New On The Blog

The day after a party a gracious guest will follow up with a thank you note or phone call. Do this within 1-2 days so your appreciation does not seem stale. The formula for a thank you looks like this:

Some dinner parties require a more formal protocol. For example, a military dinner will have strict guidelines as to where personnel will sit. If you are hosting a client dinner, you might also prefer a more formal arrangement. Even in a casual setting, you can choose to follow protocol to honor a special guest. The below description is based on a social party (vs. business), a rectangular table, and includes both men and women:

When hosting a dinner party, where you place your guests around the table is a crucial element for the success of your event. You presumably put thought into who you invited to the gathering. Do not stop there. The placement of each person around the table is something that should not be thrown together at the last minute.

I love entertaining friends and family in my home, especially during the holidays. But I must admit, it can be a bit overwhelming hosting a dinner party in the stage of life with little ones running around. The cooperation I receive from my toddlers is a significant factor in how efficient I am on a daily basis. Add in hosting a party, and it can be overwhelming. If you find yourself wanting to gather friends for a festive evening, here are my tried-and-true tips for entertaining with young children:

Planning a party can be fun, but do you know the best way to ensure everything runs smoothly? Have a rehearsal for your party. Yes, you heard correctly. You have spent a great deal of time planning your theme, creating your guestlist, and delivering your invitations. Now is the time to do a mock rehearsal which will allow you to create an action list of outstanding items around your home that might need attention. It also helps solidify any last-minute details.

These thirteen tips will get your through any dinner party. Here is a quick refresher. 

1. Leave The Cocktail Glass Behind:

If you are attending a dinner party, there may be cocktails offered before the meal begins. When the hostess signals it is time to head to the dining room, leave your drink behind. Why? The dining table has been pre-set with the glasses you will need and adding another to your place setting will only clutter the minimal real estate in front of you. Your palate is another reason to leave the cocktail behind. Many hostesses go to great lengths to pare wine with the food being served. Once seated at the table it is time to switch to wine or water.

You just received an invitation to a party, and the attire says: Shabby Chic; Razzle Dazzle; Cowboy Couture. What??? Word to hostesses: when listing the attire on the invitation for a party, make it clear. We do not want our guests to solve a riddle to understand what is expected of them. There is a phrase I like to quote, “To be unclear is to be unkind.”

Table manners are the area in which I receive the most questions, but it is introductions that have people the most baffled. After I explain the correct way to conduct an introduction, I often get that starry-eyed stare that tells me, “I really don’t understand what you just said.” To help all of us, I have broken down the process into a simple format. Before I proceed, let me say this. Do not let a lack of confidence in managing an introduction keep you from DOING an introduction. Even if you are unsure, most people do not care.

When attending a party, there are certain expectations we have of our hostess. We appreciate everything she has done, but we do assume there will be food, drinks, a clean bathroom, and a home that does not smell like the local pet store. What some people forget is there are also expectations of the guest. When a hostess plans a party, a great deal of time is spent deciding who she will invite. What group of friends go well together?

Have you ever seen someone walk into a party looking scared, so unsure of themselves, and then watched them slink off to an obscure corner? Their body language screamed, “I wish I was anywhere but here!”

You are invited!!! There is something special we feel when we receive an invitation. It is the anticipation of a celebration, the excitement of choosing what to wear, but more importantly, it is the affirmation that tells us, “I was chosen!” We know a hostess has responsibilities to ensure her party is a success, but did you know there are expectations of the guests? And your first job begins when you receive an invitation that says RSVP. Follow the six steps below and the hostess will be singing your praises!

  • Cecelia Zook

Chilled White Peach Gazpacho & Camembert and Fig Salad Taste Test

Happy Foodie Friday! This recipe comes courtesy of Penny and Eleazar Martinez.

We hope you enjoy!

There's nothing like a chilled gazpacho and fig salad on a hot day! These two recipes were a breeze to make and filled with delightful flavors and pair beautifully with a glass of Moscato d'Asti and Riesling. The gazpacho has ingredients that wonderfully compliment each other to make a light, sweet, yet tangy taste. My favorite part about this recipe was the unique balance of the vinegar, lime, hot sauce, and sugar. The fig salad is also incredibly flavorful with the bite of the blood orange vinaigrette and the sweetness of the fresh fig. Fig and prosciutto is one of my favorite pairings, and I was so excited to try them together in a salad. I was not disappointed!

Chilled White Peach Gazpacho

Chilled White Peach Gazpacho
Download PDF • 2.40MB

Makes 12 Servings

Time: About 30-45 minutes depending on chopping skills


*3 cups sliced, peeled fresh or frozen peaches (thawed)**

*3 medium yellow tomatoes, chopped**

*1 medium sweet yellow pepper, chopped

*1 medium cucumber, peeled and chopped**

*1/2 cup chopped sweet onion

*1 garlic clove, minced

*1/3 cup lime juice

*2 tablespoons rice vinegar

*1 teaspoon salt

*1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

*1 to 3 teaspoons sugar, optional

**Buy additional peaches, cucumber and tomatoes (about 1 cup of each), if you would like to add as a garnish.


*Place the first six ingredients in a food processor; process until blended.

*Add lime juice, vinegar, salt and hot pepper sauce. (Add sugar, if desired.)

*Process until smooth.

*Refrigerate, covered, at least 4 hours.

*Top servings with additional chopped peaches, cucumber and tomatoes (used as garnish, so may omit.)

Camembert and Fig Salad

Camembert and Fig Salad
Download PDF • 2.40MB

Makes 5 Servings

Time: 30 minutes


*4 ounces Feta or smoked gouda cheese, in pieces

*5 fresh figs, cut into quarters

*4 tablespoon shaved toasted almonds

*6 each thin slices prosciutto di Parma, cut into large pieces

*4 cups spring mix of lettuce

*Blood Orange Vinaigrette, as needed (recipe below)

Ingredients for the Blood Orange Vinaigrette:

*1/2 cup fresh blood orange or orange juice

*1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

*1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

*1 ½ cups olive oil

*2 tablespoons honey

*1/2 teaspoon salt

Preparation: *For the vinaigrette place all the ingredients in a blender and process on medium speed for 10 seconds.

*Pour into a saucer container and reserve until needed.

*Place all the salad ingredients in a bowl and toss to blend nicely.

*Place a handful of salad on a plate making sure to have 4 to 5 pieces of figs in each plate.

*Drizzle the vinaigrette on top of salad.

Recipe and Taste Tester - Cecelia Zook