My 9 tips for a great summer party at home

Are you enjoying your summer? It’s been fabulous weather here in Brussels for the past couple of weeks, might get some rain today but all in all we can’t complain. I hosted a summer garden party last week and had such a blast ( so much soo I forgot to take photos). I had about 14 people over on my tiny little terrace but it all worked out well as I stuck by a few golden rules.

I have been an event planner for more than 20 years now and although I enjoy entertaining at home, I recognize that it is somewhat a daunting task to pull it all off AND enjoy yourself at the party. To help you out I created an easy downloadable cheat-sheet, find it in the side column ⇒ ⇒ ⇒ ⇒ and below, click on the image.

  1. USE A PARTY CHECKLIST – start with using a checklist ( like mine) so you won’t forget anything and stay on budget.

2. MAKE IT FUN – when entertaining at home outdoors/in the garden, have some fun with the decorations. Generally our homes are beautifully appointed and bringing in crazy flamingo decorations might clash or look silly. But outside in the garden you can go to town! And don’t forget the lighting when dusk falls have everything ready to turn on in a flash.

3. HELP YOUR SELF – setting up a “help yourself ‘ bar is always a good idea. I have this large iron tub I bring up from the basement storage and fill it with (shop bought) ice cubes and bottles of bubbly, wine, beer and water. I generally serve the 1st glass when guests arrive and than they can help themselves.

4. SERVE EASY TO EAT/GRAB FOOD – this does not mean you have to serve only bite size finger food, but make it so that they can either reach over and help themselves or it can be served on little plates. Don’t make people move too much by setting up a buffet in a different area of the garden or inside, people want to grab and stay put.

5. MIND THE TEMP – keep your food refrigerated as long as possible and only bring out when ready to serve. Remove food as soon as the last person is served and nobody wants seconds. Have plenty of ice available. I buy mine in bulk for parties as I have a tiny fridge/freezer I pick it up right before the party and keep it cool in cool-bags.

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My summery vitello tonnato

Vitello Tonnato is an Italian dish, a true surf and turf dish from the region of Piedmonte. Consisting of sliced veal covered with a creamy, mayonnaise-like sauce with tuna and capers. Generally it is served in summertime as an antipasto or main course. The veal requires braising and resting, making it in advance is a must. Making this dish, being one of my ultimate favourite, is daunting, cause what if it doesn’t come out right? Now fear aside, let’s get started! There are plenty of recipes online to choose from, as usual created my own version from reading about 20 different ones. Not sure if Italian mamas will approve but I was pretty impressed with the result and wondered why I was worried trying this. All you need is time …

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This year round classic Belgian dish, a chicken stew, was not my favourite until I started making it myself. The appearance can sometimes be off putting and at school I didn’t like it at all. Look on the menu in Belgium for: “vol-au-vent” ( windblown) or “Koninginnehapje” ( queens bite). It is basically a chicken stew made from a whole boiled chicken, a roux and chicken stock, a little cream and small meatballs and mushrooms, served in a small round hollow puff pastry case accompanied by rice, fries or mash potatoes.

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