I know you know the words to that famous song from South Pacific. It’s all about an unexpected meeting that changes a young man’s life forever. In the case of the Broadway musical the life changing moment comes in the form of true love. Well this week on The Table Set the guys decide to use that same sort of logic when it comes to entertaining. Because not all parties are planned weeks in advance. You need to leave room for serendipity to step in. Because some of the best parties are impromptu. Friends pop over. The mood overtakes you. How can you be ready to take advantage of these moments? How do you transform an impromptu gathering into an enchanted evening well worth remembering? Well this episode is full of tips to take casual to colossal. Because truth be told, spontaneous can be (seemingly) effortless. It’s the spark (and sparkle) of the moment that is indeed the life of all parties.
But before we get to spontaneous parties, let’s talk about their semi-regular segment that asks: “Where’s The Party?”
This week Greg, Andy and Nathan all have the same event penciled in on their calendars. Through a mad confluence of events all sorts of anniversaries are falling right on top of each other. Not only do the folks that bring you Homefries have one-year as a podcast network to celebrate, but one of the shows on this network, The Because Show, is marking it’s one-hundredth episode with a clambake as well. No, not the 1967 classic movie starring “The King”, but a real New-England-Style-Shindig. Complete with clams and clam-diggers. Because you can bet that Andy will be wearing clam-diggers!
It might not be quite the same as Andy’s fashion statement. But Greg knows how to get noticed too. He’s bringing beans. Beans don’t have to be boring. Greg will give his a Middle-Eastern flair. Something like this chickpea salad, but you could use any combination of beans you like and still receive a spontaneous ovation.
So let’s get down to business. The big secret to having an impromptu party come off without a hitch is to make like a Boy Scout. That’s right. Be prepared.
But it doesn’t have to be hard, and you don’t have to go out of your way. In fact you can build preparedness right into your life by always having (more than) a few bottles of wine around the house. Call it your “House Wine”. Wine is a great choice for impromptu parties. It’s easy to store and easy to handle. Just open a bottle and a stress free bit of festivity is in the hands of your guests within moments of walking through the door. Trust me, everyone is happy now. But how to choose a house wine?
The Table Set suggests you look for value first. You know your budget. When Greg finds a highly drinkable wine under $10.00 a bottle it stands a good chance of being his next house wine. He has been known to go as high as $12.00 but honestly there are just as many good $8.00 wines as $12.00 wines. Don’t let price fool you. Another quality to look for in a house wine is a fairly low alcohol content (generally 12% or below, but there are exceptions). Lower alcohol wines are just more versatile with food– as well as being more morning-after friendly. In this episode the gentlemen pop a few corks and let you know what’s pouring in their homes right now. The list includes a fruit forward Jack Hammer Pinot Noir from the California central coast, a well-balanced, but berry bright Zinfandel from Peachy Canyon Winery and Andy’s pick– Franz Etz Grüner Veltliner, a white wine with a lot of peppery, spicy style. The wines may change, but the ideas behind a well-chosen house wine do not.
It’s also good to stock up– buying wine by the case makes a lot of sense. There is actual cash to be saved when buying in bulk. Most wine shops, liquor stores and even plenty of supermarkets offer discounts between 10 and 30 percent when wine is bought by the case (12 bottles) or half-case (6 bottles). Ask your market what their policy is. Whether buying all one variety or choosing to mix and match, saving money puts us all in the party mood. It’s also a good, low-key way to introduce your friends to a particular bottle you like. Because when you’ve got a case– it’s easy to share. So go ahead, choose a house wine that is an expression of your personality. Something you would love to share with friends. Having a dependable house wine also makes you popular at other people’s parties. The guest that brings something to a party that can be cracked open on a whim is a guest that gets invited back. Expensive boutique vintages have their place, but a dependable bottle of something fun, easy and tasty is always a party-pleaser.
Oh, and the same rules apply to beer.
Still. What about cocktail parties? Cocktail culture is everywhere. Plenty of people are looking to expand their palates and their bars to include an enlightened cocktail or two (or three). Nathan has a few ideas about stocking a bar. Bourbon, rye, scotch, rum, and yes, even vodka. They are “What’s in Nathan’s Liquor Cabinet” this week. The segment even includes a discussion of gin styles. Hmmm… Gin vs London Dry Gin. You’ll want to know. But for even more tips you can turn to one of Nathan’s favorite resources. Home Bar Basics by Dave Stolte.
Speaking of tips. Here are Three Simple Ideas for keeping the spontaneous combustion going at all your impromptu get togethers.
A few well-chosen, prepared foods can really help you out. Greg likes to keep frozen shumai in his freezer. They can really save the day when friends pop-in unexpectedly. Or even when Greg forgets altogether that they are stopping in, expectedly. Greg’s story this week painfully proves this point. Still, when it comes to prepared foods. Read labels. Educate yourself. Not everything in the frozen foods aisle is edible you know…
More proof that prepared foods deserve your attention. Especially some of those interesting little gourmet jars of pickled things and condiments. Presented with panache they can find themselves front and center in a “Cutting Board Meal”. Spread all the goodies out on the biggest board you have and watch people dig in to make their own special little bites. They will be stuffed in no time at all. Here’s Greg’s super simple version of Marinated Mozzarella. It’s perfect for this sort of entertaining.
Here’s where you get to really show off your creativity. You know your style and you know what you love. From the best-quality canned tomatoes and fresh herbs to a few well-chosen spices. What you keep on hand at all times says a lot about you and what kind of off-the-cuff parties you throw. So find yourself some great resources. Nathan likes chili powder from Santa Cruz Chili & Spice Company. There’s also this trio of peppers from The Savory Spice Shop. Andy loves his urfa pepper and if he didn’t keep it around the house he’ll never be able to scoop up some Urfa Pepper Ice Cream for his friends.
What music does one play at an impromptu party? The guys each visited a local thrift store in search of an impromptu vinyl offering. Especially for the occasion. Introducing their newest co-host: The Little Gay Record Player!