Rob and I had our first party with some people he knew from work, who are becoming my friends, too. In all honesty, I do enjoy watching football. It’s a great weekend when you wake up to cool, crisp mornings with tea and toast, and end the day with beer and yelling at the TV. The Bears lost yesterday (boo), but the company and food was a win-win situation.
Although our house is not large, we comfortably fit about 8 people, all with eyeshot of the screen while keeping a good, but not uncomfortably weird, conversation distance. Only planning this get together a day in advance, I was channeling my two Goddesses of Entertaining: Lulu and Ina.
Lulu Powers is one of those women who writes and you believe she is permanently walking on a cloud of meringue. Or valium. Or maybe a blissful combination of both. But in all seriousness and respect, her stories talk of entertaining at its best – old fashioned cocktails, the unexpected pop-up guests, the late night taco feast – you name it. The biggest thing I took from her tips was to keep things simple – people love comfortable and familiar things anytime, but especially to make them feel comfortable and at ease in your house.
Ina Garten, oh Ina, what a classy lady. Her cooking is fabulous, her attitude is always sunny, and I think one of the main reasons I love her is how much watching her reminds me of my Grandpa (not Ina personally… just keep reading).
About a year before he passed, I was visiting him in Long Island, NY, and he and I had a fabulous time wine tasting on the North Fork, going to a show, shopping, and of course, visiting the Hamptons. Grandpa was an excellent businessman, and in his retired time, he was also a realtor. So, in our trip to the Hamptons, we drove along the main drag, down the streets with the high and perfectly trimmed bushes keeping beautiful landscaping in, and looky-loos like us, out. We had dressed for the day (unspoken and understood, of course), in casual yet expensive-nice attire (I was SO happy I hadn’t yet changed out my lime green Kate Spade purse!). We looked like we could fit in perfectly, having a crisp Sauvignon Blanc on the front stoop, listening to the ocean crash in one ear and the bay tide in and out in the other. And we got our chance. As we were slowly making our way down to the farthest tip of the town, like the Scarecrow pointing the way to Oz, we saw it: FOR SALE, OPEN HOUSE. Grandpa literally stopped the car in the middle of the road (no one was behind us – it’s the Hamptons for goodness sakes). I was wide-eyed.
“Can we go in?” The longing in my voice was, I’m sure, unmistakable.
“Well, let’s see.” Calm as a cucumber. “I think, well, hmm.” He starts to look in the center console for, what I imagined to be, his realtor cards. No luck. The click of the console woke me to reality – I got a glimpse of a Hamptons mansion, but only true Hamptonites would be let inside.
And then, as if he was doing what he was meant to come to the Hamptons for, Grandpa turned the car up the driveway.
“What…. what are you doing?” My heart was literally pounding.
Grandpa’s voice was normal – his calm self, with a bit of business savvy. “I’m a realtor, and you are my granddaughter interested in seeing Hamptons property.”
It was true. He was. I was. And I was about to poop my casual yet expensive-looking pants.
We toured the house, and it was an experience I will never forget. The highest point in the house had a “lookout room” that had a 300 degree view with the bay on one side, ocean on the other. We could see the pool/jacuzzi combination just below, and the tennis courts off in the distance.
We left the house elated, and treated ourselves to a fabulous lunch at 75 Main (I had linguini with clams, he had chicken, and we shared an earthy local Pinot Noir). We were Hamptonites that day (Grandpa keeping his New York cool much better than I), and I hope to one day relive a similar experience in memory of him.
So, with my nod to Lulu and Ina (and the memory of my Grandpa), I tried to entertain like the best of them – comfortable yet elegant, casual and fun, all while keeping it classy.
I stuck with the basics for the nibblies: farm carrots sliced in ranch, M&Ms, salty and buttery cashews, and the ever popular BBQ seasoned popcorn – yes, I made it from popping kernels on the stove and concocted a blend of real spices. I knew our guests, and they aren’t huge wine drinkers, but do drink wine. So I stuck with easy-to-drink wine, inexpensive, with neat lables – Mad Housewife, and Lucky Duck. We also got the seasonal Pumpkin Ale and Rob’s fave, Hoptober Ale.
Being a football party, everything qualified as finger foods, and the two winners were the Crab Pizza, and Turkey Burger Sliders. People were questionable about the Crab Pizza, but one taste of the sweet, buttery crab, with tangy cheese, and a bit of a salty bite, and they were hooked. I must say, this is a nod to my mom, who taught me how to make the crab pizza when I was a (hardly) starving student in my apartment in college longing for her home-cooked classics. And the Turkey Burger Sliders with some carmelized onions, bread and butter pickles, and my Sweet Mustard Sauce…. finger licking yum.
It was no linguini with clams, but I know my Grandpa, my mom, Ina, and Lulu would have been proud. Fun, friends, good food, and good memories – what more can you ask for? (Well, maybe the Bears to win.)
(sorry, not a lot of pics in this one – we got caught up cooking. But trust me, it all looked – and tasted – good!)
- 1/4 c good, precooked, crab meat (I used Dungeness, but that’s just what’s left over from season)
- 1 brick cream cheese (8 oz), room temperature
- 1/4 tsp garlic salt
- freshly cracked pepper
- about 4 dashes of Worcheshire sauce
- prepared pizza dough (with cornmeal for dusting pizza stone)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spread pizza dough on pizza stone or sheet tray sprinkled with corn meal. Prick with a fork many times, evenly, to keep dough thin.
Mix crabmeat, cream cheese, garlic salt, and pepper together in a bowl. Spread evenly on top of pizza. Dash the Worcheshire sauce on top (I do a circular pattern), and put in oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until dough is golden and firm.
Let sit out of oven for a few minutes. Then, slice and serve hot!