Sounds of a Savvy Soiree: Holding Back the Years by Gretchen Parlato

I adore this song, originally by Simply Red and now Gretchen Parlato's rendition. Taylor Eigsti is just superb on the piano!
This is a staple on all of my dinner/cocktail party playlists...classy, jazzy and chic...Enjoy!

The Savvy Palate: Mediterranean Vegetable Terrine

Ah, the terrine...such a mysterious being. Soooo, what constitutes something as being a terrine? Is it anything that's prepared in a terrine dish or does it have be prepared with aspic/gelatin, set, chilled then served as a sliceable mold? Well, when referring to the actual end-product, the later is correct, but to confuse you, technically both are right. To confuse you even more, you don't always have to use aspic/gelatin to create a terrine. Is your head spinning yet? Okay, so we have the quasi-answer to the original question, here's another, do all terrines have to consist of poultry liver? No, in fact I have an AMAZING recipe for a vegetarian terrine that is sure to wow the guests at your next dinner party. The grilled Mediterranean vegetable terrine is a fusion of beautiful flavors, smoky, sweet, spicy and salty...a great meatless option that makes a wonderful appetizer or main dish!

-3 large red bell peppers

-1 tablespoon olive oil (Savvy recommends Treasures of Tuscany)

-1 tablespoon of balsamic glaze (balsamic reduction)

-1 1/2 pounds (1 large or 2 medium) eggplants

-1 pound (3 medium) zucchini

-1 pound ripe tomatoes

-1 large red onion

-Coarse sea salt (to taste)

-Fresh cracked black pepper

-2 tablespoons of unflavored gelatin

-1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

Start boiling water and add basil then set aside.

Line a terrine dish with plastic wrap, leaving enough over lap to seal the terrine after the pan has been filled.

Cut vegetables into large slices (peppers lengthwise and tomato/onion/eggplant/zucchini crossways)

Brush cut vegetables lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper

Place on grill (charcoal, gas or grill pan) until tender with defined grill lines

Place the peppers lengthwise on the bottom of the plastic lined loaf pan, then stand any remaining slices upright along all the sides, allowing the strips to drape over the sides of the pan.

Set aside any leftover slices.

Layer the zucchini over the pepper in a basket weave pattern.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Layer the eggplant in the pan over the zucchini.

Next, add a layer of sliced tomatoes and onion; season lightly with salt and pepper.

Put the basil water in a small saucepan and place over medium heat just until the liquid begins to give off steam.

Add the gelatin, reduce the heat to low, and stir with a wooden spoon until the gelatin is completely dissolved and the mixture begins to thicken.

Pour over the vegetables in the loaf pan.

Fold the overhanging pepper strips over the top and add any that were reserved from the first step.

Close the plastic wrap over the pan and top with an additional layer of doubled plastic wrap to seal.

Put the loaf pan on a large plate and weigh the pan down with another loaf pan of the same size filled with water, bags of dried beans, or anything else sufficiently heavy, or with a brick.

Refrigerate for at least 3 hours to allow the basil aspic to form and the terrine to set.

To unmold, open the plastic wrap, put a serving plate upside down on top of the loaf pan, flip, and remove the plastic.

Cut into slices.

Drizzle with balsamic glaze


The Savvy Guest: Hostess Gift Etiquette

The Savvy Guest: Hostess Gift Etiquette

What to give and when to give a hostess gift is such a hot topic, especially now during the holiday season. This is one of those subjects that tend to stump invitees and I get asked about it quite often. The quick and easy answer is yes, you should definitely bring a hostess gift if you're attending a cocktail or dinner party, also if you're a house guest. It's just simple gratitude.
Is it a no-no if you don't give a gift? Not exactly, however it just isn't proper (channeling my inner Emily Post as I sip earl grey tea, pinkies up).

Here are some easy tips to keep in mind when deciding on what to give as a hostess gift:
Cocktail Party:
A bottle of wine or wine/bar accessory is a great and appropriate hostess gift for the cocktail party hostess. Additional small tokens of appreciation could be coasters, seasonal holiday gift (ornament or packaged candy) or flowers already in vase.

Dinner Party:
The same rules apply as the cocktail party...just DO NOT bring a dish of food...this is a big no-no. The host already has a menu planned and your dish may not fit in. Packaged food gifts are fine as long as the hostess does not feel obligated to serve it at the party. For example, if you bring a delicious bag of blueberry scones from Amy's Bread and box of Aveda tea (hint, hint) a simple note that states "You cooked an amazing dinner tonight, wake up to a delicious morning tomorrow" lets the host know that you appreciate them and that this gift of food is for her to enjoy at a later time.

House Guest:
This should be an obvious one. If someone is opening up their home to you, a hostess gift is a must.
For weekend stays, a bottle of wine, fine soap/toiletries, a plant in vase or thoughtful book are great choices.
For longer stays, a restaurant gift card, houseware item that matches their decor or tickets to a popular event are excellent options. Keep in mind that you are saving hundreds of dollars by not staying at a hotel, the least you can do is use a bit of that savings to show your gratitude.

Other situations:

*Should I send a hostess gift if I can not attend the event?

-No, but please be courteous and inform the host that you will not be attending.

*When should I give the hostess their gift, when I arrive or before I leave?

-For dinner and cocktail parties, upon arrival is the best time. One exception to the rule would be for large scale dinner parties. A thank you card or gift that is mailed the day after the event is sufficient.
For houseguests, it's more meaningful to give the gift at the end of your stay, especially for longer stays so you're able to gauge what they may need.

Remember the purpose of a hostess gift is to let the host know that you appreciate them for inviting your to their event. Be sure to be thoughtful, imaginative and unique in your gift giving approach...the host will so appreciate it...I know I do!

Savvy Soiree: Sights & Sounds...Cocktail Party Scenes in Chic Music Videos

Savvy Soiree: Sights & Sounds...Cocktail Party Scenes in Chic Music Videos

To know me is to know that I LOVE music! As I plan my annual fall cocktail party, A Mid-Autumn Night's Chill, I look forward to winding down and celebrating with friends over great food, convo and libations. What I also look forward to, and I mean REALLY look forward to, is creating this year's event play list (click here to read why). It's like a rush to put together the ultimate play list...a mixture of old and new, obscure and well known, but above all, songs that will create that memorable atmosphere that will keep guests talking.

To set the tone, and kick off my planning, here are two of my favorite songs with videos featuring great cocktail party scenes...
"If I Knew" by Jimmy Sommers featuring Vikter Duplaix
"I Want You" by Common


Savvy Style: Favs for Accessorizing Your Soiree

Savvy Style: Favs for Accessorizing Your Soiree

I adore shopping for my home just as much as I love shopping for myself...I get especially thrilled when it comes to shopping for those unique elements that add extra flair to my social gatherings.

Admittedly, living in NYC offers tons of deals and a vast array of options, however, with a little diligence and great broadband, anyone in any city can outfit their soiree with style.

IKEA, IKEA, IKEA! So cheap yet so cannot go wrong with IKEA. From $3.00 restaurant style wire lid water bottles to $2.00 martini glasses, IKEA is one of my main go to sources for glassware.
IKEA website

Fashion forward table runners and accent pillows are great ways to add a sophisticated element to your decor. My office is smack dab in the heart of NYC's garment district so I'm fortunate to have access to gorgeous fabric in abundance...but it doesn't take being in Manhattan to snag fabulous textiles, some of my favorite places sell online...Dazian (great for large scale fabrics for drapes and dividers), Mood Fabrics (high fashion fabric for accessories) and Saro Trading Co. (for napkins and tablecloths).
Dazian Website
Mood Website
Saro Website

If you can't frequent the 28th Street flower district, never fear because you can overload on sexy orchids and hydrangeas through online floral wholesalers. Two of my favorite are:
The Flower Exchange
Grower's Box

Serving Supplies
Why use a regular teaspoon when you can use a chic Asian soup spoon instead (see previous post on my book launch party here). Restaurant and catering supply stores offer great alternatives to the mundane...whether brick and mortar or online.
Webstaurant Store

Happy Entertaining!!!

Reader Q&A: To Shake or To Stir...

Q:When serving cocktails, how do I determine what mixes to shake and what to stir?
-Viv H., New York, NY

A: As a rule of thumb, always ask your guests what they prefer. If they have no preference, remember this easy point...always shake opaque drinks and stir clear drinks. The exception would be to shake clear drinks if you want a head (foam on top). One simple thing to always keep in mind, never shake cocktails with carbonated ingredients.
Happy entertaining!

Savvy Soiree Playlist: The Urban Sophisticate

If you've ever attended one of my cocktail parties, you know that ambiance is as equally important to me as the right food and an interesting mix of guests. One of the essential elements in creating great ambiance is music. Good music. I'm a member of what I like to call the "Renaissance Generation", meaning, I appreciate Mos Def just as much as I appreciate Miles Davis. So, when it comes to entertaining, the playlist that resonates with me the most is what I classify as the Urban Sophisticate.

My Urban Sophisticate playlist consists of pure neo-soul and down-tempo hip hop vibes that will stand out, however not overpower mingling and conversation. Heavily influenced by jazz and soul classics, these artists truly represent the sophisticated side of the hip hop generation and prove that you can entertain in style and stay true to your personality!

Core Artists:

Erykah Badu

John Legend

Foreign Exchange

Raheem Devaughn

A Tribe Called Quest


Talib Kweli

Lauryn Hill

Janelle Monae

Van Hunt




Raphael Saadiq

Meshell Ndegeocello

My Urban Sophisticate Picks


Say How I Feel
Rhian Benson

What They Do
The Roots

Come Around
Foreign Exchange

Spanish Joint

Vibes and Stuff
A Tribe Called Quest

Come Close
Get to Know Ya
Au Natural
Sweetback feat. Bahamadia