We defer to the experts for entertaining must-haves to prepare you for unexpected guests at a moment’s notice
White, Always Right
Merrily Jackson, entertaining maven extraordinaire and Kansas City Spaces contributor, shares her secret for a well-dressed table:
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To feed guests simply and stylishly, all you really need in the way of dinnerware is a set of classic, unadorned white porcelain ten-inch dinner plates, along with a few white serving bowls and platters. My white tableware is the workhorse of my dish pantry; it will never go out of style. To my eye, food looks most appetizing against white dishes, which blend well with any table décor, any level of formality. You can mix and match it with your wedding china. (Time to pull that out and really use it!) Buy the best-quality porcelain you can afford; cheap dishes crack, chip and discolor easily.
Cody Hogan, chef de cuisine at Lidia’s and Sunday Spaces contributor, shares his list for a well-stocked pantry:
Give me a loaf of good bread and I’ll be fine. Give me that same loaf of bread, a properly stocked pantry and a bottle of wine, and I’ll eat like a king.
Keep in mind that good bread isn’t cheap—but not a single crumb need go to waste. My preferred method of storage is to slice and freeze bread the day I buy it, so a great snack, appetizer, or meal is only a toaster moment away. It only takes an item or two from the pantry to create an almost instant bite to entertain a surprise guest. A quick tuna salad with capers, pickled onions, mustard and mayo; a dollop of fresh ricotta topped with a good anchovy and some crushed red pepper; a puree of beans flavored with some herbs—put it on a slice of toasted or grilled bread. It’s all so easy and delicious for any meal of the day.
• Good quality canned tuna packed in olive oil (some of the best kinds come from Italy, Spain and Portugal)
• Canned anchovies packed in olive oil or salt
• Canned beans: garbanzo and cannellini (or Great Northern)
• Jarred olives like castelvetrano, cerignola and gaeta
• Nonpareil capers
• Rice: I usually have at least six or so kinds on hand, from Carnaroli for making risotto to Carolina Gold, Jasmine, Basmati, and Black “Forbidden” Rice
• Dried beans and peas of all kinds
• Dried fruits and nuts
• San Marzano tomatoes
• Various shapes of dried pastas
• Good extra-virgin olive oil
• Garlic (not the kind in a jar)
• Various sugars and flours, honey, assorted sea salts and kosher salt
• Vinegars: homemade wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar
Here are two really simple variations of the bean purees that we serve at Lidia’s Kansas City:
For the Basil Pesto Puree: Drain and rinse a can of garbanzo beans and put the beans in a food processor. Add a few tablespoons of basil pesto. With the motor running, drizzle in extra-virgin olive oil to achieve your desired consistency and smoothness. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed (you’ll probably need salt, but the level of seasoning in canned beans can vary greatly from producer to producer).
For the Black Olive Puree: Drain and rinse a can of cannellini or Great Northern beans and put in a food processor. Add a generous handful of pitted gaeta, kalamata, or other good black olives. With the motor running, drizzle in extra-virgin olive oil to achieve the desired consistency. Adjust seasoning.
Raising the Bar
Local sommelier, French teacher and bon vivant Stacey Lukas shares her tips to make your bar party-worthy:
People are much more adventurous and willing to step “outside the wine box” drinks-wise when at a party in someone’s home. So it’s fun to be able to offer a few surprises. For example, my New Year’s resolution every year is to “drink more Champagne.” I like to jazz up the usual glass of bubbles with just a splash of European-style liqueur, like Apérol (Italian orange liqueur) or St. Germain (French elderflower liqueur). Also, be sure to have the extra bedroom ready, and your Uber app open for your guests.Michael Aram ice bucket, Halls Kansas City. Fouta tea towel, Bormioli old-fashioned glasses, Pryde’s Kitchen and Necessities. Ebony wine opener, horn bottle opener and Barbara Barry tray, all from Coveted Home in the Crestwood Shops. Stirred cocktail set (mixing glass, bar spoon, Julep strainer), Cocktail Kingdom jigger, MJ cocktail shaker, all from Halls Kansas City. Simon Pearce decanter, Sharyn Blond Linens in the Fairway Shops.
The usual suspects:
• Vermouth (dry and sweet)
• Cognac or a nice sipping brandy
• Light red wine like a Barbera d’Asti from Italy or a pinot noir
• Fuller bodied red wine like a malbec from Argentina or cabernet sauvignon
• St. Germain
• Port or other dessert wine
• Dizzy Three (a local collaboration between The Roasterie and Clear10 Vodka)
• Interesting and exotic cordials, pick them up at Duty Free when traveling
• Bitters (the more, the better!)
• Club soda
• Coke and Diet Coke
• Ginger beer (for instant Moscow Mules!)
• Small bottles of cranberry, tomato, grapefruit, pineapple and orange juice
• Dirty martini “mix” (Yes—I cheat.)
• Olives (I love the fancy stuffed ones—blue cheese or almonds)
• Cocktail onions
• Maraschino cherries
• Stemless wine glasses cover a multitude of beverages
• Champagne flutes
• Highball glasses
• Rocks glasses
• Coffee glasses for spiked hot chocolate and coffee drinks
• Citrus squeezer
• Ice buckets are great, but I prefer a giant punch bowl
(glass or stainless) to hold all chilled beverages