Friday evening we threw together an impromptu cocktail party. A few years ago this may have cause me to panic - having only a couple hours to prepare, and an empty refrigerator with nothing to offer our guests (gasp!)... but in the past couple years, I've discovered a very easy formula for effortless entertaining, and welcome the challenge of preparing a party in 30 minutes or less.
I break it down to two main categories: FOOD & MOOD
FOOD: Charcuterie and cheese boards are simple, easy to throw together, and are always a crowd pleaser. I like to include a mix of soft and hard cheeses, and a couple different meats and often some grapes or pear slices as sweet garnishes. I serve them with a couple different types of crackers, or a fresh baguette with a grainy mustard on the side. I also like to serve one warm or homemade snack - on Friday I prepared a zucchini galette (it's a favorite among a few of our friends - I made it once back in September and they still talk about it). And then I usually have a little something sweet on hand. Since I didn't have time to bake something - I placed a bowl of orangettes (candied orange peels dipped in chocolate) on the table, too.
Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten, does this when she entertains, too.)
As long as there's wine, beer, or cocktails flowing (don't forget the lemons and limes to garnish your drinks!), and you're surrounded by friends, a good time is a sure thing.