Eat Bistro Style: Almond and Fennel Flatbread from Food52

This week for Sunday Supper, we had our hearts set on something simple, fresh, and not too heavy. Imagine cuisine you might find at your corner café or bistro. With that in mind, we turned to Food52 – our destination for all things delicious – and discovered Almond and Fennel Flatbread.

Almond and Fennel Flatbread Recipe

The main ingredient? Za’atar. Don’t panic – it’s not as complex as it sounds. Za’atar includes cumin, sumac, salt, pepper, and a few other spices. It’s a mixture commonly found in Middle Eastern cooking. (See the recipe here.) But, let’s not digress. As Laura Wright of Food52 writes, “Once you have a good piece of dough, this one’s pretty much in the bag.” So grab the closest apron, a glass of white wine for pairing, and whip it up.

Our Sunday Supper: The At-Home Bistro Boutique opens Sunday, March 23, at 11AM ET.

By Julia Ivins, Staff Writer

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March 23, 2014

Spring Entertaining: Let’s Throw a Tapas Party

Send out the invites – a recipe from Boston's Toro restaurant is on the menu

Tapas – Spanish-style small plates built for sharing – encourage around-the-table socializing and are surprisingly easy to prepare. The result? An ideal meal for a casual yet impressive dinner party.

Tapas Party

To get the fiesta started, invest in some small plates. Modern white plates feel springy and fresh against the rich dishes, but I love the idea of using traditional terra-cotta dishware, too, for a touch of undeniable authenticity. Keep in mind when writing your guest list and buying ingredients that each recipe is meant to be shared, so to keep everyone satisfied, I’d suggest offering up to six dishes per person.

To help you kick off your planning, we’ve snagged a recipe from Ken Oringer’s much-adored Boston tapas spot, Toro: the classic and ever-popular gambas al ajillo (grilled garlic shrimp with chilies).

Gambas al Ajillo
Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients

  • 20 medium shrimp, peeled & deveined
  • 3 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 10 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 4 cups white wine
  • 3 dried cascabel chilies, stems & seeds removed
  • 4 cups lobster stock
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • Canola oil, to grease the pan
  • Chili threads, for garnish

 
Instructions

  1. Combine shallots, garlic, and white wine in heavy-bottomed stockpot. Reduce over medium-high heat until almost all of the wine has evaporated.
  2. Add chilies and lobster stock and reduce by three quarters. Let cool slightly, then put contents of pot into blender.
  3. Blend on high until smooth. Add lemon juice and slowly incorporate softened butter while blender is running. Taste sauce and add salt if needed. Keep lobster sauce warm, but not on direct heat.
  4. Place heavy cast-iron pan over high heat with a thin layer of canola oil until very hot. Season shrimp with salt and pepper and add to pan without overcrowding.
  5. Cook for 1 – 2 minutes per side and transfer to a mixing bowl. Toss with lobster sauce, then plate, garnish with chili threads, and serve.

 
Along with the shrimp, try a menu including chicken-stuffed avocado, seared chorizo, fried chickpeas, and sautéed vegetables for a variety of delicious flavors. And of course, don’t forget to embrace Spanish tradition with a batch of springtime sangria.

Our The Professional Kitchen: Stainless Steel Cookware, Spotlight On: White & Wood Serveware, and Prep Like a Pro: Cutlery & Kitchen Gadgets Boutiques open Wednesday, April 3, at 3PM ET.

By Jess Huckins, Staff Writer

Have a question about party hosting or food prep? Comment below or tweet us at @ruelala, then check back every Wednesday for more on Food & Entertaining.

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April 3, 2013

Create a Gathering-Ready Outdoor Space

Spring is here, and what better place to celebrate nature’s annual awakening than outside on your patio or deck? It’s just the spot to host an it’s-finally-spring party (or even to chill solo with a cocktail and a good book). But all deck décor is not created equal, so before you gather friends and family and kick off the outdoor season, take the time to piece together a welcoming retreat with some help from these tips.

Deck Retreat

Keep your décor colorful, your food and drinks convenient, and strive for a good balance of shady and sunny areas (with plenty of relaxing seating). Then you can kick back and bask in the spring-ready glory of your outdoor space.

Our Let’s Lounge Alfresco: The Outdoor Living Room and Let’s Toast Spring: The Outdoor Cocktail Party Boutiques open Wednesday, March 27, at 3PM ET.

By Jess Huckins, Staff Writer

Do you have any favorite outdoor cocktail party recipes? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us at @ruelala, and be sure to check out our Food & Entertaining column every Wednesday.

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March 27, 2013

Spring Cleaning: Feng Shui Your Party Space

Spring is all about renewal (and parties), making it the perfect time to use feng shui – an art centered around balancing a room’s energy to ensure health and good fortune – to revamp the flow in your hosting space. Here, some tips for creating a welcoming home filled with good vibes:

How-to-Feng-Shui-Your-Party-Space

Aim for balanced décor. For a truly feng shui’d space, incorporate all five elements – wood, fire, earth, metal, and water – for balance. You can do so by taking a literal approach (bamboo, candles, terra-cotta servers, wrought iron, a fountain) or simply weaving together contrasting colors and textures for elemental representation.

Clean up.  According to feng shui principles, clutter drains energy – both yours and your home’s. Before guests arrive, stow everyday belongings in closets, cabinets, out-of-sight rooms, or even in storage-specific pieces like the ottoman above. The best part? This opens up mantels, coffee tables, and other places for party favors and snacks.

Take a seat. Don’t feel like you have to provide enough seating for everyone. Fewer seats = more mingling, which makes for a livelier party. A couple of love seats, a sectional sofa, or a cluster of chairs works well for this.

Consider foot traffic. Think about your house’s flow. Rather than dumping coats on a bed, clear your front closet and stock it with hangers. Close off rooms guests shouldn’t enter. Ensure the location of the restroom is obvious. And finally – make sure there’s a clear path to the bar area, with space on all sides and food spread out on side tables.

By Jess Huckins, Staff Writer

How do you prepare for a party? Share in the comments below, or tweet us at @ruelala.

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March 20, 2013

Sláinte! A Peek at St. Paddy’s Day Across the Globe

St. Paddy’s Day is one of the most popular annual festivals in the world, in countries with and without significant Irish populations. And why not? From emerald isles to pints of Guinness, Irish culture is worthy of celebration.

St. Paddy's Celebrations

Here’s how some nations party like the Irish:

Ireland and Great Britain. Ireland itself throws over 100 separate St. Paddy’s Day events – including Dublin’s five-day festivalKate Middleton has been known to participate in the festivities in England, which boasts the UK’s largest parade (Birmingham) and festival (Manchester).

Munich. The only German city to host one, Munich’s St. Paddy’s parade has evolved into continental Europe’s largest. An open-air party with live music and dancing (and plenty of Guinness) always follows. 

Argentina. Thanks to the comfortably warm weather, Argentinians – particularly those living in Buenos Aires – celebrate Saint Patrick with all-night parties, often drinking and dancing until 8AM.

The United States. Virtually every American city with a bar throws a St. Paddy’s party. Some notables? Chicago’s green river, Savannah’s emerald-tinted fountains, New York City’s two million parade attendees, and Rue’s very own Boston – home of the world’s first-ever St. Paddy’s Day parade. With dishes ranging from Guinness Pulled Pork to festive Key Lime Cupcakes, the U.S. throws one delicious green-themed holiday.

With other popular St. Paddy’s Day celebrations in South KoreaMontserratDubaiAustralia, and many other nations, it’s safe to say that partying in green is a worldwide phenomenon. So, all together now: Erin go bragh! 

By Jess Huckins, Staff Writer 

How will you celebrate the greenest of holidays? Sound off in the comments below, or tweet us at @ruelala. 

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March 13, 2013

Outdoor Entertaining: Tabletop Essentials for Spring Holidays

Whether you celebrate a springtime religious holiday or are just grateful for the return of consistent sunshine, it’s getting to that time of year when we move parties outdoors – or at least open up the dining-room windows. Break out the pastels, bright jewel tones, and serveware patterned with butterflies and flowers, then march boldly into the season with these warm-weather entertaining must-haves:

Spring Holiday Entertaining

By Jess Huckins, Staff Writer 

How does your table décor change with the seasons? Share in the comments below, or tweet us at @ruelala. 

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March 6, 2013

Modern Etiquette: Dinner-Party Seating

While the seating schemes of decades past have become mere suggestions, modern dinner-party etiquette still has a few tricks up its sleeve. Read on for some tips on how to seamlessly seat guests, and revive the (commonly thought “lost”) art of the dinner party.

Dinner Party Seating

It’s all about balance. When assembling your invite list, aim for an equal number of men and women. It’s not a strict rule – the more important goal is to have guests who offer lively discussion and pleasant company. As Amy Vanderbilt wrote, “It’s far better to have an extra man or woman than to ask someone on the dull side just to make the number even.” 

Divide and converse. One age-old rule still applies: separate couples. Romantically involved people may talk only to each other, get too touchy-feely, or bring at-home arguments to the table. Concerned that someone will be too shy? Listen to Miss Manners: “If they have no social interests or skills, they can always stay home.” Harsh, but true.

Lay the (place) cards. Use a chart to keep everything organized, and decide on the final seating based on everyone’s personality traits. Put a super-chatty person at the end of the table to avoid a conversation monopoly, and seat a more introverted friend near her. Offer that guy everyone likes a seat near the middle. And if you know two people disagree on a topic, don’t place them beside each other – especially if either is prone to starting arguments.

Once you’re finished with the seating chart, move on to planning your menu and setting the table. Then prepare for a lovely, stylish evening.

By Jess Huckins, Staff Writer 

Do you have any tried-and-true seating strategies? Let us know in the comments below, or tweet us at @ruelala

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February 27, 2013

It’s Showtime: Oscar Party Etiquette

The Academy Awards are this Sunday, and you’ve probably already RSVP’d to a party invite (or sent a few of your own). Regardless of what you’re most looking forward to – the red-carpet style, recognizing the year’s best flicks, or funny-guy host Seth MacFarlane – here are a few things to remember (besides a sparkly dress) for any viewing party on Hollywood’s biggest night.

Oscar Party Etiquette

Everyone has an opinion. If you love Hugh Jackman (or Jennifer Lawrence, or Tim Burton, or anyone), someone else may not. And that’s okay. Check opposing names on your respective Oscar ballots, disagree over champagne and appropriately themed cookies, and move on. This is an evening for glamour, gowns – and friendly banter.

Know Amour from ArgoEven if you’re mainly there to critique the fashion, you should have a rough idea of what’s going on. No one expects you to be an expert on every single movie, but know the nominations. Missing this detail is like going to a football party and asking who’s playing. 

Avoid spoilers. On the opposite end of the spectrum, don’t talk about major plot points or endings unless you know everyone in attendance has seen the movie. (Tip: If you’re starting a sentence with “I couldn’t believe it when…” or something similar, you’re probably giving away too much.)

Chat during commercials. Speeches are sacred in awards-show land. (Remember Jodie Foster’s at the Golden Globes? No one would have wanted to miss that.) Be respectful and keep it down until there’s a break in the action.

But most of all – have fun. The biggest night in movies only comes around once a year.

By Jess Huckins, Staff Writer

What are your awards-party entertaining tips? Share in the comments below, or tweet us at @ruelala.

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February 20, 2013

Classic Courtesy: The Art of the Thank-You Note

How and when to acknowledge gifts, cards, and good wishes

Thank-you notes are vital to the gift-receiving process, not only to be polite but to show friends and family your genuine appreciation. However, a thank-you sent late or in an inappropriate format (read: emailing Grandma) can be worse than not sending one at all. Here, some tips for saying “thanks” with grace.

Rue Thank You Note Examples

The Golden Rule. According to Emily Post, send a handwritten thank-you note “any time you receive a gift… and the giver wasn’t there to thank in person.” It’s also polite to send a note thanking event hosts after a dinner party or other such occasion. The exception? Even if the giver was present at your wedding or shower (both bridal and baby), always mail your thank-yous.

To Write, Email, or Call? When the gift is from a close friend or relative, it’s okay to email or call – except in the two situations noted above, or when you know the recipient would prefer a handwritten acknowledgement. (And you can of course do both, notes social-grace expert extraordinaire Kelly Browne in her book, 101 Ways to Say Thank You).

Get-Well and Sympathy Gifts. If you are sick or grieving, feel free to ask a relative to write thank-you notes on your behalf. And yes – flowers deserve a thoughtful thank-you, too.

The Sooner the Better. Generally, write the note within a week of receiving the gift or attending the event. Showers get a brief extension – up to two weeks – and guests expect to receive a thank-you within two months after you say “I do.”

Design is up to you – just make it personal. Buy blank-on-the-inside cards, design custom stationery, or go DIY – either by hand or with a service like Shutterfly. Just show timely, heartfelt appreciation, and you’re sure to stay on everyone’s good side no matter the occasion.

By Jess Huckins, Staff Writer

How do you stay organized for writing timely thank-you notes? Share in the comments below, or tweet us at @ruelala.

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February 13, 2013

Hold the Roses: Setting the Anything-but-Traditional Valentine’s Table

An at-home Valentine’s Day dinner doesn’t have to be all cupid and hearts. Shake things up a bit with these table-decorating tips, then treat that lucky someone to an unforgettable evening in.

Hold the Roses: The Anything-but-Traditional Valentine's Table

Then all that’s left? Figuring out the menu (mussels, anyone?) and a gift.

By Jess Huckins, Staff Writer

Do you have any go-to Valentine’s Day décor ideas? Share in the comments below, or tweet us at @ruelala.

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February 6, 2013