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How to Host a Tuscany Inspired Party

How to Host a Tuscany Inspired Party

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Viva la dolce with this great party theme

Enjoy this delicious, adorable theme for your next casual party

Let’s face it, if anyone knows how to live the sweet life, it is the Italians. With gorgeous fields and delicious food, Italians are known for valuing time spent around the table with those they love. Warmer weather is peeking just around the corner and you’ll be looking for excuses to just celebrate life. What better way than with a Tuscan-inspired party that encourages guests to linger and enjoy? Here are some easy ideas for hosting one:

The Food
For Italians the word “mangia” is both an invitation and a demand. You can’t have a Tuscan-inspired party without the perfect party foods! The best thing about Italian dishes is they are communal and hearty. You could simply cook a huge pasta dish, a big Neapolitan pizza, or simply put out a spread of cured Italian meats. For dessert, make some homemade gelato or Italian cannoli for the perfect party foods.

The Decor
Aside from plastering Italian flags everywhere, you can get super creative with your centerpieces. Colored pasta looks fabulous in glass vases. You could also use cleaned out tomato cans placed on top of a red gingham tablecloth for center pieces. Your party will be prettier than the Tuscan sunset. Well, almost.

The Drinks
Of course any true Italian appreciates a fine wine, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get creative with your beverages! Instead of sangria, try making a pitcher of homemade limoncello to really get the party started!

Host The Perfect Cocktail Party With These Recipes

Chef Melanie Dunkelman has cooked for a lot of people — Justin Trudeau, heads of European countries — so she’s a pro when it comes to making an impressive meal. “My friend once counted the dishes I made for a party: it was 21 things! It’s food that makes people feel good, so not too salty or fatty. Food just inspires me. I go to the market, pick up an ingredient, and it speaks to me — I’ve even been known to dance with a squash!” says Melanie. Join her in the kitchen and get her recipes for holiday entertaining.

“My home kitchen is small, but it fits everything I need. When I entertain, I find myself standing at the island with everyone gathered around me. It takes me no time to feed 12 people,” she says.

A full fridge and pantry make a home. Melanie’s spicy mustard pickles are based on an old family recipe from her great-grandmother.

Melanie’s collection of ceramics is a mix of pieces made by her mom, Sandi, and by Melanie herself.

“These latkes are my mother’s recipe. I learned to make the smoked-trout mousse at Opus Restaurant years ago with Paul Böehmer. I think it’s fantastic. I make this platter every year for my annual Hanukkah party, and everybody loves it.”

“These are a spin on those tomato and bocconcini skewers everybody makes. I was inspired by my Russian roots and the flavors I grew up with. We ate beet borscht with sour cream and we had beet horseradish. They’re gorgeous.”

“Arpi Magyar from Splendido taught me how to make these ricotta gnudi. I worked on the pasta station there years ago. The trick is that you have to chill them really well. These are the most beautiful, special things — they’re so light and fluffy and delicate. They’re just stunning.”

“I have a special relationship with truffles. I hunted for them in Tuscany and found some big ones. And I like serving soup because it’s the kind of food that gives people a hug. It’s easy and it’s cool to serve it in demitasse cups or shot glasses — it’s good party food.”

Serves 8
4 cups mixed olives
3 whole cloves of garlic, smashed
¼ cup of olive oil
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

In a saute pan, warm the olives, garlic, peppers, and oil. Toss in the herbs with the olive mixture. Serve warm.

How to host an Italian feast

If you had to ask me what my favourite cuisine in the world is, I don’t know if I’d be able to give you an answer. There are just so many that I adore. From Asia all the way to Mexico, I love them all. But without-a-doubt, Italian cuisine with all its intricacies and delicacies would have to be in my top-3. Slow-cooked Osso Bucco on soft polenta, al dente pasta with a simple sauce, wobbly just-set panna cotta with a fruity sauce. I mean, I’m drooling just thinking about it all. And then we haven’t even gotten to all that glorious cheese.

That’s why when my friends at Galbani asked if I’d be interested in creating a glorious Italian feast for their #shareGalbani campaign with their fantastic cheeses, I jumped at the chance. Let’s be honest, you don’t have to ask me twice to work with cheese. I was sent their delicious mozzarellas and the most buttery, creamy mascarpone to play with and you guys. It was pretty much the best week I’ve had in a really long time. Cheese, cheese, CHEESE! *Swoon*

I decided to start my feast off with an Antipasto platter where marinated fresh mozzarella is the star. I love starting a meal with a “picky” platter where everyone can help themselves to what they feel most like. You could add and leave out whichever elements you choose but believe me, that marinated mozzarella is life-changing!

Following that, I served an impossibly crisp-bottomed pizza topped with salami, TWO types of mozzarella (because why not?!) and my home-made sundried tomato pesto. Are you drooling yet?

And then came the grand finale. Now listen, the Italians are not short of glorious sweet things to end off a meal and I could’ve served tiramisu or panna cotta or semifreddo but what my heart really wanted was light and fluffy Bombolini (Italian doughnuts) filled with raspberry mascarpone. And because I surround myself with people who are equally entranced by doughnuts, my guests pretty much fell over themselves to have seconds (and thirds). These doughnuts are as light as a feather and the raspberry-mascarpone filling is absolutely dreamy. So creamy with just the right amount of tartness added by the raspberries. It’s the perfect way to end off a meal.

All-in-all, it was an absolute beaut of a feast and with Galbani as the centerpiece of it all, my guests and I indulged in the most glorious way. Buon Appetito!

Italian Party Planner

Italian food is about a lot more then just ingredients. When people gather to eat in Italy it is not just to settle a hunger or feed an appetite – it’s about celebrating life, friends, family, and culture. People come together to relax, listen to music, drink wine, and enjoy life. And there is no better way to capture the Italian zest for life then by re-creating a rustic Italian dinner party of your own.
Below are some easy tips to engage your senses, tease your tastes, and create the laid-back Italian dining experience that everyone will enjoy.

Primo – Decorazione

The first thing to do before you dive into cuisine is recreate an Italian setting as best you can. This can be achieved easily by adding a few elements into your home which capture the essence of Italy.

Decide on the mood and setting for the event. If you have an afternoon party and can be outside, invite guests outdoors on your patio or in your backyard. If weather does not allow that, or you have no outdoor space, set the party up inside and open windows and let the natural light come in. Make sure and create the serenity of dining in a Tuscan villa, or in an open air Bistro.

If you choose a night time party, recreate the romance of Italy by adding large pillar candles or tapers around your table or social space. Use floating candles and place them in a bowl of water as a centerpiece. If weather permits, have drinks outside and dinner indoors. Keep is casual and make sure and have comfortable spaces where people can relax and melt into scene.

Bring in fresh flowers and herbs. Sunflowers are native to Tuscany and provide great color and feeling to a room. Plant herbs in small pots and place them on the table or around the room. Or, line up bunches of dried herbs in the center of your table to bring in the flavors and aromas of the cuisine.

Choose napkins, placemats, or tablecloths which capture the earthy colors of Italy. Move away from the stereotype of red gingham and embrace colors like terra cotta, Tuscan gold, stucco, eggplant, sage green, olive, and poppy red. Everything does not need to match – in fact, mixing up designs and colors will enhance the setting visually. Floral prints are common in Italy and you can easily find re-creations in most home stores and shops.

Do not pull out fancy wine glasses for the event. Most people in Italy enjoy wine in short juice tumblers. These are inexpensive and easy to store, and they once again create a rustic feel for the guests. They are also not easily broken!

Decide on your music. Nothing says Italian more then opera and even if you know nothing about it – go pick up a CD of Giuseppe Verdi or Giacomo Puccini. Or, stick with the classics like Luciano Pavarotti or the 3 Tenors. Or, go online and listen to an Italian radio station on your computer. Music is easily accessible and completely changes the feel of a party.

Secondo – La Cucina Casalinga

“La Cucina Casalinga” translates to “home cooking,” and that is what dining Italian is all about. Deciding a menu should be casual and straightforward because Italian cooking is all about simplicity. The menu should be approachable and fairly easy and catered to the crowd’s enjoyment.
Begin the party by always offering your guests a drink. You should have open bottles of wine sitting on the table when they arrive, so that people can feel conformable serving themselves. You can even set up a wine bar where your guests can sample Italian varietals. Or offer Grappa as an aperitif. Make sure everyone has something to drink when they are waiting for the food to come out. There is nothing worse then an empty handed guest.

Antipasto: Appetizers
Antipasto is the Italian first course and it should be simple, yet flavorful. Prosciutto is a great option, as it is easy to find and is an Italian staple. Prosciutto is cured pork leg which is aged for normally over 10 months. The meat has a rich and salty flavor and an elegant silky texture. “Prosciutto di Parma”, which means “ham from Parma”, is the most common form. Prosciutto pairs beautifully with sweet fruit like melon or pear, and for an easy antipasto, wrap prosciutto around a slice of melon and add a spring of fresh mint.

Olives are also a great option as they are delicious to eat – and placing them in bowls around the party will contribute to the atmosphere. Some good Italian olives are Cerignola which can be green or black and are very large and sweet in flavor. Gaeta olives are also from Italy and are small black olives which burst with great salty flavor. Put out toothpicks and a pit bowl and everyone will be happy with the result.

Secondi Piatti: Entrees
Italians normally have a “primi piatti” or “first course” of soup, pasta, or rice before the “secondi piatti” or entree. The secondi piatti is normally a meat or fish dish and is typically small because of the “primi piatti”, but when cooking for a crowd, it’s best to keep it simple.

If you’re not too confident of a cook, homemade pizza is an excellent choice. Most places sell pizza dough already made and all you have to do is add the toppings and cook. You can choose pesto, tomato, or alfredo sauce for the pizza and play with tastes. You can also throw the pizza on the grill and give it a smoky flavor.

Another option is pasta – which has a constant presence in the Italian kitchen and pantry. Although most people think that all pasta in Italy is made fresh, the truth is that many homes used dried pasta. Fresh pasta is normally used in stuffed pasta dishes like ravioli or cannelloni. You can choose what kind of topping you want, the most common being tomato or cream – and both are easy to find and also not hard to make. If you want to really capture Italy, make a pesto sauce. Basil is the heart of pesto and the northwestern region of Liguria in Italy is the home of pesto. The basil, garlic, pine buts and olive oil combine to create greatness and will leave your guests full and content.

Top all dishes with fresh parmigiano-reggiano or crushed black pepper.

Insalata: Salad
In Italy, salads are served after the final course. This is because salad cleanses the palate before the desert course and is believed to settle your stomach. Salad is also easy to make and inexpensive, so it will really impress your guests to mix it up and re-arrange the typical order of food courses.

Dolci: Desserts
Desserts or dolci are the conclusion to a beautiful meal. Often a typical Italian meal will be followed by a fresh bowl of fruit, but on a special occasion, a little sugar is offered. For entertaining you only need to remember one thing: Tiramisu. Tiramisu is easy to find and is absolutely delicious. Serve it with coffee, usually an espresso, and your guests will be delighted.


Present your guests with small bottles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar as a party favor – or give away the sunflowers at the end of the night. You might also want to print out the recipes of what you made, just in case anyone wants to re-create it for their friends and family. The most important thing is for your guests to leave happy, full, and wanting to come back for another rustic Italian party.

A 1970&rsquos retro dinner party

“Don’t forget the peas!”, Fiona reminds me.

“It’s those little green suckers that give the food its retro look”, she adds.

Our Christmas Eve dinner last December nostalgically brought us back in time to the 1970s where thick cream, hippy pants and side burns were as popular as vegan and organic diets are today.

Since then, we have been looking to have another retro party to relive those moments.

Mysaucepan dug out some old crockery which have since been buried in our store room for that added effect.

My mum bought these dishes in the 󈨔s and dated with a little cringe factor as they may be, I just could not let them go at a St Vinnies as they hold so many memories. These crockery saw my siblings and I through high school and university in Sydney, let alone countless meals and parties at home.

"Why were these plates trendy at the time??"

As Mysaucepan sets the dinner table for our retro party tonight, I have put on a Foxtel recording of a 1970s disco classic, Saturday Night Fever.

Saturday Night Fever, 1977

The scene where John Travolta struts down a New York city street with his flare pants and 3-inch disco shoes is serious business and not one bit hilarious as what it now seems.

John Travolta as Tony Manero

And as the first of our dinner guests arrive, we share some nostalgic memories of food, fashion and seemingly silly things that we used to get up to those days.

"What do you think of my sexy eyes?"

Fiona is her vibrant self as usual and I needed to put on my pair of aviator-style Ray Bans just to look at her colourful dress, let alone her electric blue-Pretty Woman hairstyle.

As we sample some icy cold home beer that Eva has brought from her own brewery at home, the Bee Gees are belting out Stayin’ Alive and the mood of the party begins.

Tony Manero momentarily distracted

What can be more retro that a 1970s setting complete with iconic attire, music and soon to be the classic dishes from that era.

Blast from the past: Mateus Rose from Portugal

I made sure that I had a bottle of the Mateus Rose in all its glory – that iconic bottle which I remember many a household used to collect as water tumblers for their fridge.

Better still, the bottle was also a popular single candle-holder where candle wax would drip and harden all over its oval-shaped body and used as a proud decorative item in many living rooms around the world.

One of my absolute favourites is oysters mornay, where a healthy dallop of cream is mixed with cheddar and parmesan spooned over fresh oysters and grilled until the cheese is golden brown.

Now why don’t more restaurants do oysters in this classic and robust style anymore?? All I ever experience these days is supposedly edgy red wine vinaigrette with shallots or some other sour concoction that would leave me rather having just a squeeze of lemon juice and Tobasco on my fresh oysters.

The 1970s is big on cheese and heavy cream, but grilled cheese croutons will never go out of fashion in my humble opinion.

2005 Staete Landt Chardonnay

A bottle of 2005 Marlborough Chardonnay is truly a beautiful drop with its buttery and oaky flavours.

Grilled cheese croutons and classic French onion soup

I have to take my hat off to the French for its classic French onion soup. Butter, thyme, dry white wine and a dash of brandy in this soup, with its slithery soft ribbons of onions work wonders with the crispy cheese croutons.

I like my crouton half crispy and half soggy by dipping it into my soup.

Slicing a piece of grilled rib eye

Another all-time favourite is a good, creamy beef stroganoff. I am told the world is still debating as to its obvious origins from Russia as the name implies but some countries have ideas of their own.

The one thing I never do is to buy strips of beef fillets from the butcher that is ready-made for stroganoff.

I find that cooking the sauce separately and then searing beautiful pieces of rib eye or scotch fillets to medium rare on a BBQ or skillet, resting and then slicing them just before serving sets this dish apart from having chewy strips of beef that has been stewed.

Beef stroganoff with buttered rice

By searing / grilling the beef in a hot pan or a BBQ, the meat can be served medium rare and tender as opposed to a stewed well-done version.

A 2007 Clonakilla Shiraz with its bold and oaky finish becomes a beautiful complement to the beef stroganoff.

Chicken Kiev with French beans and walnut salad

For the white meat eaters tonight, the classic chicken Kiev holds its own with the crisp and crumbly crust while a herb butter stuffed within oozes its flavours onto the succulent meat.

2010 Temata Estate Chardonnay

I requested peach melba for dessert not that I would be crying foul if it didn’t happen.

I am pleasantly surprised by the combination of Molly’s butter pudding with Mysaucepan‘s poached peaches in cinnamon, star anise and palm sugar with some velvety vanilla ice-cream.

I was going to get Berri’s peaches in syrup this afternoon but the fresh peaches poached in the subtle cinnamon and star anise are delightful and tender.

I should have eaten those velvety skins of the peaches when Mysaucepan was peeling them after being poached.

Molly’s jasmine flowers add a beautiful scent to our desserts.

And yes, there are days when I do wish I was back in the good old days of the 1970s.

The Recipes

Eva and some oysters mornay for the grill

Oysters mornay


  • 1 – 2 dozen fresh Pacific oysters
  • Half cup thickened or lite cream
  • Half cup cheddar, shredded
  • Quarter cup parmesan, finely shredded

1. Mix the cream and cheddar and spoon over the raw oysters.
2. Sprinkle each oyster with the finely grated or shaved parmesan.
3. Charbroil or grill (radiant heat from top) in 200 degrees until cheese is golden brown and serve immediately.

Tip:Use Pacific oysters because they are more plump and have more volume when grilled compared to Sydney Rock oysters.

Be sure to enjoy these oysters with a glass of chilled chardonnay or some icy cold beer.

Peeling brown onions for French onion soup

French onion soup


  • 10 – 12 medium sized brown or white onions
  • 5 – 6 sprigs thyme
  • 3 – 4 litres chicken or vegetable stock
  • Half to a cup of dry white wine
  • 2 – 3 tablespoon brandy (optional)
  • sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • 2 bunches continental parsley, thinly diced to garnish
  • Quarter cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 – 5 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 freshly baked baguette
  • 1 cup grated cheddar
  • Half cup finely grated parmesan

1. Heat EVOO and butter in large stock pot until melted and slightly smoking then add the finely diced onions and a couple of teaspoons of salt.

2. Sautee onions until slightly soft then add thyme, white wine and black pepper. Then add chicken or vegetable stock and let simmer for 10 – 15 minutes.

3. Stir in brandy as the stock is simmering and turn down heat.

1. Slice baguette diagonally into 1 cm thickness.

2. Heat grill or oven to 200 degrees Celcius and toast the baguette sliced until slightly brown and crispy.

2. Remove baguette slices from oven and generously sprinkle cheddar and parmesan cheese until the top surface area is covered.

3. Return baguette slices to the oven and bake until cheese is golden brown.

Serve soup with crispy baguette immediately.

This is a wonderful soup to cook during the cooler months. It is also a beautiful soup to mop up left-over toasted bread.

Sautee onion slices in butter, olive oil, thyme, white wine and brandy

Grilled scotch fillet resting

Beef stroganoff


  • 3 – 4 pieces rib-eye or scotch fillet steaks
  • 2 large brown onion, thinly sliced
  • 8 – 10 white button mushroom, thinly sliced
  • 1 red or green capsicum (bell pepper), sliced lengthwise
  • 1 cup green pea2
  • 2 – 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 – 3 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
  • One tablespoon Dijon mustard (optional)
  • Half to one tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 3 – 4 cups of long grain white rice, boiled and cooled slightly
  • 1 – 2 cups of lite cream
  • 1 cup of dry white wine
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Half cup extra virgin olive oil

1. Heat some EVOO in a BBQ or skillet until smoking then sear / BBQ the meat until it is charred outside but still raw or gently cooked inside. Set side to rest, then slice into thin long slices.

2. Sautee onions in large stock pot with the EVOO until it is gently soft, then add capsicum a pinch of salt and the paprika. Then stir in white wine, peas, salt and black pepper to taste.

3. Turn down heat and gently stir in cream and Worchestershire sauce (and Dijon mustard) until it is blended with the vegetables.

4. Cup warm rice onto dinner plate, top with a small knob of butter and serve with beef stroganoff.

This is a beautiful dish especially in winter months.

Chicken Kiev with French beans and walnut salad

Chicken Kiev

Herb butter

  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped thyme
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup fine bread crumbs
  • 1 cup Canola oil

1. To make the herb butter, mix softened butter, herbs, garlic and lemon juice together in a small mixing bowl until combined. Spoon the mixture on a piece of plastic wrap and roll tightly into a log and refrigerate until hard.

2. Flatten the chicken breasts by wrapping them in plastic wrap and pounding them with a meat mallet until they are about 1/3 inch thick. Remove the hardened filling from the refrigerator and slice into eight equal portions (each piece should be a little less long than the breast is wide).

3. Place a piece of butter towards one end of each breast and then roll the meat up tightly round the filling. Tuck in the edges and any stray bits as you roll. Press firmly together.

4. Coat each roll thoroughly in flour, then egg, and finally in bread crumbs, ensuring everything is well coated. Place the rolls on a plate and refrigerate for 1/2 hour before frying.

5. In a pan, add oil and heat the oil to simmering. Carefully add the rolls one at a time and fry for about 15 minutesa turning as to completely brown the rolls on all sides and cook throughout.

6. Drain rolls on absorbent paper and serve immediately.

7. Serve with steamed French beans.

Chicken Kiev is a great dish for non-red meat diets and it can also be accompanied by the stroganoff sauce.

Peach Melba

  • 6 peaches
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 6 tablespoons of caster sugar
  • 2 cups of water
  • Amaretto biscuits, crushed with a rolling pin
  • Vanilla ice cream

1. In a pot, add water, sugar and cinnamon and bring to the boil. Cut peaches in half, remove seeds and add to the boiling water. Lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes till the peaches soften.

2. Remove with a slotted spoon and peel off the peach skins when cooled and refrigerate. Turn the heat back on and reduce the sugar syrup for another 15 minutes till thick and syrupy.

3. To serve, place peach, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, drizzle syrup and sprinkle with amaretto biscuits.


The rollings hills and romance of Tuscany appeals to so many – of all Italy’s twenty regions, it is Tuscany that creates the most enduring image of the country. We travel in our droves to take in the imperious architecture, see the world-famous art and slurp on bowls of hearty soup in between. For those of us who dream of a quiet life in the Mediterranean, it is often good-natured Tuscany that tempts us the most.

Renaissance hotspots like Florence, Siena, Pisa and Lucca entice thousands and thousands of tourists every year – the former of those is the Tuscan capital, home to some 380,000 inhabitants, as well as some of the greatest artwork and sculpture in the world. The historic centre of Florence has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982, and it’s no wonder – the cathedral square contains many protected landmarks with over thousands of years of history between them, including the towering Santa Maria del Fiore. A stone's throw away, the world-famous Uffizi Gallery contains a host of priceless Renaissance artworks, including two of the most important – The Birth of Venus and The Primavera by Botticelli. Everywhere you turn in Florence – and indeed, in Siena or any of the region’s other cities – you’re reminded of Tuscany’s historical significance, and how influential it has been on modern Italy.

Whether you’re walking the streets of Florence or hiking through Tuscany’s idyllic countryside, one thing you can expect is good food. Much like neighbouring Umbria, Campania and Emilia-Romagna, the climate in Tuscany makes it ideal for agriculture, and people here have farmed for at least 3,000 years – first the Etruscans, then the Romans, who built an empire on the back of wheat grown in Tuscan fields. A lot has changed since, but Tuscany remains the heart of Italian agriculture, producing outstanding cereal crops, fruit and vegetables, as well as some of the best pork and beef in the country, not to mention thousands of acres of vineyards, producing classic Italian wines like Chianti, Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino.

Tuscany is fortunate to have a long coastline, too – one that stretches far along the west coast of Italy, from Massa in the north to Orbetello in the south. Fishermen in harbour towns all along the coast return every day with huge hauls of seafood, including prized fish like John Dory, scorpionfish and monkfish, as well as crabs, clams, eels – almost anything you can imagine. This makes Tuscany a perfect destination for seafood fanatics as well.

Want to know more about this iconic part of Italy? Scroll down for a host of quintessential Tuscan recipes, city guides and more.

How to Throw a Mardi Gras Party That Feels Like You’re in New Orleans

All hail Rex, or Bacchus, or Punxsutawney Phil, or whomever is responsible for sending us a potentially early spring this year. Time for a party. And what better way to celebrate the annual return of the earth’s fertility, or whatever, just your love for humankind in a broader sense, by letting the good times roll with a Cajun-inspired feast? Time for a Mardi Gras party. Bead throwing? Optional. Hurricane drinking? Mandatory.

So in honor of the first time parts of your skin will see the sun in 2020, we offer a guide on how to assemble the goods for a Bacchanalian (but classy) affair to remember that is sure to set the tone for the kind of spring and summer you intend to have this year. I repeat: Bacchanalian, but classy.

Step 1: Set the Scene

I don’t recommend staging a full-out parade in your living room, but if it evolves or devolves into that naturally (see Hurricane Punch, below,) that’s your business. A few colorful and clever flourishes are all it takes to establish a festive, irreverent atmosphere evocative of the Big Easy.

French Quarter Street Signs, 6 for $3.49 on Amazon

Delineate different party zones with these French Quarter street signs. Only you will know why one room or another got designated as Bourbon Street… Buy Now

Mardi Gras Beads, 120 necklaces for $20.99 on Amazon

I mean, you gotta have them. It’s Mardi Gras. But you can flip the script on predictable party antics by encouraging their distribution as rewards for exceptional behavior such as attention to costume detail, service to the host, acts of chivalry, or impeccable storytelling. Or you can just scatter them around the place and whatever happens, happens. Buy Now

Flambeaux, $11.50 on Amazon

In the pre-electricity era of Mardi Gras, flambeaux (i.e. torches) were carried alongside the parades so that revelers could see the spectacle. Over time, they became part of the spectacle, as torch-carriers eventually turned a matter of practicality into a matter of performance. These tabletop torch candles add an element of nostalgia to the atmosphere with less threat of setting off your smoke alarm. Or if you really don’t trust your friends, try these adorable battery-powered torches . Buy Now

Masks, 14 for $12.99 on Amazon

Along with your party invite, send a link to these elegant (read: sexy) lace masks to let your invitees know you are not kidding around thematically. Buy Now


Half the tunes have “blues” in their title, but the vibe from this collection of vibrant, brass-driven jazz bands is anything but. Plus the other half of the songs have cheekier titles like “Climax Rag,” “Snag It,” and “I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate,” (I mean, have you seen her shimmy?) so you know it’s bound to be a good time. Get the Mardi Gras playlist.

Step 2: Feed the Crowd

Let’s be honest, in the tradition of the most ostentatious party hosts, you’re mostly in this to show off your culinary skills. New Orleans culture is abundant with Southern, Creole, and Cajun dishes that showcase your absolute prowess but are also easily adaptable for a cocktail party. (If you’re all about convenience, you can also just order New Orleans food online.)

Brunello Cucinelli’s Favorite Dish: Federica’s Rigatoni with Tomato and Basil

Cucinelli howls with delight at the thought of this dish his wife Federica makes for him. What renders it superlative is a perfect pasta texture and abundant sauce. “The pasta should be swimming in the tomatoes,” he says.

• 6 ounces of rigatoni pasta

• ½ pound fresh cherry tomatoes or 7 ounces canned cherry tomatoes, preferably Mutti brand

• Extra virgin olive oil, as needed

• Salt and pepper, according to taste

• Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Put a pot of water on the stove on high heat to bring it to a boil.

2. In the meantime, cut the cherry tomatoes in half and add them to a pan on medium heat with a little olive oil, cut side down. Add a dash of salt and let them cook over a low flame until they soften slightly.

3. Do not stir the tomatoes — just agitate the pan to move the ingredients without mashing them. Add a bit of cooking water at a time until everything takes on a sauce consistency.

4. Add a few whole basil leaves while the sauce cooks.

5. When ready, remove the cooked basil leaves and add freshly ground pepper.

6. Cook the rigatoni in the boiling water until still lightly undercooked. When ready, do not drain but transfer to the pan with the tomato sauce using tongs to retain moisture. Add some Parmesan cheese and stir well to adequately mix everything together, cooking over the flame for another three minutes. Add more of the pasta water as needed to retain a moist and saucy consistency.

7. Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and basil leaves torn into pieces by hand.

Save this Pin for your next Mexican Dinner Party Inspiration!

This magazine gives me the hope that traditional publishing is alive. Whenever I head to Barnes & Noble and actually feel my story on a page I get goosebumps!

The editorial team gave me a &lsquosummer party&lsquo feature which was of course totally up my alley (and a bit complicated in the middle of January!) but we went for it!

I rented this great house and believe it or not shot this entire feature&hellip in the pouring rain!

So if I can shoot this entire magazine feature in an actual monsoon, then you, my friend, can certainly throw a kick ass Mexican Dinner Party!

Be sure to pick up a copy of The Inspired Home Journal at Barnes & Noble, Whole Foods or and share with me over insta if you get a copy!


For me, no fiesta, Cinco de mayo or casual Mexican dinner party is equipped without guacamole and margaritas&hellip okay and maybe queso!

I feel like we&rsquore all in agreement, yes?!

Instead of going with your standard chips and guac (although I love a party classic) I wanted to shake things up with a fn guacamole topping bar! This also gives people something to do if you&rsquore a bit behind on getting dinner together.

How to Create A Guacamole Topping Station:

  1. Prep a big batch of guacamole and separate into 2-3 bowls
  2. Fill up one large serving bowl with your favorite tortilla chips
  3. Arrange 8-10 smaller bowls filled with different types of toppings. Use everything from cheese crumbles to fresh veggies!
  4. Toppings ideas: sliced jalapeños, radishes, pico de gallo, salsa, cotija cheese, mango chunks, pepitas


Didn&rsquot think I&rsquod throw a casual Mexican dinner party without a few pitchers of margaritas, did you?!

You can catch all three of these margarita flavors featured in The Inspired Home Journal!

If you&rsquore looking for a fresh, simple big batch margarita (that you can make the night before!) grab this recipe!

Other margarita recipes to try:


Anytime I&rsquom throwing a dinner party I always try and make the side dishes super easy and a recipes that can be made ahead or the night before!

Choosing make ahead side dishes will save you so. much. time! Try a few of my favorite easy, make ahead Mexican side dishes:


My rule of thumb when serving dinner at a dinner party is this:

For 6-8 guests it&rsquos probably manageable to serve family style. After 8, I usually like to set up some sort of DIY or buffet situation for people to serve themselves.

If you&rsquore serving family-style try these easy combos with a simple taco seasoning!

braised jacuzzi chicken | butter Lettuce | pickled red onions | cotija cheese

blackened cod filets | zesty cabbage slaw | avocado slices | jalapeno

carne asada | chimichurri | mango salsa | avocado crema | radish

You can find all of these taco recipes in this summer&rsquos Inspired Home Journal!

Tacos look gorgeous served up family-style but they can be just as fun for guests to make their own.

For a buffet station:
Keep all of your tortillas and proteins separate and warm
Chop and prep all toppings in small bowls with serving utensils


Anytime I think of a casual Mexican dinner party or fiesta decoration ideas I instantly have a bright, vibrant color palette in my head.

Like any party tradition here on The College Housewife, I love a classic theme, with a twist! I wanted the decor to have a modern, sleek feel so we kept all the serving ware and table settings with black and white details.

Once the black and white foundation was set I went in with tons of pops of color! Everything from the drinks, food and florals were all going to be bursting with pinks, oranges, greens, and yellows for that traditional fiesta decorations!

My favorite part of the table design was swapping out one of the vases for a bowl/basket of flowers. Place a waterproof bowl in the center of a shallow basket with a piece of floral foam.

Trim your flowers almost to the bud and pop them into the foam. Could not have been simpler or prettier!

A huge thank you to my closest girlfriends that came out for this photoshoot! Not only was this a monster to put on but you all looked absolutely gorgeous doing it! One more huge thank you to the staff at The Inspired Home for allowing me to rent a gorgeous house for the weekend, throw a fiesta AND have it published in a magazine. I feel far beyond grateful and fortunate!

Watch the video: Σιενα Τοσκανη Ιταλια 2011 Live (June 2022).


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