Courtney Balestier, Allure magazine
An Interview With Adam Rapoport, the editor in chief of Bon Appetit.
I run a food magazine, and even I get stressed out about hosting a dinner party. But much of that pressure comes from ourselves, not our friends. Focus on having fun with them, and you're halfway there.
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Invite the right people. Start with four or five people who are already friends, then throw in a few curveballs-maybe a couple who shares a mutual friend with someone in that core group and a single person to cause a little trouble. Seat everyone around a table that's just a bit too small; it should be intimate, almost combustible.
Cook what you know. The dishes I put the most effort into I enjoy the least. You can practically taste the stress. It's simple food-roast chicken, pasta bolognese-that people devour. I also like stew or a slow-cooking braise. It bubbles away on the stove, so the house smells delicious when people arrive, which puts them at ease.
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Create a relaxed vibe. Have a cocktail ready or a bucket with ice and wine, beer, and champagne for guests when they walk in. Play music at just-low-enough volume, and scatter votives to create warmth. You don't need the table set with six different knives; this isn't a restaurant. People want to relax and feel at home.
Roll with it. I've dropped a pork roast; I've spilled tomato sauce. If you stress out about every flub, everyone else will, too. Guests are forgiving and eager to help, so let them. And always serve dessert. (Store-bought is fine.) By then, the conversation's looser and it's nice to just sit around and dip your biscotti in your wine. It's inevitably the best part of the night.
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For the perfect Indian-summer cocktail, Rapoport recommends something that doesn't require "muddling or measuring." Here's one of his favorites, an Aperol spritzer:
"Mix Prosecco, a splash of good OJ, and a splash of Aperol, which is like Campari and comes in a great retro-looking bottle. Serve it on ice-I like everything on ice."