Brilliant Italian (a re-post from July 2010)

Summer has become one of my favorite seasons. Sure, it’s hot and often sticky here in the Midwest. That’s to be expected. But there are just so many opportunities for outdoor entertaining that just can’t be taken for granted! My husband and I hosted a little dinner party that involved wine tasting (one of my favorite activities!) to forget about the heat for awhile. Neighbors came over to feast on tasty homemade Italian dishes while sampling red wines from the Adam Puchta Winery in Hermann, Mo.
First things first….gather up all the necessary items and create a menu board. The chalkboard is from Kirkland’s, and it really works out well for casual events!
 I let the wine breathe a bit before the guests wandered out onto the deck.
 Juicy black grapes to munch on before dinner sit alongside the night’s chalkboard menu.
  The pasta dish gets a chance to “rest” for about 15 minutes after pulling it from the oven.
This little table was set up near the dining table so that guests could nibble on homemade bruschetta and antipasto while sipping a glass of wine before dinner.
 The 6-ft. oblong table is set for six.
This occasion provided a wonderful opportunity for me to pull out colorful Italian-inspired dishes in brilliant, cheerful reds, blues and yellows. “Yellow Talavera” dishes by Maxcera (TJ Maxx) set atop sunny yellow placemats from Bed Bath & Beyond were the foundation of the color scheme. Bright cobalt blue water glasses (Pier One) juxtaposed clear wine stems. A mix of red roses and playful yellow Gerbera daisies in cobalt blue vessels completed the look. Corks of wine parties past displayed each place card. (Square appetizer plates and red dipping oil bowls from Crate & Barrel.)
You simply can’t go wrong with brilliant colors when serving Italian food!
Mangia, y’all!

Taste of Wine Buffet

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Even before ABC’s “Cougar Town” became so popular, I knew that enjoying a glass of good wine was a popular American pasttime. We may not all look like Courtney Cox (seriously…this woman is 47 years old with upper arms and stomach muscles that tight?!?!!), but we can sure put on a wine tasting party to rival any neighborly fete her character, Jules, could.

Spring is the perfect time to try new wines that will accompany your warm weather meals and desserts. A wine tasting party needn’t run you to the poor house, either. Ask your guests to bring along a bottle of their favorite, put some good cheese, breads, fruits, olives and desserts out for them to sample, and you’ve got yourself a smashing springtime soirée.
(Click on any photo to enlarge!)

img_5516wm.jpgThis is buffetscape #2 created for my first “Art of Tablescaping – Buffet Styling” class back on March 6. I started with a full-length white linen topped with a deep yellow bird & branch covered topper placed on the diagonal. (See the topper used on a dining table for a sit-down meal HERE.)

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The 2-tier wrought iron and wood stand is great for displaying whole fruits for guests’ enjoyment. An assortment of cheeses and olives are presented on a wine barrel Lazy Susan from Pottery Barn. Olives are scooped into Pier 1 white poppy serving bowls, and varietal breads are piled into a long linen-lined basket.

IMG_5519WMI like to add fun little items to buffet tables like this wine placard.

A 2-tiered wrought iron stand from Traditions in downtown Lee’s Summit, Mo., balances out the tall fruit display on the opposite end of the buffet table. Displaying the plates here puts them up high where guests can easily access them. The bird on top peeks out through branches of apple blossoms casually arranged in a white ceramic cylinder.

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That takes care of the food, so let’s move on to the real star of the evening: the wine! It’s set up on the bar just beyond the food station.

IMG_5456WMA wine tasting should always include lots of glasses. (Aw, quit your whining…no pun intended. That’s why dishwashers were invented!) Not only does it look really cool to display lots and lots of stemware, but it provides an opportunity for guests to use a different glass to enjoy the full flavor of each wine. Here, the wines are displayed in the recommended order for tasting starting with the light Pinot grigio, moving on to the heavier, more full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon, and finishing with sweet dessert wines. Appropriately sized and shaped glasses are used for each.

I was so lucky to get these fun wine butlers from Bombay Company just before they closed their storefronts. They are a terrific way to showcase the wines up for tasting. Even though Bombay Company is no longer around, try places like Kirkland’s or specialty wine shops for something similar.

IMG_5454WMBe sure to include a few bite-sized desserts when offering champagne or sherry for tasting. You can’t go wrong with strawberries and chocolates!

Thirsty yet?

Other wine tasting posts on this site:
September Wine
Brilliant Italian

Please be sure to join me again this week for Tablescape Thursday starting at 9:00am (CDT)! Ooohhh…and don’t forget that many of my fellow bloggers from around the world are showing off their most festive Irish tablescapes at Cuisine Kathleen’s 4th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Blog Crawl starting March 13! You won’t want to miss either of these great blog parties!