It's the end of July, and I wanted to have a party with close friends down by the river to celebrate summer. The menu was a mix of my favorite peak-summer ingredients, and it included cocktails and dishes that I could prep in advance, quickly throw together once people arrived, and serve at room temperature. All key elements to an easy party.
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It's the end of July and I want to celebrate summer...

I love entertaining. Ever since I was a little girl I loved parties. My mom is a gifted hostess and has taught me how to throw large parties and small. On this night, I just wanted to have a few good friends over for a casual dinner to celebrate summer in Westport. This is the first full summer that we’ve lived here, and it feels so nice to be settled into our new life. 

Living on the river has made the summer especially fun. Matt and I often sit down by the river with a glass of wine in the early evenings. When I invited friends over for this dinner, I wanted to start with cocktails and nibbles at the river before coming up to our table for dinner. I designed two easy batch cocktails: a spicy Mezcal margarita and a watermelon-cucumber vodka spritz. Both were made in pitchers, so that I could easily serve them when my friends arrived. 

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Grilled Peach Crostini with Goat Cheese, Calabrian Chili Hot Honey & Basil

This is an easy snack that looks beautiful. There is no real recipe here, it’s pretty simple. First I made crostini by slicing and toasting a baguette with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt, at 400°F for 10 to 15 minutes, until very crisp. Alternatively, you could slice the baguette and grill the slices. While the bread was cooking I sliced firm peaches, tossed them in a little bit of olive oil, and grilled them over high heat for 1 to 2 minutes, with the lid down. I filled a piping bag with room temperature goat cheese (you could also use a ziplock baggie, or just spread it on) and I piped the goat cheese onto the crostini. I topped each crostini with a drizzle of calabrian chili honey (equal parts honey and chili paste) and some pretty basil leaves from the garden. That was it! 

Spicy Mezcal Margaritas & Cucumber-Watermelon Vodka Spritzes

What’s better that a fresh fruit cocktail in the summer? Nothing. I’ve been making the margaritas all summer for clients and everyone loved them. It’s not a complicated recipe, but you do need fresh fruit juice. I recently purchased this Gris Gris basil habanero cocktail syrup and decided to add a little bit to the spicy margaritas, and it was fantastic. The syrup added a little extra depth of flavor and a floral note, too. I’m in love. If you want to try the syrup it’s linked in the shopping section below…

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Two beautiful summer salads...

For our dinner I knew that I wanted to serve two simple salads that I could make in advance and leave at room temperature while we had drinks down at the river. The first was an heirloom tomato, cucumber & burrata salad with pickled shallots, pine nuts & sherry vinaigrette, and the second was a pasta salad play on my famous summer succotash. I didn’t have time to write the recipes because I was the hostess and time got away from me, but I will make sure to share them next summer!

The flatbread of my dreams & my favorite wine chiller...

I’ve always loved jalapeño poppers, and this flatbread combines all of those flavors into a crisp slice. I used my grill to make the flatbread. I started with a base of cream cheese and cheddar cheese, and topped it with smoked ham, fresh corn, jalapeños and chives. It was delicious! I’m going to recreate it and write the recipe this fall for football watching on the weekends. 

If you love this wine chiller, and are interested in purchasing one, I’ve looked extensively and they are sold on Etsy and Ebay. They are vintage, and some are reasonably priced and some are pretty expensive. It depends on size, age, pedigree, and condition. Just make sure to buy one that still has the little cap in the middle. That’s where the ice goes, and you want to keep a lid on to keep the ice cold. 

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Mixed Berry Crisps with Toasted Almond Crumble & Vanilla Bean Ice Cream...

I was in a pinch when I made these crisps, I didn’t have a lot of time to spend on the dessert and I wanted something that felt personal. I had lots of frozen berries in my freezer, so I tossed them with some sugar, vanilla and a touch of flour and filled each cocotte (you could also use ramekins, but if you want to use cocottes I’ve linked them in the shopping section below). I topped them with a mixture of oats, butter, brown sugar, almond slivers, vanilla + almond extracts and a generous pinch of salt. I baked the desserts at 375°F for 30 minutes, until the tops were golden and the fruit was bubbling. Right before serving them I topped them with scoops of vanilla bean ice cream. Desserts like this are so simple and beautiful, and can be made on the fly, as long as you have some frozen fruit and ice cream in your freezer and basics in your pantry. A well stocked pantry will save you in a pinch. If you’re interested in how I stock my kitchen, click here

Entertaining outside...

In the summer months, when the sun shines late into the evening, there is nothing better than being outside with good friends, drinks and food. There are a few things that I love, and use often, when having people over. One is this kitchen speaker from Hudson Grace, which amplifies the music from your cell phone. It’s much cuter than a standard speaker and it really works! Another love is my little raised herb garden, right near my kitchen, where I grow herbs for my recipes and cocktails. I use gardening scissors, also from Hudson Grace, to clip the herbs right before I use them. Both items are in the shop below…

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