The prospect of entertaining can be overwhelming and daunting, especially if you don’t consider yourself a modern Martha Stewart. Fear of inadequacy should never deter you from hosting your friends, but we totally understand the need to make a good impression. Here to take off some of the pressure is Amanda Shine, owner of NYC-based ceramics concept The Setting and purveyor of party-throwing style we completely jive with—one that’s inventive and chic without the stuffy formalities. Here, she shares the five main things to consider when throwing a summer soiree. Study her preparative tips so you can enjoy your next party with less stress.
Entertaining 101 With Amanda Shine
"Set the scene and keep it clean! I love lavender-scented candles for summer nights to create a cool and inviting setting, which I complement with scattered tea lights to enhance the vibe. When it comes to music, think about the chronology of your evening—I like to start with fun music, slow it down with jazz while eating and, depending on the mood, transition to rap and R&B as the night goes on (or just let the Pandora jazz channel ride). People appreciate the change of pace and you'll be freed up to socialize instead of manning a playlist all night. I also always re-up on my cleaners beforehand—nothing taints a night like a spill or a stained surface without the proper supplies to remedy it quickly. Windex with vinegar is my go-to."
"If you're hosting a BBQ, there's no need to break out the china. Most summer nights are best had around a picnic table or a bonfire (if you're lucky enough to find one), which means no porcelain necessary. I always like to have a few nice serving pieces to anchor the tablescape, and then round out the servingware with recyclable, elevated disposable options from somewhere like Whole Foods. A few nice touches go a long way and I always recommend real cutlery."
"Sometimes the best way to inspire a beautiful arrangement is to have a look around and take in your setting. If you're hosting outdoors for the evening, keep the palette to whites and pale blues to reflect the night sky. I like to focus on one or two big arrangements and then scatter a few smaller, individual blooms with tea lights around for a beautifully simple effect. Keep old Mason jars and assorted glassware to hold your smaller blooms and invest in a statement vase to amplify the impact of the larger arrangements."
"Keep it simple—five ingredients or less is a good rule of thumb when cooking for a group, and summer is the easiest time to get away with it. (For the record, let's consider salt and pepper to be one ingredient.) If you have access to a grill, fire it up! Simply brush some olive oil and garlic on an assortment of vegetables (I like asparagus, corn, and peppers), cover with foil and grill—there are your sides. I like to keep the main options fresh and flavorful. Seafood dishes are great for summer, and they're a lot easier than you think. Working with the barbecue for a minute, any filet from your favorite local supplier will come to life on a grill. Make sure you quickly Google how long it should cook for, but a good rule of thumb is three to four minutes per side. Swordfish with a simple lemon, butter and garlic marinade is a crowd-pleaser, and I'll add chile ancho or spicy pepper for an expected kick. For those who don't have access to a grill, heat a pan with coconut oil and a bit of garlic, salt and pepper the filet and cook on high heat until brown on both sides. Add herbs (rosemary, thyme or sage are great for fish) for a flash of flavor and sit back and relax without having to worry about a major clean-up effort at the end of the evening."
"Appearances can be deceiving—with a unique assortment of glassware and some impressive ice cubes, your guests will never know that the base of their cocktail is an $11 bottle of wine. I always get compliments when I mix things up with my ice cubes. I love adding a few edible flowers or some rosé to a circular ice tray, and people always appreciate that unexpected touch to their drinks. A classic summer cocktail is an Aperol Spritz, and all you need is three ingredients: 3 oz. Prosecco, 1.5 oz. Aperol and a half ounce of soda water plus an orange slice garnish if you're feeling ambitious. Unless you run in a mixology crowd, any cocktail with more than three ingredients probably isn't worth it—your friends won't notice and that prep time could be better spent enjoying their company!"