The summer entertaining season is upon us. For some, the task is as simple as firing up the grill and making a few phone calls to friends. For others, the idea of entertaining is as frightening as facing down a gorilla. What will you serve? How will you make your guests feel at home? What if the dinner is a bust?
Relax. Jenni Kayne as a message for you: “People think everything has to be perfect, and it really doesn’t,” Kayne, author of the new book Pacific Natural, told the New York Times.
Kayne’s book “celebrates the act of slowing down and the quality time that is made possible when you do.” She offered these tips for throwing a casual party:
Get things started, then relax: “I like to make guests their first cocktail,” says Kayne, “and then they are on their own. Otherwise, you’re constantly running around.”
Be present: To entertain guests, free yourself from prepping food and fussing over it once they arrive so that you can be a cordial host. Kayne suggests pre-batching cocktails, rather than mixing them individually; serving simple dishes at room temperature, rather than making dishes that require babysitting in the oven; using a ready-made Spotify playlist from a restaurant instead of putting together your own. “It’s all about energy,” she told the Times. “If people walk in when you’re stressing out, it creates an anxious atmosphere.”
Dress comfortably: Sensible shoes are a must. “It looks kind of silly when you have people over and you’re running around in heels.”
Serve food that meets your guests’ dietary needs: Sure, it’s easier to make the food you’re comfortable with, but this is about pleasing your guests. Check in on everyone’s preferences before planning a menu.
Buy neutral table accessories: “I keep things neutral, so I don’t feel like I have to reinvent the wheel every time,” Kayne says of her linens. Whites, soft grays and tans create a nice backdrop for other details she might add to the table, such as flower arrangements or party favors.
Pick a theme: This helps “give even the most low-key gathering a thoughtful, coherent feel,” notes the Times. The theme can be very simple. At one recent party, Kayne tied everything together with thyme, using it in the menu, with the flower arrangements, at the self-serve margarita bar and with her party favors.
Party favors: As noted above, Kayne likes to include party favors with her theme. “She often gives out citrus bath salts, essential oil-scented room sprays, jars of apple butter or other DIY gifts that she can make with her children on the weekends,” notes the newspaper. For the thyme-themed party, she gave guests corked glass bottles of thyme-infused olive oil and hand-tied bundles of herbs and Palo Santa sticks—which served as nice reminders of a special evening.