While you may have mastered the art of preparing dinner for your immediate family, have you learned the secrets to entertaining a crowd of partygoers at home? Shopping and cooking for, as well as serving, a meal at a big-bash party invites questions and challenges that you may not face when planning everyday eats and drinks: What are some go-to dishes that will please a diverse group of guests? How much food is needed to feed everyone? What’s the best way to serve multiple courses?
No one can answer these questions better than restaurant chefs, those who’ve made a career out of cooking for large groups of people and who know the ins and outs of preparing to host a crowd. Elizabeth Karmel, owner and executive chef of Hill Country, Elizabeth Falkner, owner and executive chef at Krescendo and a two-time competitor on The Next Iron Chef, and Hedy Goldsmith, executive pastry chef at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in Miami, Fla., showed off their exemplary party-throwing skills in New York City last weekend at the fifth annual Sunday Supper at Chelsea Market, supporting the James Beard Foundation‘s Scholarship for Fulton Youth of the Future and Wellness in the Schools. Together with more than a dozen of their chef colleagues, these ladies cooked a six-course feast for nearly 300 people that included such deliciously inspired bites as caponata with creamy burrata, pasta with sweet onions, tender jumbo prawns and pear crostata.
FN Dish was on hand not only to see the orchestra that’s needed to successfully pull off an event of that magnitude but also to find out from Chefs Karmel, Falkner and Goldsmith how home cooks can utilize similar tricks and techniques when entertaining on a smaller scale.
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How many times have you searched for the ultimate recipe only to find one that’s nearly what you’re looking for but features perhaps a single ingredient or flavor that you simply can’t bare? When that happens, do you scrap the recipe altogether, vowing to find one that’s perfect, or do you settle for the undesired taste because the rest of the recipe fits the bill? We caught up with Iron Chef Michael Symon at the 2013 South Beach Wine & Food Festival, and he told us that instead of an all-or-nothing approach to recipes, look at them as detailed suggestions you can use to build the dish that best suits your tastes.
“Let your palate be your guide,” Iron Chef Symon said. He was reminded of a time that his father suffered through a batch of salsa that, while it was made according to its recipe’s instructions, boasted cilantro, an herb his father doesn’t like. Looking back on the moment now, Iron Chef Symon recalled that it would have been perfectly acceptable for his father to swap in other “soft, leafy herbs” for the cilantro so as to keep with his preferences and ultimately allow him to enjoy the dish.
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What do you get when you gather tables full of amateur cooks and ask them to prepare their own dinners with no advance notice of the menu? If you answered chaos, scorched ingredients and plenty of laughs, then you are correct.
That’s precisely what happened last night at the Barilla Interactive Dinner during the 2013 South Beach Wine & Food Festival. 200 party-goers at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Fla., turned into honorary chefs as they attempted to prepare multi-course meals for one another with little more than a saute pan and wooden spoon. Lucky for them, however, soon they received a wanted dose of culinary guidance in the form of Robert Irvine, who, together with Chef Lorenzo Boni of Barilla, guided guests through each step of the cooking process in the hopes of eliminating major flare-ups and meltdowns.
Chef Boni shared step-by-step tips for making an indulgent pasta with prosecco and caviar, while Robert — in true Restaurant: Impossible form — arrived just when guests needed him most: the tricky entree course. He balanced his no-nonsense commitment to top-quality food with lighthearted how-tos and willing patience to help each table tackle seared swordfish with apple-horseradish sauce and creamy parsnip potatoes.
South Beach may be famous for its sparkling blue waters, white sandy beaches and diverse culture, but when Giada De Laurentiis is in town, the focus here inevitably turns to food. For her first solo event at the 2013 South Beach Wine & Food Festival, she joined forces with the team at Casa Tua Hotel and Restaurant — a longtime favorite of hers in the area — to offer an Italian in Paradise Dinner to an intimate crowd of just 100 people. She promised an authentic Italian feast designed by herself in conjunction with Paolo del Papa, the chef at Casa Tua, and together they delivered an elegant yet comforting spread complete with five signature courses and paired wines.
Before Giada took to the kitchen to help with meal prep, she mingled with guests at a walk-around cocktail hour in the upstairs lounge of the restaurant, posed for photos and signed cookbooks galore, providing fans a seemingly one-time-only opportunity to get to know their Food Network favorite. Party-goers munched on an array of passed spuntini — snacks — like rolled zucchini stuffed with creamy goat cheese, plus bite-size eggplant parmesan and chunks of deliciously salty parmesan cheese straight from the wheel of grana padano as they chatted with the hostess. Looking ahead to dinner, Giada told us, “We’ve been prepping for three days. It’s been awesome … Hopefully everybody will enjoy it.”
It was a just a matter of time until Michael Symon’s three-time People’s Choice-winning streak was broken. And no one wanted to claim that victory more than Bobby Flay. For years, Rachael Ray has said that Michael has taken the win, but with Bobby just a few short votes shy (sometimes just one or two).
Last year Bobby told FN Dish that he’d rather come in tenth place, than be second to Michael once more. “He only wins because of his laugh,” Bobby jokingly told FN Dish last night. He continued to say that if he didn’t win this year, he might just hang his hat up. No need for that. Even though Bobby was up against 33 other burgers, his Green Chile Burger, crunchified of course, was the ultimate combination of savory, salty and fatty.
What’s the secret to this winning burger? “We let Michael Symon win three years in a row. This year we broke out the roasted poblano chiles. Game over everybody,” proclaimed Bobby.
Before the pressure of Burger Bash and Best of the Best really set in Friday night, Spike Mendelsohn gathered some of the best chefs for some friendly competition in his first-ever Let’s Get Spiked Volleyball Tournament on the beach. Comprised of four teams, there was no shortage of smack-talking, interesting uniforms and creative team names:
Team Dolphins: Josh Capon, Andrew Zimmern, Chuck Hughes and Kris Wessel
Team Love Machine: Justin Warner, Pat LaFrieda, Jr., Tim Love and Adrianne Calvo
Team Goose Dies in the End: Jeff Mauro, Stephanie Izard and Curtis Stone
Team Beach Cutlets: Johnny Iuzzini, Todd Erickson, Spike Mendelsohn and Edward Lee
Rumor had it that the chef to watch out for was Curtis Stone, but after the tournament got underway, my eye was on Tim Love, who would dive for the ball just about every set.
When it comes to kicking off a weekend-long celebration of all things cocktails and culinary at the 2013 South Beach Wine & Food Festival, Paula Deen knows just how to do it. She and her son, Bobby, were on hand last night to host The Q, a seaside bash featuring a feast of barbecue-inspired fare with dozens of top-notch chefs from across the country and crowds of hungry food fans. The Deens and other Food Network stars like Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian and Robert Irvine, plus past The Next Iron Chef: Redemption rivals Tim Love and Duskie Estes, mingled with guests and dished out a seemingly never-ending supply of their best smoky bites.
While the atmosphere at The Q among chefs and guests alike was relaxed and tropical, the food scene was serious. To start, Robert Irvine put the focus on pig, offering tender braised pork cheeks with fried pickles on a soft brioche bun.
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Leave the winter chill behind and take a trip down South to the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. We’ll be at the festival all weekend long chowing down on grub with Food Network stars Rachael Ray, Robert Irvine, Bobby Flay, Trisha Yearwood, Michael Symon, Giada De Laurentiis, Jeff Mauro, Paula Deen and more.
Want to join us? You can find our editors covering the following events throughout the 4-day festival.
If you can’t make it to the festival this year, tune into FN Dish for our coverage all weekend long, including exclusive videos.
The Q hosted by Paula Deen and Sons (Thurs., Feb. 21)
The First Family of Food Network will host this super-braised festival kickoff party. Join Paula Deen and her two sons, Jamie and Bobby Deen, as they host Moët Hennessy’s The Q. More than 40 of the top barbecue chefs from across the country will grill up chicken, ribs, brisket and pork butts from Omaha Steaks with smoky side dishes.
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OK, I have a confession: I don’t understand football. Never have. Never will. It’s just the way I was made. I do, however, love throwing Super Bowl parties. You wouldn’t actually find me watching the game, but I love to have all my friends over and cook a big feast and let everyone else enjoy the game while indulging on great food.
The key to a great big-game soiree is to have lots of finger foods — things that are easy to eat while you’re on the couch watching TV and screaming for your favorite team. You also need recipes that are simple to make so you don’t spend the whole day in your kitchen.
The big game may be tomorrow, but there’s still time to organize a feast. Here are a few of my favorite recipes that always make an appearance at my party:
Alton’s guacamole. I once heard a fact that some obscene amount of guacamole is consumed every year during the Super Bowl — something like two football fields’ worth. But since guacamole is awesome, I can believe it.
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It’s no surprise that Jeff’s a big football fan. Though his home team (Chicago Bears) didn’t make the playoffs this year, he’s still excited to celebrate the upcoming big game.
Here are 5 things you can catch Jeff either watching, eating or drinking during the Super Bowl:
1. Commercials: I love watching the one-up manship of these mini movies. Some are very clever and entertaining, sometimes even more so than the game.
2. I eat and make sandwiches (obviously). They’re minimal-cleanup necessary and their one-handed operation permits high-fiving and remote-controlling. It’s also an easy and economical way to feed a bunch of people.
3. I’ll be drinking a lighter beer so my tiny tummy doesn’t fill up so quickly, thus being able to enjoy much more of my personal game-day trifecta: salt, meat and carb.
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