Tour de France

Every year for the past few years, we’ve invited over a few of our friends who like cycling to watch the final stage of the Tour de France. This year, folks showed up around 5:00 for snacks and drinks.

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The spread included some of our favorite Sweet Grass Dairy cheeses and delicious accompaniments.

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Artie hard at work in the kitchen, doing what he does best.

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Olives with salami, baby dill pickles, and prosciutto.

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Pimento cheese (favorite!!!) with pickled green tomatoes and spicy pickled okra.

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Brie cheese with honey and fig jam. 

IMG_1869A salt block with watermelon, feta, and mint.

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Perfect bite of brie with fig jam.

There was also wine and beer (duh). Around 6:30, we had Decent Pizza delivered. We paired the pizza with a big salad that Artie had prepped in advance (romaine lettuce, baby peppers, cherry tomatoes. homemade croutons, and homemade dressing). The plan was to spend our time/energy on appetizers and keep dinner simple. We probably had some desserts, too, but I guess I didn’t get a picture. If I had to guess, I’d say they were cupcakes 🙂 It was a perfectly simple and delicious menu – great for spending time with friends and watching more of Le Tour. I’m looking forward to next year and another Tour de France gathering with good food and good friends!

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Hosting the Perfect Party, part I

Artie and I really like entertaining. Growing up under the tutelege of my parents and the Burkes, Wales, and Thorntons, I definitely learned how to host a great party. Artie and I love having friends over. It is a great way to connect and, as an added bonus, having company over regularly forces us to keep our house clean.

In the seven years of our marriage, particularly since we bought our house, we have hosted baby showers, holiday celebrations, engagement parties, dinner parties, a Harry Potter movie premiere party, and parties to celebrate Le Tour de France. We are by no means experts, but over the years, we’ve learned a few tips that facilitate seamless party preparation.

I actually started this as one post, but it got too long so I turned it into two. The first post deals with the logistics of a party, the second with menus. Hopefully these tips and the menu ideas and suggestions in the next post will give you some good ideas for hosting your own gatherings in the future.

Without further ado, here are our tips for planning for and preparing for a great gathering:

Choose foods that are easy to prepare in advance. This prevents the last minute craziness of preparing lots of food and lets you focus on finishing touches and having fun at your party. Below is a picture of all the ingredients for a pasta salad and a green salad, prepped the night before and ready to be tossed together right before the start of the party.

Cooking food for a crowd can be expensive. Ask friends if they would bring a dish or be prepared with things you need when guests offer to bring something. Capitalize on your friends strengths, whether that is a signature salad or dessert.

If you buy a main dish for convenience, add special touches to other dishes, like homemade salad dressing. We usually buy pizzas for our Tour de France party because it makes feeding a crowd easier. With the time we save on the main dish, we have time to do things like make homemade salad dressing.

Don’t experiment with a new frosting recipe (or any new recipe, really) on the day of a party, a mistake I made at our last Tour de France party. The frosting tasted good but was a little bit runny and started to drip off the cupcakes. I wish I had tried it out before the day of the party so I had time to made adjustments.

Set out your dishes in advance so you make sure you have space for all your food (and you don’t forget to take anything out of the refrigerator!).

Have a separate table for drinks. This makes the food table less crowded.

If you host a lot of gatherings and have the space, consider buying a beverage fridge. It was a great investment for us when our refrigerator broke a few years ago and has continued to be valuable for parties – no messing with a cooler or ice. We always have beer, sodas, and sparkling water ready to go. [As a side note, since I started drafting this post, the beverage fridge broke. Two months after it went out of warranty. Wah wah. We will definitely be getting another one.]

Invest in a good wine opener (ours broke in the bottle at a recent gathering – fail).

There is nothing worse than having a sink full of dishes dirty from party preparation and then adding dishes from a party. This goes hand-in-hand with preparing food in advance. Having as much food as possible prepped in advance allows us to have the dishes done so our sink can be empty. Don’t worry – I put the clean dishes away before company arrives.

Along those same lines, make sure the dishwasher has been run and emptied so you can quickly and easily load dishes from the party and run the dishwasher before you go to bed that night. This makes the morning after the party clean-up that much more bearable.

For more than 8 people, use paper plates. It’s just easier.

Empty the trash so you have a receptacle for garbage.

Set out a box or bag for recycling. We almost always have beer or wine bottles and try to make it easy for guests so they don’t throw them in the trash.

Don’t forget to take a few pictures. Like the one below of a cute baby in a bicycle onesie (love!). I always forget to do this!

Finally, if you make too much food and you don’t want to eat it for the rest of the week, send leftovers home with guests. I’ve never had anyone refuse delicious leftovers.

So there you have it – Artie and Jill’s practical tips for hosting a party. Next week, I’ll post a follow up with thoughts on how to make a menu for a successful gathering.

Sweet Grass Dairy Cheese Tasting

Last month, Artie turned 30! I can’t believe it – we’re so old! Okay, not really. I actually have it on good authority that the 30’s are pretty darn good. Like your 20’s, except you know what you are doing. Anyway, to celebrate the big day, we had a few friends over for a cheese tasting. If you’ve followed our blog for any length of time, you know that we LOVE Sweet Grass Dairy cheese. Sweet Grass is located about 45 minutes north of Tallahassee in Thomasville, Georgia but their cheese is sold at several stores in Tallahassee.

Our spread included seven types of cheese and some accompaniments.  We printed information about each of the cheeses from the Sweet Grass website.  To read more about each of the cheeses mentioned below, click here.

Below are closeup pictures of all the cheeses except the two in the middle. I’m not sure how I missed them because they are my two favorites! The one on top is the Green Hill cheese. I don’t usually like soft cheeses, but the Green Hill is excellent. The one on the bottom in the middle is Georgia Gouda. There are not words. So creamy. So flavorful. Swoon.

We also served:

Asher Blue

Heat

Harvest (another one of my favorites)

Cyprus (almost like a feta)

Eden (the only goat’s milk cheese we served)

I wish I had taken a picture of the cheese plate a the end of the night. Between the five couples, most of the cheese was eaten (except for a big hunk of the Harvest, but it was the biggest wedge to begin). When we asked our friends which cheese they liked best, the answer was “Yes.” I guess that means they liked them all.

We served an array of side items to complement the cheese including (clockwise from bottom): local salami, smoked almonds, dried apricots, an assortment of crackers, a veggie tray, crusty bread with herb oil (New Leaf market makes AMAZING fresh bread – especially the garlic loaf), and apple slices.

For dessert we had red velvet and carrot cake cupcakes from Lucy and Leo’s. Sooooo gooooood. (And so excited to watch them on Cupcake Wars tomorrow night!)

All in all, I would say the party was a success! The food was great and a cheese tasting was something fun to do rather than the usual party foods. The cheese was on the expensive side, but the accompaniments were relatively low cost and all in all I don’t think the party cost any more than other parties we’ve hosted. There were a LOT of platters to wash but the prep time was minimal and there was no cooking involved.

My birthday is coming up next month and I’m thinking was should have another tasting party. Maybe for my birthday, we can do a cupcake tasting…

It’s All Greek to Me!

This summer, Artie and I have been attending a small group with three other families from our church.  Together with the Michaels, the Switzers, and the Gower-Winters, we decided to host a Greek themed party and invited our friends.  Everyone was asked to bring school supplies as part of our church-wide effort to support a local elementary school.  The party billed itself as “good food, friends, and fun” and we delivered!  Below are the Greek eats and snapshots of an evening of fun, food, and fellowship!  Opa!

Andrea is so detail oriented – she even brought mini York mints in blue and white (the colors of the Greek flag) and some of Mark’s Greek flashcards and text books from college.

The delicious spread.  Greek food is so good!

Creamy, tangy, garlicky Tzatziki sauce.  This is an Artie White original recipe and it was so good.  How good?  Sooooo good!  Recipe coming soon.

Chicken and orzo salad.  Such a yummy dish served in such a pretty bowl.

One of Shannon’s famous salads, Greek-style.

Zucchini and feta pie.  A White house standard during squash season.

And two types of homemade baklava  – regular and chocolate.  Sticky, nutty, and so yummy!

I didn’t get a close-up picture of the Pastichio (it was covered in foil when I was making the rounds with my camera so I overlooked it), but it went fast so it must have been good!

The evening even included Greek trivia.  Shawn walked away with the prize – Greek dressing, of course!

Here’s a few more snapshots of the party people:

Not only did we have a great time, eat lots of Greek food, and realize that we don’t know a whole lot about Greek mythology trivia, but we collected a lot of school supplies!

‘Twas a great night and we’re looking forward to another party themed around a different country soon!