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Alex Guarnaschelli puts her culinary chops on display daily at her New York City restaurants Butter and The Darby, but she also knows a thing or two about entertaining a crowd (especially during the holidays). When FN Dish caught up with her at the New York City Wine & Food Festival, she was throwing a jazz brunch in the newly renovated Butter, featuring dishes from her debut cookbook, Old-School Comfort Food. Though the event was small and intimate, her entertaining ideas work for any occasion — big or small:
Mix up the menu. You don’t have to serve an entire buffet of right-out-of-the-oven hot dishes. A mix of both hot and cold bites not only keeps the menu interesting, but it also gives you more time to mingle with guests. Try putting out an assorted meat plate with some dried fruits, toasted nuts or a mix of cheeses. It’s an elevated way to serve a wider variety of food without making more work for yourself. Alex recommends pancetta, culatello ham, mustela loin and capocollo Calabrese. Don’t forget to set out grilled bread or pita too.
Add a touch of sweetness. “When savory seems the way to go on a weekend, I like there to be a special, homemade sweet touch,” she writes in her cookbook. Her Deluxe Coffee Cake, which she served multiple platters of at the event, is a crowd-pleaser that’s easy to make the night before. Who says sweet food has to be served last? Put it out at the beginning of the meal and we bet there will be nothing but crumbs left by the end.
Make your own condiments. Homemade butter and hot sauce are simple, easy touches for any soiree. “I like to make these recipes when I have some free time and use them when I don’t,” Alex says. She prefers a mix of guajillo, ancho and jalapeno chiles in her hot sauce, but feel free to experiment and find the taste that’s right for you. Your guests will appreciate the extra effort, plus you’ll have a little reminder of the day’s fun each time you use them later on.