When Jane Austen and other careful chroniclers of 19th-century society wrote about the social season, they usually meant the winter months. But at the beginning of the 21st century, summer is the biggest party time of the year. Why the change? I'd venture to guess that it's because the cooking is much fresher and simpler (and so is the cleanup).
This approach is certainly true for the Hall family of Long Meadow Ranch in Napa Valley. They invited F&W to a dinner featuring ingredients they grew themselveseverything from wine grapes to potatoes. Eating from the land this way is almost like living in the 19th century!
In "The Primary Pantry," F&W's Grace Parisi preserves vegetables and fruit available in great abundance in the summercorn, blueberries, tomatoesgiving them a whole new life. My favorite is the corn relish she uses to top hot dogs and give corn bread more heft. Another Test Kitchen star, Marcia Kiesel, tackles entertaining with fast dishes for two party menusone Asian-inspired, the other Mexican. I loved the Thai-style avocado-cucumber soup so much that I took the recipe home so I could make it before the issue came out.
For the summer houseguest dilemmahow can hosts keep visitors well-fed and relaxed, and stay that way themselves?we went to two of my favorite home cooks, Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton of Canal House books. They make everything so easy. After testing their recipes, we know that these dishes are as simple and delicious as they look.
I have one more pet theory about summer entertaining: It's all about the light, refreshing wines. F&W's Ray Isle names some of the most lively white-wine choices. I hope they help make your summer the most social ever.
Where I'm Coming From
My recent Manhattan expeditions:
After a fire put the restaurant out of commission for nine months, Anita Lo is back with exquisite French-Asian dishes, including brilliant miso-marinated sable with crispy silken tofu in bonito broth.
Chef Tien Ho brings the Momofuku peach logo to midtown's Chambers hotel with amazing tweaked Vietnamese dishes, like spring rolls with a crunchy egg roll baton.
At this new Jean-Georges Vongerichten outpost, chef Dan Kluger's light, healthy, delicious food made me want to adopt him as my own personal chef.
Follow me on Twitter@fwscout.