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Cocktail how-to videos

I just stumbled upon this video and thought I'd share it with you. It's by Grey Goose and features the Poire Pear Cocktail (yes, that translates as "pear pear"....oh well). If you follow the YouTube link, you'll see that Grey Goose has an entire series of how-to videos. Very handy for creating some memorable cocktails at your next event!

By the way, when he says to add sugar, he probably means superfine sugar, which is essentially the same as regular granulated sugar, but ground into small pieces. It dissolves better than regular sugar (so, not totally necessary, but nice to have). If you can't find some at the store, you can make your own by running regular sugar through a coffee grinder until powdery. Be sure to let the sugar settle for a moment before opening the coffee grinder, or you'll have a big cloud of sugar dust in your kitchen!


Reader Mailbag: Dinner Party Menus

Reader Mailbag is a semi-monthly feature where i highlight your entertaining problems and questions.  Got one?  Email me and I'll get to work on it!

Kiira asks:
I usually end up serving some kind of food that someone's allergic to, or just plain hates. Advice?

Oh, I doubt things are as bad as all that!  Still, if someone is coming over for the first time, inquire about any dietary restrictions.  A gracious guest will not impose this on you (unless it's life-threatening), but a gracious hostess will ask.  If they do have a restriction, make a note of it on their record in your Outlook or address book, so you won't have to ask again in the future.

Mild food allergies
If someone is lactose intollerant or gluten-free, that doesn't mean the entire meal has to cater to their needs, but do keep them in mind.  Mr Lactose Intollerant might skip the cheese appetizers but can still nibble on the accompanying fruit.  Miss Gluten Free will no doubt wrap her burger in a big piece of lettuce.  Neither will need a 911 call if their forbidden foods are on the table - just make sure you give them options.

Severe food allergies and religious restrictions
If, on the other hand, one of your guests is deathly allergic to shellfish, it's best to avoid it altogether.  Same thing for those who avoid certain foods due to religious reasons.  It's not nice to tempt your Conservative Jewish friend with a dreamy pork tenderloin roast.  Just leave it off the menu and make something else.

Picky eaters
Head this situation off at the pass.  Give them a clue about the menu in your invitation ("We're having an Indian feast followed by a Bollywood movie!" or "We're digging into Rob's catch from his last fishing trip!") This way, they can politely decline.  If your menu doesn't have an overriding theme, don't use your dinner party as an excuse to "educate" them about foods they've been missing - that's rude.  If you wish to serve something exotic, make it a side dish or sauce that can be easily avoided.

Got an entertaining or party-planning question? Let's hear it! You can leave it in the comments below or email me.


Father's Day inspiration from the blogosphere

First, we have this delightful dessert from Bakerella. LOVE!

Who doesn't love trompe l'oeil food?


Is it bad that I started with dessert? Well, life is uncertain.  Dad can not live on cookies alone, though, so serve this Beer in the Rear Chicken from Bell'alimentovia (via Foodgawker) or Bobby Flay's Garlic Butter Burger on BBQ Nation.


What to give?

If you'd rather buy a gift, check out Extreme Craft's round-up of clever Etsy items for dad - love the wrench cufflinks!


A tie for Father's Day? Just what I wanted!

If you're hosting a Father's Day fête, here's a classic but cute napkin fold for your table.  This link has complete instructions.

If you're going to do this, spice up the look with mismatched nakins, or set Dad's place with a bold pattern and the rest with coordinating solids.  Start with this batik from World Market or bold stripe from Pier One. (mulitple locations nationwide and throughout Chicagoland)


Basics of Entertaining: Classes!

You know there's a wealth of information on blogs, books, and tv shows that will help you become a stellar host...but what if you're ready for more? Where can you go for a hands-on experience and immediate feedback?  Take a class!  Of course there are lots of options in Chicago, but here are some of the best:

Chicago School of Flower Design
- 8 week intensive course

Learn, Cook, Eat
- Private, in-home lessons (for groups or one-on-one) as well as public classes by a trained chef.
Chopping Block - Variety of classes held at two locations - Lincoln Square and Merchandise Mart.

Cakewalk Chicago
- Variety of classes, prices vary.  South side.
French Pastry School of Chicago - this is where the pros go to learn, but they also have 3-day courses for "the food enthusiast" (gah! They're claiming to offering "high tea"....pretty sure they mean "afternoon tea".)

Chicago Wine School
- Five week course or one night seminars.  Highly recommended!  Downtown.

General Entertaining
Savvy Host
- single session classes offered once/twice a month

 Did you take a similar class somewhere?  How was it?  Share your experience in the comments!

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