Photo: Cathy Yeulet / 123RF Stock Photo.Organizing charity events is a way of life for many of my friends. The competition is brutal and making sure that the event you are chairing is a grand success is no easy task. The first step is to enlist the help of a group of girlfriends to create a buzz in town so that all your other friends save the date for your event.
The only way I know how to do that is to invite these accomplished ladies to lunch at home to discuss the pros and cons, hash out details and make a plan of attack. I find that serving a delicious lunch makes the imagination soar and, hopefully, gives them (and me!) the necessary energy to accomplish the job.
For a summer ladies’ lunch, serve a cold soup, a main course salad and a fruit dessert. That’s it. Do make an effort to set a pretty table; fresh flowers are essential. Crisp linens, decanted wine and ladylike plates are equally important. Never put candles on the table at lunch nor should you serve anything with a label on the table. Transfer sauces and mustard to small crystal bowls.
This lunch at home is casual, fun and, at the same time educational. We need to come up with a theme for our event and make a plan of attack. Formal parties require a little more preparation and though than casual dinners. Color schemes need to be thought out, menus prepared, guest lists assembled, invitations sent and tables decorated. A formal dinner has connotations of glamour and elegance and doing as much as possible in advance always gives me the necessary time to get dressed and look good, which is, after all, the reason why I give parties (just joking…)
Taking the time to plan ahead is my way of organizing these bigger events. And it is just as simple as making a list and sticking to it.
Sending hand written or printed invitations is the best way to set the tone for your event. Specially, if you want your friends to get dress up, down or to come as they are (the latter at your own risk). Invitations are the first impression and, as with all first impressions, the one that counts.
For small dinner parties I have “fill in” invitations that have printed my name and address and leave the date and time empty for me to fill in. I also have place cards in the same colors and notes with my name for thank you notes.
For more formal events, or those that require months of preparation, I order printed invitations, reply cards, place cards and menu cards, if using, all in the same pattern and color. It makes for a consistent look and sets the color scheme for the whole event.
For casual dinners, a phone call or even an email inviting your friends is fine. But a hand written thank you note is essential no matter what the invitation was. It is, in my opinion, what will ensure you get invited back.
Blue Cheese & Onion Tartlets
These tartlets are delicious with drinks, but the same recipe also works if you make them on sheets of puff pastry and serve them, sliced into squares, alongside a tossed green salad. My idea of a perfect lunch!
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 whole red onions, sliced into
1/4-inch thick slices
2 sheets store-bought frozen puff pastry
1 cup creamy blue cheese like Cambozola or Cabrales
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil until hot, then lower the heat to medium-low. Working in batches so as not to over crowd the pan, sauté the onions until slightly brown on both sides. Cut the puff pastry into 2 inch rounds and place on a non-stick oven sheet. Using smaller cutter, make an indentation on the pastry rounds to make a border. Do not cut all the way through. Prick the center with a fork. Place a teaspoon of blue cheese in the center of the pastry and top with an onion slice, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Return to the oven for about 10 minutes or until the pastry has puffed up and the cheese turns golden. ■