I had such fun writing this (it erupted, it wasn't written!), so I hope you enjoy it, too...
Some of you have even been at my home for dinner; Like Matisse, FrogBurger and Priscilla, who are esteemed commenters at my blog (Pris is also a wonderful article contributor).....Blogger FreeThinke knows me through photos of dinner parties I've given over the years, my table settings, etc...(he's a terrific entertainer from the pix he's sent me, I must add, and we've had fun sharing)... So, the bottom line is I'm a pretty good cook and have been told I'm a good hostess. I LOVE having people over; that's all you need, so it's really no talent!
Having said that; I SCREWED UP the other night. SCREWED UP!
I haven't entertained 1/10th as much as when my dear Mr. Z was alive; he loved having people over even more than I did and, by the way, he helped me a LOT, which is wonderful considering he was a HUSBAND :-) There's a German saying "What you don't have in your mind, I have in my legs" ...he'd say that, and off he'd go to the grocery store (again) for something I'd forgotten to buy, bless him! I say all of this to tell you another tip: If you haven't entertained lately, you might have lost the GROOVE. I have....I am very well prepared and 'have it down' normally....since I haven't entertained at all lately, I'm well out of the groove, trust me. And it showed....and it prompts this comment, the point of my post here:
DO NOT SERVE A HEAVY HOT DINNER ON A VERY HOT NIGHT NO MATTER IF YOU HAVE AIR CONDITIONING OR NOT. (is that loud enough?)
There we were, six people here...Matisse (a woman friend who I introduced to everyone as 'my date tonight'!), FrogBurger and his lovely and smart wife Lorrie, and a teacher (SO smart) at the school with which I'm associated, and his wonderful wife. It was about 90 degrees outside, but I thought "So what? I have AC! and they'll love this Armenian dinner!" uh huh.
I have a two story condo that's not huge....with six people here, it felt like I had NO AC (when they read this, they will not be amused when they hear I had the AC on the next night and felt like I was in a meat locker!). That night they were here, I was spritzing. FrogBurger's wife thought she was catching a bug that day so she wore a light SWEATER (poor thing!)...but everyone was so gracious and I'm hoping nobody was as uncomfortable as I was. Of course, a hostess is always kind of spritzing because you're running around pouring more wine, etc..but...man, it was HOT. I'd served a kind of Armenian VERY thin flat bread for hors'doeuvres, with really good Feta cheese, big, fat kalamata olives, and thinly sliced prosciutto..... FrogBurger had brought a fabulous bottle of red wine called Cahors, which I'd never had even in Paris, where I lived for four years. BUY ONE, it's my new fave. I served white wine, too.
OK......so we get through that...good conversation, appetizers, and then dinner; Stuffed vegetables served the Armenian way (called DOLMA in Armenian)....I scoop zucchini out with a special scooper and I save the innards (more on that in a second)...I cut the tops off tomatoes and scoop out those innards...I cut bell pepper tops off....and I stuff all of this with ground lamb, rice, tomatos, S&P, parsley and MINT. THAT is the secret; lots of mint. The second secret (which is now not a secret) is LEMON JUICE. DO not boil in broth or water, just throw in the juice of plenty of LEMONS and that is FABULOUS (if I do say so myself!). (for those who have made stuffed vegetables, don't pile too high in a high pot like I did...I usually cook it in something lower and wider so all the veggies have a chance to steep in the lemon juice so not only the lower levels are juicy, like the case that night)
The best part of that dinner is what I do to the Zucchini innards...chopping it all up finely, salting it and letting it 'leach' the water out...squeezing it dry and then throwing into the dry zucchini innards some beaten eggs and jack cheese and parsley, S&P...this makes a kind of firm souffle (less firm if you don't cook it too long, like I did that night, while I waited forever for the stuffed veggies to cook about forty minutes past the forty-five minutes they should have cooked in.."WHY?!") EVERYBODY loves that souffle. And they were no exception, even in this heat.
For dessert, I served white peaches sauteed in sugar and butter...on vanilla ice cream, with a Pirouette cookie.........that was pretty nice. On another night, I'd have realized IT'S HOT, DO NOT WARM THE PEACHES, the ROOM is doing that all by itself!
For those of you who know the film, I felt like ALICE ADAMS that night (with Katherine Hepburn).........(if you read that link, pay particular attention to the dinner party mention!). (I told my guests I felt like the marvelous Hatti McDaniels that night with her maid's cap wilting in the heat)
My tip is this: EVEN IF YOU DO HAVE AC, DON'T MAKE A VERY HOT, HEAVY DINNER FOR GUESTS.
I don't usually apologize for my dinner parties, I usually don't have to!....but I did learn something that night (you're never too old), I see humor in that night, I saw gracious guests who overcame the heat better than I did (thank you, folks), and I hope you see the humor in it, too, since you've read this far!
rant finished! (i'm not even reading this again to edit, it was painful living through it, and then writing about it...I don't need a third time)