Last weekend I was starting to worry about my self-imposed dinner party a month resolution. February was officially half over and my weekend nights for the rest of the month were quickly filling up. Plus, I wasn’t feeling inspired and couldn’t think of a fabulous reason for a dinner party.
Just when I was starting to lose hope, it hit me. An old friend (that is she and I in the photo) and New York transplant is back in town for a few weeks and has brought along her new French boyfriend. What better reason to host a dinner then a long lost friend and her fantastically foreign boy toy?!
I quickly threw together a Paperless Post invite and sent it off to eight dear friends. Since I’ve only got a week to put together this party, the wheels started churning: what would be the theme? The color scheme? The menu?
I’ve decided a simple and clean San Francisco-inspired party with a sea foam, navy, and merlot color palette. The menu will consist of beloved local dishes — Pizzeria Delfina’s broccoli rabe pizza and Zuni’s roast chicken to name a few. I still need to figure out all the little details, but at least the pieces are starting to fall into place. Phew!
Last weekend I finally had some down time and was able to write up a few drafts for this little website. Other than that I’ve been working up a storm and checking out all that San Francisco has to offer. Oh and I’ve sort of become addicted to Tinder — I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing or maybe just a crazy thing. Lots of fun stuff planned over the next few weeks including my February dinner party (more on that tomorrow) and a girl’s weekend wine tasting getaway in Arnold. Here are some articles that I’ve enjoyed recently.
• I went to the most amazing 10 year anniversary party for A16 on Valentine’s Day. My friend Amy Sherman, of Cooking with Amy, shares some photos of the event.
• My publisher Forbes Travel Guide has come out with their annual Star Award Winners.
• Speaking of Forbes Travel Guide, did you see my latest story? It’s on San Francisco’s love affair with mezcal.
• Pure Wow shares a quick and easy way to remove nail polish.
• I really liked Refinery29′s life coach tips — especially the one that says to make 2014 less about other people and more about yourself. I’ve been trying to put that into practice lately!
• I love Snippet and Ink’s ideas for decorating envelopes.
The other day I discovered two massive sweet potatoes at the bottom of my produce drawer. They were about to go bad, so I decided right then and there that I had to make a meal that revolved around sweet potatoes. A sweet potato chili immediately came to mind as the weather was finally chilly and I had several cans of beans and diced tomatoes in the pantry. I hopped on my computer to find a quick and easy recipe for sweet potato chili. However, the internet’s results appeared unappetizing and lackluster, so I set out to create my own sweet potato chili.
The final dish is smoky and satisfying with a low undertone of heat, thanks to plenty of chili powder. If you don’t like spicy dishes, reduce the amount of chili powder. The chili only gets better over time, thus, leftovers are encouraged. Use whatever combination of beans you have on hand; in a pinch regular diced tomatoes work fine, but I recommend seeking out the Ro-Tel.
Sweet Potato Chili
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 3/4 inch chunks
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup beer
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 14-ounce cans tomatoes with green chills (Ro-Tel)
1 14-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 14-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest
Grated white cheese, like manchego or Monterey Jack, optional for garnish
Fresh cilantro sprigs, optional for garnish
- In a large pot, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sweat over medium heat for 8 – 10 minutes, stirring often to ensure that the onion doesn’t brown.
- Add the garlic to the onions in the pot and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Add the sweet potato and spices to the pot and season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir everything together to coat all of the vegetables with the spices.
- Add the beer and chicken broth. Raise the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to a simmer and cook over low heat for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are just tender.
- Add the tomatoes and beans and stir to combine. Continue to simmer, uncovered for another 15 minutes, until the chili is thick and the flavors are well combined.
- Stir in the green onions and orange zest. Serve immediately in bowls topped with grated cheese and cilantro, if desired.
Serves 4 -6.
Now that it’s February, I’ve been trying to figure out which evening to host my next dinner party. I’ve realized that hosting a dinner a month requires a certain level of constant preparedness. While I can normally throw together a spread of cocktails and appetizers or brunch and mimosas at the drop of a hat, a dinner party is a different level of production. Here are my tips on how to always be party ready.
• Create an inventory of your table linens (a photo of my inventory is below) and tape it to an easy to access spot like the back of a closet door. When it’s time to set the table for a dinner of six, consult the inventory to find out which linens are suitable.
• Buy alcohol in bulk. Take advantage of Bevmo’s ’5-cent sale’ or Safeway’s ‘take 10 percent off 6 bottles deal’ and buy wine in bulk. My general rule is to have at least two bottles of red, white, and sparkling wine on hand always. Supplement your bar by asking guests to bring wine or spirits to the dinner.
• Make use of your freezer. I never used to freeze things, but over the past few years, I’ve learned how to use my freezer to my advantage. If there is a surplus of anything, from soup to meatballs to pesto to bacon to parmesan cheese to bread, I pop it in the freezer. These basic components can easily inspire a last minute dinner. Thaw the soup and serve with grilled cheese sandwiches. Meatballs make an excellent appetizer to a classic Italian meal. Turn bacon and parmesan into a simple carbonara. And so on and so forth. The key is to be creative with your frozen ingredients.
• Maintain a steady level of cleanliness and organization in the kitchen. This is sort of obvious, but don’t let those dishes pile up or those leftovers rot in the back of the fridge. These are the last things you’ll want to deal with when you’re in the middle of hosting a dinner party.