Interviewed by Simply Sorted

I feel so honored to have been interviewed by the fabulous Shira Gill of Simply Sorted for her monthly newsletter.  Simply Sorted is a business that helps individuals organize and streamline their spaces.  As wedding season winds down and with family coming to town for the holidays,  I took the last few weeks to re-organize and de-clutter MY spaces.  I'm always amazed at how much more serene I feel after taking control of my stuff.  Now if I could just get to that massive storage unit under the stairs that is a black hole of things that don't fit in anywhere else...

{Tips from the Pros: Entertaining Simplified}

I was thrilled to be able to interview three talented and dynamic event planners for this Simply Sorted interview on easy entertaining. Shannon Leahy  is the owner of Shannon Leahy Events, Monica Rocchino is an account executive at Paula LeDuc Fine Catering and Hedy Macferran is a freelance Bay Area event planner (and super talented photographer - she did the images for my website!). These are my go-to gals for chic and innovative entertaining and I'm delighted to share their expertise on easy entertaining and hosting. Enjoy!

Q: What is your favorite hostess gift?

My favorite hostess gift to give, by far and away, is fresh, seasonal produce from the farmer's market. A little brown paper bag full of rainier cherries, a basket of ripe zebra tomatoes, a blue bandana tied around fragrant blood oranges; a treat for the host as well as a mini-celebration of the season!

When traveling, I enjoy giving a jarred version of the same gift. Preserved Meyer lemons, warm-spiced pickled onions, homemade raspberry vinegar. On a recent trip to the Georgian Bay in Ontario, Canada, I gifted a June Taylor Silver Lime & Ginger marmalade. Served with bread and cheese, we ate the entire jar in one sitting!

I have two favorites.  I love to give really special French hand-milled soaps like the Gardenia Magnolia bar
from Fresh.  Everyone can use fancy soap in their powder room for guests and it's always good to have some on hand.  Also, I love to give potted succulents because they are such cool little plants that need almost zero maintenance.  Flora Grub in San Francisco sells very cool planters ready to go or you can save money and make your own with a trip to the flower market.

To give: a jelly jar full of flowers from the garden.
To get: preserves, candles or cocktail napkins.

Q: Any simple ideas for decorating a holiday table?

My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, so my mind immediately goes there when I think of a "holiday table." My favorite way of decorating a Thanksgiving table is using various sizes of hollow box risers as centerpieces, filled just to the top with small food items -- anything from kumquats to black rice. When the risers stand alone they provide geometric beauty and color. When family-style Thanksgiving platters are passed, the risers serve as resting places for the platters. So your centerpieces literally become gorgeous platters of food!

SHANNON:The holidays can be so busy that it's hard to find time to make elaborate floral centerpieces.  Manzanita is my go to when I need to put a table centerpiece together in a hurry.  You can buy sandblasted manzanita which has a more finished look, arrange it in a grouping down the center of your table, add a few blooms and some candles and end up with a very cool, modern table centerpiece perfect for the holidays. 

MONICA: I love to adorn the table with produce from the farmer's market.  Or go with mismatched candle sticks and votives all with white candles on a runner.

Q: What is your favorite fix for easy, last-minute entertaining?

If I am fixing a last-minute dinner, I always go for a roasted, whole chicken and the simplest recipe for this can be found in Thomas Keller's Bouchon cookbook. Also, though I cannot live without them, I am starting to get really into alternatives to baguettes when serving cheese. I am perhaps a little too excited about "raincoast crisps," to use one example, and love throwing together warm accompaniments like homemade rosemary crackers. For the record, rosemary does wonders for making your home smell like you've been slaving all day.

I try to always have a variety of good quality cheese on hand to build a gorgeous cheese plate.  A little honeycomb, some fresh sliced bread, almonds, maybe a few sliced pears, Point Reyes Blue, Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam and an Irish Dubliner are my favorites.  Set them out on a thick wood board and you'll look like a hero.

Some cheese and crackers and quince paste always works and having some salumi on hand is always a good thing too! I always have a bag of wild shrimp in the freezer and I can usually come up with some sort of pasta and shrimp dish last minute without having to run to the store. I also like to have some pre-made cookie dough in the refrigerator for a yummy, warm dessert option.