Whether it’s Hairdresser Appreciation Day or Talk Like a Pirate Day, Lisa Gnat, Jane Apor and Julie Albert never let a holiday or occasion go by without treating it as a cause for celebration.
Sisters Gnat and Albert, who are behind cookbooks Bite Me and Bite Me Too, along with Apor run Bite Me More, an online resource for cooking and entertaining with holiday, party and décor ideas and recipes.
The crew, based on Eglinton Avenue West near Avenue Road, develops creative party themes such as a popcorn party to accompany the Oscars or movie night, a candy party that uses board games as placemats and an April Fool’s-themed prankster party, complete with whoopee cushions.
“Not only do we serve up foolproof recipes and easy party ideas, but we’re also all about setting people up for success and helping bring fun into the kitchen and to the table,” Albert explained.
She has a bagful of tips for throwing fun, creative and unique events.
First off, Albert recommends feeding all the senses by creating a signature cocktail for the event, having candy or spiced nuts in every room, creating a themed song list and keeping lights dim or adding candles to enhance ambiance.
“While we all admire Martha — a.k.a. the Glue Gun Goddess — few of us have the time or talent for eight-hour broth or a hand-stitched table runner,” she joked.
That said, she recommends letting go of perfection (i.e: polishing silver) and embracing the fun.
“Don’t break your back or the bank, and instead embrace a clever and creative approach to entertaining that will bring a stress-free, fresh energy to all you do,” she said.
When menu planning, she suggests sticking to dependable recipes that are easy to follow and won’t have people hunting for odd ingredients, such as guava paste.
“Choose items that can be prepared in advance, leaving you free to mingle with your guests,” she suggested.
As for décor, using as few as one key element — even something as small as an unexpected place card on the table — can set the tone. And ditch flowers for other easy non-perishable centrepiece ideas.
“Look around the house,” she said. “Your cupboards might hold exactly what you’re looking for — Scrabble board for games night — to bring a playful energy to the party.”
As for the best part of the job? That’s easy, she laughed.
“Definitely getting to say, ‘bite me’ every day!”
Watermelon & Arugula Salad
- Honey Roasted Walnuts
- 1 cup walnut halves
- 1 tbsp honey
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp chili powder
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
- 2 tsp honey
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 3 cups watermelon, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
- 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced
- 5 cups baby arugula
- 1 cup crumbled goat cheese
1) For the walnuts, preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
2) In a medium bowl, combine walnuts and honey, tossing well to coat. In a small bowl, combine sugar, salt and chili powder. Pour over walnuts and mix well. Place on prepared baking sheet and bake 8 minutes. Stir nuts and continue baking 6–8 minutes more until lightly toasted. Remove from oven and let cool before adding to salad.
3) For the dressing, in a blender combine olive oil, mint, lemon juice, lime juice, honey, salt and pepper. Process until smooth.
4) To serve, place watermelon cubes, mint, arugula and honey-roasted walnuts in a large serving bowl. Toss with dressing and gently toss in crumbled goat cheese. Serve immediately. Serves 4
1) Do follow the Scout motto: Be prepared. Make sure you’ve taken the time to choose a menu that can be prepared mostly in advance, allowing you to be part of your party.
2) Do have a sense of humour. It’s not the end of the world if everything doesn’t go exactly as planned. The greatest laughs sometimes come from gaffes.
3 Set up a self-serve bar and appetizer stations around the house to eliminate the cost of servers. Party
1) Don’t leave seating to chance. Create place cards and strategically place guests for optimal conversation and great group dynamics.
2) Don’t forget to inquire about guests’ dietary restrictions. “There’s nothing worse than a vegetarian at Baconpalooza,” Albert says.
3) Don’t let your guests go home empty handed. Send them packing with either their personalized place cards or a candy loot bag.
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