Hospitality @ Home: Home Party Set Up with Bar

At the very least, separate the bar/ beverage area from the food area. Browsing a buffet is a different speed than dashing off a martini or pouring a glass of Chianti. Plus beverage areas involve sloshing, splashing, ice, lemon wedges, and all manner of things that you wish to keep cold while you want to keep food room-temperature-to-hot. Separate the bar from the food.

If you have the room, separate the canapes and desserts from the main food area especially if your party is more of a cocktail reception affair. Spreading the different courses through the space encourages mingling with minimal effort.

But, back to the bar.

A good self-serve bar needs:

Glasses that match the offerings (wine glasses, rocks glasses, highballs, cocktail glasses, etc.)

Ice

Cocktail shakers

Garnishes

Towels

Wine

Spirits

Mixers

Bottle opener

Wine key

If you are serving cocktails, set your bar area near a sink so that cocktail shaker ice can be easily poured away. Alternately you can pre-mix a batch of a signature cocktail (Moscow Mules, Bloody Marys, Gold Rushes, Margaritas, Mojitos, Brambles, and Smashes all work beautifully), pour into a pitcher and set beside a serving a note (“Pour over ice and add a squeeze of lime”, etc.)

If you are setting a full service bar for cocktail service, place like things with like– wine with wine, spirits with spirits, mixers with mixers, garnishes with garnishes, tools with other tools. Corral your tools (bar spoons, wine key, bottle opener) to a small dish or tray so it is clear where to look for them.

In addition to an ice bucket, it is a good idea to provide a small, elegant receptacle for bottle caps, corks, wine wrapping.

Return to the bar area periodically to tidy up, refresh ice, empty the debris bin and stock with fresh glasses.

Restaurant 101: Sommelier

So Moll Yay.

So what is a so-moll-yay?

A wine expert. Some have accreditations from the Court of Master Sommeliers or the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, though some merely have battle-tested palates and an encyclopedic knowledge of oenology from the school of hard knocks.

Many sommeliers work for restaurants, actively designing a wine list that compliments the chef’s cuisine, creating accounts with wine vendors and keeping the the wine in stock. Restaurant sommeliers are active presences in the dining room during service, guiding guests through the wine list, ensuring not only that the selected wine will compliment the food that is ordered, but that it is free from flaws and served correctly (at the right temperature and in the correct stemware).

Increasingly though, sommeliers are seeking work as freelancers, creating wine lists and staff training procedures for several venues that do not employ a full time “somm.” Somms may also work for private collectors, maintaining their cellars and even sourcing wine to fill out a collection. They may also be employed at wineries or tasting rooms.

In addition to knowing an impossible amount about the daunting world of wine, somms also tend to have an expansive vocabulary that makes any bottle in their hands sound absolutely irresistible.

Hospitality @ Home: Wine Service

This is simply a primer on basic wine service for those of you hosting in your home, or others of you who are seeking a restaurant job who have lied on your resumes (not that I have ever known anyone who has done that….)

1. Get a wine key. A real one, you are a grown-up after all. You want a wine key that looks like a swiss army knife, not one that looks like a metal man raising his arms as if to say “It’s gooooooood!” Additionally, your grown-up wine key should, ideally, have a hinged arm, not a solid one. Wine key wine service how to open a bottle of wine2. Learn how to use it.

3. Gather your accoutrement. A (polished) wine glass for each wine drinker, a linen napkin to wipe up bottle drips, and your wine key.

4. Pour a taste.

5. Pour 3-4 ounces in each glass. There is no need to overfill the glasses. Wine, like the rest of us, likes to breathe. And it is polite to leave some wine in the bottle, as some guests may enjoy a splash more wine than others.

A couple of other quick notes– one 750mL bottle of wine contains 5 glasses of wine. One bottle of sparkling wine serves 6. You can hardly ever go wrong estimating 2.5 glasses of wine per guest for a dinner party, as some guests will drink more and some less. Though if you know that your set is a thirsty one (that is not driving home), by all means calculate accordingly. Keep in mind that a good host should be well stocked.

St. Patricks Day Recipe: Braised Lamb Shoulder Chops!

A perfect recipe for a cool winter dinner, or to practice now for a St. Patrick’s Day feast!

Braised Lamb Shoulder Chops

2 shoulder chops

3 stalks celery, diced

2 carrots, diced

1 small onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, skinned and left whole

2 anchovies , oil-packed

1 tbs tomato paste

1 cup dry wine (red or white)

1/2 cup stock

1 bouquet garni (2 stalks of rosemary and 6 stalks of thyme)

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

Season the chops with salt and pepper. Pat dry. In a heavy skillet bring a heat a tablespoon of oil to smoking. Sear the chops until crisp and brown on both sides, about 1 minute on each side. Remove chops to a plate. Lower heat to medium. Add the carrot, onion, and celery to the hot pan and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add anchovies and cook for 1 minute until anchovies begin to melt into the vegetables. Add tomato paste and stir to coat the vegetables

Add wine and stock, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring liquid to a boil, then return lamb chops and accumulated juices to the pan. If needed, add additional stock or water to ensure the liquid nearly covers the meat. Reduce to a simmer and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Reduce heat to low (or place in a 240degree oven) and simmer until meat is fork tender but not falling off the bone, about 1.5-2 hours.

Remove chops to a plate and cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Skim fat from the surface of the braising liquid. Strain braising liquid through a fine strainer, discard solids. Return liquid to pan and reduce until liquid coats the back of a spoon. Serve chops on a bed of mashed potatoes, glazed in braising liquid and topped with gremolata.

Gremolata

Zest of 1 lemon (fine)

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1/4 cup of fresh parsley, chopped

Combine ingredients and chop fine. cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Can be made up to six hours in advance.

Picnic Perfect Wines

stacked chardnnayWhat is a summer picnic without wine? I saw these at the supermarket the other day, and they seem perfect. Four individual cups of wine are sealed and stacked in a plastic sleeve.  Currently, Stacked wine makes Chardonnay, Merlot, and Pinto Grigio.  The cups are actually a fancy sort of plastic, not glass, so they would be safe to take to summer concerts in parks or to the beach.  Plus, I bet you could re-use the cups for individually portioned desserts or snacks, too.

Stacked merlot
note the cute zipper down the side. ok, so I am a sucker for packaging….

I paid $14.00 after tax for the Stacked Chardonnay at Gelson’s. I had to sample it,  research, you know.  Each ‘glass’ is a 187 mL portion, which gives you only 2mL less than your standard 750mL traditional bottle of wine.   Flavor-wise, the chard tasted like what I would expect from a $12-$14 bottle.  It’s not going to knock your socks off, but it also won’t interfere overmuch with anything you plan to enjoy with the wine.  The chardonnay was a little buttery, not oaky, and had a nice hint of citrus.  I could easily see this going well with any picnic food, from cheeses and salty cured meats to fruits and veggies.  It would be great with cold fried chicken, too, which is my favorite picnic food….

For the slightly more celebratory picnic-ing occassions, I adore Francis Coppola Winery’s Sofia sparkling wine in the pink cans.  Color me girly, but the packaging of these beauties cannot be beat.  I’ll even pick some up for a ladies’ night in or a tuck them into a wedding day survival kit for a friend.

Sofia Sparkling Wine

Toss in a pitcher of fresh lemonade  and a big bottle of water, and I think you have your picnic beverages covered.

What about you? Tell me in the comments what you drink on a picnic!

More Than You Ever Wished to Know About Lemonade….

black berry ginger lemonade
lemons and ginger and berries, oh my!

Since a lovely Farmer’s Market popped up a block away from my apartment a month ago, I have found myself with an embarrassment of riches in the fresh fruits and veggies department.   Pretty much every day that I am not making Sangria, I whip up a batch of lemonade with some kind of berry in it.  Blackberry, Blueberry, Strawberry, Raspberry…. sometimes with mint, or ginger, or thyme…. it’s a really versatile recipe that lends itself to endless variations and, when poured into a glass bottle, makes a lovely host gift at a backyard barbecue.

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