Tag Archives: Summer Entertaining

Late Summer Parties

Although summer is winding down, we still have plenty of time to throw together a last-minute party.

Do you feel like you don’t have a lot of time?

Consider ordering the food. This also gives you the time to relax with your company. If you want to cook, focus on the main course and fake the rest. Someone came in just last week; ordered beef tenderloin, seasoned and slightly pre-cooked; and said she was going to re-heat it. She then ordered her shrimp platter, crab cakes and twice-baked potatoes to accompany her meal. As her veggie choice, she selected our Grilled and Chilled vegetable platter–a #1 hit of the season. She was intending to set it out early–as part of her appetizers–while her company enjoyed time on the lake.

Are you worried about your budget?

Consider the timing of the party. A brunch lends itself to less-expensive ingredients (eggs, fruit and breakfast breads). Or how about cocktails and hors d’oeuvres? In my experience, folks don’t expect as much food when it’s presented this way. Plan the timing of this event just a little later in the evening, after the dinner hour. Your guests might grab a light bite of food at home before coming to the party.

Do you feel like you are short on space?

With a backyard, you can create space to accommodate a fun gathering. Lure your company outside with tubs of ice and drinks, or even a complete bar. You can bring appetizers out and set them out on a brightly decorated table. Picture a small tent or shady area, with a round table of sorts; it will be welcoming from any direction of the yard. When it comes to comfort, set out lawn chairs, blankets or even beach towels as a fun option when your seating is limited. Remember to stock your space with party essentials like plates, cups, and silverware. A basket with sunscreen and bug repellent is good for any part of the day. A few sweatshirts, light jackets or light blankets can help the party last into the evening hours.

Do you feel like you want a creative idea?

Here are some fun, unique ideas to set your night apart from the rest:

  • How about an adult pinata night? Grab a themed pinata, fill it with candies of the past, and let the adults have some fun. Who wouldn’t want to take a whack at something and not cause trouble for himself? After a stressful week, this can be a great way to unwind.
  • Having an adult BBQ? How about some fun ice cubes? Fill an ice tray with water and drop fresh raspberries, blueberries, limes, oranges or any seasonal fruit in before freezing it. These fruity ice cubes make a great addition to cocktails, fresh lemonade, and iced tea.
  • How about adding a little salt to your sweet table? Set up a popcorn bar along with your candy table. Fill a variety of apothecary jars with different flavors of homemade or store-bought popcorn. Set some small bags near the jars, and allow your friends to fill them up to take home.
  • How about an old-fashioned movie under the stars? Using a computer and a projector screen, show a movie on your garage door and invite the neighbors over. Have them bring their own lawn chairs. You can even create a popcorn bar (from the above suggestion) to enjoy at the movies.

Do you feel like throwing a party? Go for it! I would love to hear your ideas! If you used any of these ideas while planning that last-minute party for the summer of 2013, be sure to share the details as well!

Hostess with the Mostess

Who doesn’t want to be the hostess with the mostess? We all have celebratory moments in our lives, and even when we want to plan something simple, we still want some level of spectacular. Whether it is a new theme of decor or a fun, new twist on food presentation, we want to be a little different from the rest.

With sites like Pinterest, it’s not very hard to come up with creative twists on food. Recently, a good friend of mine was planning a bridal shower for her son and his beautiful bride to be. My girlfriend was truly inspired by lots of different things she found on the site. Although she had ordered miniature pastries from Nino’s, she came upon these miniature wedding cake desserts that she just had to make. They were adorable, all three layers of them, but she realized that they were too large to fit the dessert plates she’d planned for each table. The centerpieces for the wedding began with a small idea she saw. Now she is etching glass with the last name initial.

Decorating tables can be as simple as creating display layers with shoe boxes or larger boxes for the trays of food to sit on. Just tossing the tablecloth on top of these layers, instead of fitting it perfectly, provides a creative look. Tossing a piece of fabric or tablecloth, in the color scheme of your party, to one side of the table creates a pulled-together look for your event.

For people who have ordered Mexican food, such as chicken and steak fajitas, I like to use a serape (Mexican colorful blanket) to toss over some of the display boxes. Then I use a sombrero and line the outside rim with nacho chips before serving the salsa and guacamole in large margarita glasses. This is definitely a fun twist for serving Mexican food.


This spring’s grad parties often included a “Candy Land” dessert table, complete with several colorful jars of candy for the guests to enjoy or even take home. Along with the typical cake, cupcakes, brownies and cookies, hosts and hostesses displayed jars and bowls filled with candies like miniature candy bars, Swedish fish, Skittles and M&M’s, to name a few. This translates into a blast back in time to the days we used to play the board game Candy Land and wish we could indulge.

Here are a few summer fun table top ideas:

  • Cut fresh flowers from your yard or use store-bought flowers. They look great in Mason jars. Wrap a bow around the jar to pull in your color scheme. For an even more unique touch, use a plastic pitcher as a floral centerpiece vase.
  • Think outside the box, and use a fun beach towel as a tablecloth. Sometimes beach towels fit perfectly, and then you can easily toss them in the washer when you’re done.
  • Use mix-and-match paper plates and plastic silverware. If you are like me and have a pantry full of mismatched paper plates and silverware, set your picnic table with the mix-and-match pieces. Maybe you can find a solid-colored tablecloth that pulls in a consistent color.
  • Find some smaller rocks, clean them up and use a paint marker to write inspirational words on them. Use the simply decorated rocks to hold down the napkins at each place setting. Then use a few larger rocks to hold down the tablecloth.

Have fun with these ideas. Then come back and share how you used these ideas (or made up your own) to become the hostess with the mostess.

Summer Wine

Summer is finally here! It’s time to have some outdoor fun and then kick back and enjoy some great summer wines.

Everyone is so busy these days, feeling exhausted after a hard day’s work. What could be more refreshing and relaxing than soaking up the sun and treating yourself to a crisp, refreshing glass of wine?

Writing this blog about summer wine reminds me of a television show in England The Last of the Summer Wine. I was watching it earlier this year. The show aired in England for almost 40 years and was filmed in my mum’s home town of Holmfirth, West Yorkshire.

Onward with some great wine suggestions!

Baron-Fuente Champagne Grand Reserve Brut

I was introduced to this champagne at a wine tasting. It is probably one of my personal favorite champagnes at a very respectable price of $31.99.
This champagne could be described as light and floral with great acidity. It incorporates lots of apple, peach, and pear flavors, ending with a honeyed finish. It pairs well with oysters, smoked salmon, and aperitifs.

Trimbach Gewurtraminer 2009

The Trimbach family has been making wine for four centuries in Alsace, France. Try Trimbach Gewurtraminer 2009 with your favorite Asian dish. It has fruity, spicy notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, and rose petals followed by a lusciously well-balanced finish. Yummy!

La Cana Albarino

If you would like to explore something light and aromatic, La Cana Albarino from the Rias Baixas of Spain is the way to go. At the end of the day, there is nothing more relaxing than floating in the pool and sipping on a light, crisp Albarino. This delightful white expresses a lot of peach, apricot and lemon-zest characters with fresh acidity.

Chateau D’esclans Whispering Angel 2012 Rose

For a very special treat, gather family and friends in your garden, and then open up a bottle of Chateau D’esclans Whispering Angel Rose. Everybody will thank you after tasting this pale-pink, fresh, fruity rose with lots of strawberry flavors. In my opinion, it’s the ultimate summer wine.

Have fun and enjoy!


4 for the 4th: Independence Day Dip Recipes

I can’t think of a more appropriate holiday celebration to break out four of my NEW dip recipes than the 4th of July.

More than any warm-weather gathering of family and friends, the lazy, hazy days of early July just invite us to relax with our favorite beverages while snacking the day away.

And while we all have our favorite snacks, sometimes you’ve just gotta stir something up to stir up some new conversations at the food table. These dips certainly fill the bill.

I’ve kept these four recipes on the easy side, but feel free to jazz them up with any number of additional ingredients.

And while you’re shopping at Nino’s for your dip ingredients, keep us in mind for all the rest of your 4th of July menu items, such as fruit and vegetable trays, meats for grilling, deli meats and cheeses, bakery goods, groceries, and of course, all your beverage needs. We have it all!

So, without any additional fanfare, here are my NEW 4 for the 4th Dip Recipes!


Chipotle/Bacon and Cheese Dip

Serve Cold or at Room Temperature with Crackers
Serves 4

1 -12 oz Bottle Nino’s Fresh Chipotle Ranch Dressing
1 Cup Sour Cream
1 Cup Smoked Cheddar Cheese, shredded
½ Cup Crumbled Bacon Pieces
¼ Cup Green Onions, sliced finely on bias
Optional Few Drops of Liquid Smoke Seasoning
Optional Few Drops of Tabasco® Sauce

  1. Whisk all ingredients together until well mixed.

Cheesy Taco Beef Dip

Serve Warm with Tortilla Chips
Serves 6

1 TBSP Vegetable Oil
½ Medium Sweet Onion, diced ¼”
½ Red Bell Pepper, diced ¼”
1 Lb Lean Ground Beef
1 – 1-oz Pkg. Lawry’s® Taco Seasoning Mix
1 Lb Velveeta Cheese
½ Cup Sour Cream
To Taste Salt and Pepper

  1. In a medium-sized sauté pan, sauté onions and bell peppers in 1 TBSP vegetable oil until tender, and then add the ground beef and cook until browned. Strain off all grease, and reserve meat and onions within the pan. Discard grease.
  2. Add taco seasoning and Velveeta Cheese, and bring to a simmer while stirring.
  3. Stir in sour cream and remove from heat.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cool and Breezy Lime and Yogurt Dip with Fresh Mint

Serve Cold with Fresh Strawberries
Serves 6

1 – 10 oz Jar Dickinson’s Lime Curd
1 Quart Vanilla Yogurt (your choice)
¼ Cup Fresh Mint, finely shredded and coarsely chopped

  1. Whisk all ingredients together until well mixed.

Spicy Cajun Black Bean Dip

Serve at Room Temperature with Crisp Toasts or Crackers
Serves 6

1 TBSP Olive Oil
½ Medium Sweet Onion, diced ¼”
½ Green Bell Pepper, diced ¼”
1 – 16 oz Can La Preferida Refried Black Beans
2 Cups French Onion Chip Dip
2 Roma Tomatoes, diced ¼” (with juice)
2 – 3 TBSP Salvaggio Cajun Seasoning & Rub
To Taste Salt
Optional 1 Cup Andouille Sausage, chopped

  1. In a medium-sized sauté pan, sauté onion and peppers in olive oil until tender. Remove from heat, and stir in refried black beans to soften.
  2. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature, and then stir in remaining ingredients.
  3. Add Andouille Sausage (optional), sautéed briefly and then cooled to room temperature.
  4. Season additionally with salt to taste.