Monthly Archives: May 2012

Room with a View

In their book, The Sidetracked Sisters’ Happiness File (Warner Books, 1985 ), authors Pam Young and Peggy Jones remember their amazement at the luxury and comfort of the guestroom in their agent’s home, where they stayed overnight after an awards dinner.

Not only had she taken obvious care in decorating it, but she had coordinated the towels of the adjoining bathroom to match the bedroom. Their own guestrooms were afterthoughts, they sheepishly recalled, furnished with their children’s outgrown cartoon-themed sheets.

Although I don’t consider myself as lackadaisical a hostess as The Sidetracked Sisters, their anecdote came to mind as I was ironing the linens for my own guestroom. They are 10 years old and the only ones I have for that bed.

I’m embarrassed also to admit that I’m still using the two sets of guest towels I bought when we bought the house. They still look clean but feel scratchy.

When I’m up in the guest area cleaning, I often fantasize about painting the walls vibrant pastel shades and matching them with luxurious sheets, duvets, and curtains. Unfortunately, I never follow through. I suppose that with guestrooms, out of sight is out of mind.

I want my guests to leave smiling with happy memories of their visits, and cozy, eye-appealing accommodations would contribute as much to that outcome as the special meals I try to serve.

FYI: A new feature, “Quick Tricks,” will debut next week and appear every Tuesday. Garnered from caterers, chefs, and friends, these will be quick-reading tips intended to make your entertaining life easier. Please let me know if you like the format, and please share some quick tricks of your own. Thank you!

Take It Easy

Relax. It’s Summer-unofficially, at least. This isn’t the time for complicated recipes, but the season for showcasing the beautiful bounty of the garden, whether it’s yours or your local farmer’s. When you’re working with wonderfully fresh ingredients, grilling and assembling may be all that’s really necessary.

On Friday night, we stopped at our first farmer’s market, where (among other things) we sampled and purchased a wonderful herb pesto that also contained kale. Though it isn’t tomato season, I had a basket of gorgeous looking hot house beefsteaks from Maine, so on Saturday I sliced them thickly, layered them with mozzarella and red onion, spooned a dopple of my pesto purchase over each stack, and drizzled a little balsamic vinegar over everything. It took no time and looked dazzling set out on a big white platter.

The rest of the meal was equally easy. The flank steak I’d marinated overnight in a mixture of rosemary, oregano, garlic, balsamic, and extra virgin olive oil (following a recipe I found in the June Food & Wine Magazine) took maybe 15 minutes to finish on the grill. The side of fat asparagus that had been tossed in olive oil and grill seasoning cooked in minutes alongside the beef.

With the exception of mixing up the marinade and pouring it over the meat (the work of about 10 minutes), this is a meal that could be on the table in less than half an hour…even if I hadn’t trimmed and peeled the vegetable the day before. It’s just the thing when you want to feed your guests well…after you’ve spent the whole day out with them having fun.

Rise and Shine

If you’re like me, you want to pamper your overnight weekend guests. And, in your mind, that probably includes serving them a nice breakfast every morning. But what can you do if you don’t want to get up extra-early on the few mornings you can sleep late, or if you need to drink that first cup of coffee and have some alone time before you do anything else?

First of all, remember to ask your guests about their breakfast preferences and habits before they arrive. Many people can’t face food first thing in the morning, and others want the same cereal or toast that they eat every day at home. It won’t please them if you jump out of bed to prepare pancakes or eggs. We have some dieting friends who like to provide their own breakfast foods and others who are overjoyed if you bring in bagels, lox, and cream cheese.

I always get a head start on breakfast by setting the table and setting up the coffeemaker the night before. Then, should my guests get up early, they are greeted by a welcoming sight and aren’t left stranded without their caffeine. Another good idea, I think, is a cold breakfast buffet, which might include fruit salad and juices, cured meats and cheeses, hardboiled eggs, and a basket of nice breads and muffins. You can prepare these items in advance, and pop up to put them out on the table or breakfast bar early in the morning. Then, join your guests for breakfast…or go right back to bed, if you like.