A Pair Of Gourmands

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Dinner Parties - by The Chef in Stead

You can love them or hate them, but everyone does host or at least attend a dinner party once in a while. They can be fun or stressful, and the secret is to make sure that any stress at all happens before the guests arrive.

Even if you are as lucky as I am, having married a chef, dinner parties can be stressful. I like to cook too, and so I try to incorporate something I can do. In addition, since I am the girl, I like things to look nice. Chefs are great in the kitchen, but they are not used to being in the dining room!

Luckily, the two of us met while cooking, so we had things worked out from the start. I do appetizers and dessert, and set the table, and he cooks the main course. We have learned how we work best together in the kitchen, and this is the first step towards a successful dinner at home with friends.
Some couples can cook together and others cannot. You may need to have only one of you cook on a given night. Or, you may be able to cook together. Just make sure you don’t try something new when you have guests in the house! Use the formula that works. (Martin will say the same about the recipes – it is not the night to try that new fancy dessert in a recent cooking magazine.)

So, here is my two cents for having a successful evening with friends or family, or Heaven forbid, someone’s boss!

  • Find out about any allergies or dislikes by your guests BEFORE you plan a menu. These days there are plenty of possible embarrassing situations that can be avoided by this detail.
  • Don’t overdo it. Three courses is the maximum unless you are a master at the new “small plates” trend, or one of you is used to catering. Try to do things ahead so you can spend time with your guests.
  • Make sure there is something to nibble on with the first drink. (We North Americans have a nasty habit of enjoying cocktails on an empty stomach, and it greatly reduces our stamina!)
  • Have fun with your presentation. If you like formal, pull out your best china. If you like eclectic, dust off all your wild and wonderful pieces. As long as you have a theme for the evening, everyone will enjoy it. Here is your chance to show off. (And your other half will love that they didn’t have to worry about it!)

The most important thing is to relax. Even if the roast burns, or the cheesecake doesn’t turn out, you can always order pizza! Enjoy the company, toast each other’s health, and be glad you took the time to share with friends.

Well, I don’t have much to add to this except to say, it’s nice to have someone to take care of the dining room…

The next time you entertain, I can help you make an easy menu, just send me an e-mail! Whether you do a Theme event like French, Italian, Greek, Japanese or Caribbean you should always cook fresh and simple food. For example, stay away from prepared frozen appetizers – for a Mediterranean theme, just make an Olive Tapenade and serve it with fresh made crostini.

Olive Tapenade:

250 ml olives (buy good quality, and take the pits out – good quality olives usually don’t come pitted!)
2 TBSP extra virgin Olive oil
2 Cloves Garlic
juice of half a lemon
1/3 cup Roasted Pine nuts (roast them in a pan on medium heat – no oil, just watch them and stir!)

All of it goes in the food processor and VOILA!!

1. you can add 1/3 cup of canned Artichoke hearts
2. you can add Roasted Red Pepper
3. you can add some Roasted Garlic
4. Sun-dried Tomato (with or instead of the olives)
Fresh herbs are also very nice.

Chef Martin’s Tip 6:

Put in good ingredients and good meals will come out!

I am a firm believer that if you buy according to the market, you will be more creative. Let yourself be motivated by freshness. I usually create meals based on what is fresh at the market, and usually end up with tasty meals.

With fish and seafood for example, I make a point to talk to my fishmonger every time I can, so they let me know when I walk in their store about new arrivals and what should be tasted this week.

Vegetables are the perfect example - go to the produce section and choose on the spot what you should buy. You can see the colour, you can touch it, you can smell it and yes, you can see the prices.

“No matter what happens in the kitchen, never apologize.”
(Julia Child, 1912-2004)

The Chef in Stead - Website For Previous Chef Tips For comments or questions, you can reach Martin at 250-712-4440 or Email.

More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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