Friday, April 27, 2012

Spontaneous Entertaining!

     My husband and I have been married almost 45 years and he still pulls some interesting social blunders in my view. We both enjoy entertaining people in our home so that was not the problem. But I like to plan in advance, make a menu, have a theme of what the gathering is about, and have time to prepare even a few days in advance. We met a young couple who are new neighbors in our area at a Holiday gathering, yes a few months ago. It turns out that her family originates from Moldova where my husband's family comes from. Apparently my husband and this wife agreed that she would like to see our photos from our visit to that  country and he would invite them over sometime to look at them. Various things had happened with my mother's health and our recent long trip so that it is now when we are getting around to ask them to come over. I mentioned something to my husband last Wednesday to see if they could come on the weekend. I didn't set up certain time periods or if this was for snacks, or a meal or what and if their kids would come too. He did nothing about this until this morning, Saturday morning at 9:15 AM.  He originally asked them to come sometime tomorrow, but then when they said they were going to a Brewers' game tomorrow, his last words were: "Or today if you can." The husband had to check with his wife who was gone from the home at the time of the phone call. But 10 minutes later he called back and said, "How about at noon?" My husband looked briefly at me and then said, "OK, that would be fine." That was about 2 1/2 hours away. And nothing was set up: was it for food, were the kids coming also? Lots of questions! None of these were a problem for my man!
     "Just drive to the store and get some pretzels and some lemonade. That's all you have to do,"  he said.
     Of course, he still had the planning folders for our next long trip all over the kitchen table, and the kitchen desk still contained  stacks of mail and all the documents from his recent tax preparation. Our cleaning ladies had just been here on Wednesday so the house was basically clean, but the beds needed to be made and the kitchen counters contained some dirty dishes and left over packaging etc, from the last 2 days of meal preparation. In short, the house needed some quick servicing. Both of us got busy picking up and tidying up, while I went over in my mind what I would need to get from the store. Generally you would not invite someone over at noon if there is not to be any food served. How about a quiche, some fruit, maybe some nuts and pretzels (pure snacks) and some cheese and crackers. I headed off to the grocery store. Thank you for modern grocery stores and delis.
     We have a small buffet counter built into our galleria (hallway) between the dining room and the kitchen. This allows me to put out some food. I wanted to have something that looked attractive, that included something that they could just snack on like the nuts and pretzels, and something more substantial in case they had not eaten any lunch. I wanted something that the kids would like also if they showed up. And I wanted it to be attractive. Here's what I came up with.
     I heated a tomato and basil quiche that was ready made, and two Philly steak and cheese cal zones. I cut them in bite sized pieces and arranged them on a plate, hot. These were the more substantial items. I cut up some apple wedges and placed them in a circle on a colorful plate with whole strawberries in the center. This was the healthy simple item.  I love a local brand of cheese called Carr Valley Creamery. I purchased my favorite cheese, a sheeps' milk called Marissa, and two other Carr Valley cheeses. I had some crackers to serve them with. I always cut the label off the cheese wrapper, tape a toothpick on the back and stick this label in the cheese in order to identify it. In case they just want snacks I filled a bowl with mixed unsalted nuts, and bought some small pretzels. Our local Sendiks grocery store has a wonderful raspberry mustard dip which is sweet and tangy and wonderful. I have a couple sizes of gold toned wire baskets. I put a napkin in the smaller one, placed the jar of mustard in the center and circled it with pretzels. Raspberry lemonade and cold apple cider for cold beverages and I made a French press pot of coffee and set it on the buffet along side a small server for milk and sugar. I used the apples and strawberries because I thought there might be kids coming. But I had another idea: that is to slice a cantaloupe and wrap prosciutto around each slice. I had this for lunch in Sorrento, Italy years ago and have never forgotten that taste combination. That's it. Here's a photo of what the counter looked like before we were ready to have something to eat. I think it met all of my specifications.

     This retired physician may be competing with Martha Stuart , but I am very impressed with myself that we were able to put this spread out in 2 1/2 hours. 

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