak.

Planning and organization is everything. We may start working on a dinner party two or three days in advance, more if we’re charting new territory. Case in point, we recently hosted an Iberian-themed dinner for eight at our house, and I thought it worth documenting our processes (and recipes) for posterity.

We conceived a five-course menu (elucidated in future posts):

Normally, I have little trepidation about trying out new material on guests, even those that have never been to our house before. But this time, we were having among our guests one notable chef who specializes in Spanish fare. (Ballsy of me, no?) And while I know that chefs and foodies are in fact generally more appreciative than overcritical, I still wanted everything to be just so.

And you know what? It was.

So please follow me on a multi-post excursion exploring the ins and outs of entertaining in the Castello di Noi.


One year ago today … speaking of pork, read all about Moonlite Bar-B-Q (which I later covered again for their mutton).

  • I saw your pictures on flickr–the dishes all look so delicious! Hats off to you! My friend and I did a Spanish tapas meal last year, it was SO fun but yes, it took a lot of effort!

  • Tea

    Wow, you cooked Spanish food for Mr. Sardine? That is ballsy. Looking forward to the play by play.

  • I guffawed out loud to read that you, the paragon of party preparedness, would call me extra-organized. How many times have you rang our doorbell while the hairdryer was still going, hmm? 🙂
    I will remember the time that DPaul blithely told us that you’re often done hours ahead of party time, waiting for your guests to arrive while sipping cocktails in the living room. Usually I remember this tidbit as I am frantically prepping some forgotten item mere minutes before the scheduled start of a dinner party, and the idea makes me insane with envy. 😉
    We’re having two sets of friends over this week, one of them on a schoolnight, so I will wait with bated breath for your pearls of wisdom on the subject.

  • What better food for a party – I can’t wait for the menu details!

  • I was about to kick your butts if you were going to pretend that the meal I ate was low maintenance. It was anything but. Talking to a friend later that evening who asked me how the dinner was I said, “I can never invite them over my house — ever.” 🙂 Fantastic fantastic meal.

  • Just found your site. Funny, witty..and the food looks great 🙂

  • C(h)ristine: True, I think tapas, and small plates in general, are higher effort, but usually worth it.
    Tea: What can I say, I’m fearless, and maybe a little daft.
    Anita: Please. I think back to one time we visited you in San Jose. At every turn you had things perfectly prepared, turning out snacks and meals with panache and minimal effort so we could spend all our time enjoying each other’s company. You know your way around a well-prepared meal, to be sure.
    Rose and Maryann: Thanks! More to come …
    Jen: That meal was perhaps the highest-maintenance one yet, but I intend to demonstrate that even difficult meals can be made easy, or at least manageable. And you can totally have us over. Remember – chefs and foodies are appreciative eaters!

  • this reminds me of my youth, when my mother would start preparing for thanksgiving in October.
    It certainly makes things easier and allows you to actually enjoy the evening.

  • Philsey

    Hi Guys,
    I have a job interview with Cellar 360 which is opening up an event/retail space in Ghiradelli Square that reflects Wine Country Hospitality. Which I got in spades being as I live here in Napa, am gay, and love to entertain. Have you heard anything through the grapevine? My next dinner party will be all about Argentine Cuisine and Wine and Tango! Picture it: red table cloths, red napkins, red china, red roses and red candles. Red beef (it’s whats for dinner) and red wine. All that and tango lessons between courses. Stick a rose between your teeth and come on over! Argentina Cooks!

  • Doug: Absolutely. Planning is everything.
    Philsey: That event is so up my alley! DPaul and I have wanted to take tango lessons for years, and were initially planning to take a big trip to Argentina this year, tho those plans have been waylaid. I’ve not heard of the space you mention, but will keep an eye peeled. Let me know how it works out!