How to House Party Like a Chef (& other occupational hazards we’re totally ok with)

And in the morning, there are eggs.  Not an omelet, limp, spongy corners folded in uniform butter yellow.  No, no.  Tom makes you eggs purgatory, a constellation of color leaping from stained baking dish, bringing the life back in pools of spicy tomato sauce and dunks of crusty, toasted bread.  It’s the perfect hangover breakfast and how to keep the party going when you’re a chef.

Such was the timeline when the Schwartz family opened up their home to chefs visiting for the 15th annual South Beach Wine & Food Festival for a good old fashioned house party Thursday night.  Just a bunch of friends who came to the table to make some delicious food and good vibes.  Here’s what we learned for the next time you entertain at home, taking a page from Michael Schwartz Events (Lindsay killing it again!)

ChefsParty-31

Grillmaster Schwartz, with his Lynx rig.

+  Always be ready for surprises. If you’ve got a menu that takes some time, have something out for guests when they arrive. Lucky for us, our guests came with good surprises, too.  Izzy’s Jamie DeRosa showed up with a bucket of Island Creek Oysters with champagne mignonette, quickly jumping behind Michael’s kitchen island to shuck with chef William Crandall. Classy.

+ Be present.  The best thing about entertaining is being with your guests so do as much prep ahead of time as you can and delegate.  It usually takes a village, and teamwork is key to ensuring everyone has a good time.

+ Create a flow. On Thursday, we had several stations spread out over the footprint of the house, each offering something a little different so that any variations in fire time went unnoticed.  From the Lynx Grill, Harry’s Pizzeria’s agrodolce chicken wings with rosemary crema sizzled and caramelized into the sticky but not too messy finger food every party needs.  El Mago de Las Fritas brought the magic box and cranked out classic burgers and the new kid on the block – “confundida” – one that is confused it’s a Cuban sandwich, topped with the Cuban-style pulled pork, sangria-cured ham, Swiss cheese, dill pickles, papitas, and mustard on a medianoche garlic-buttered bun. Taquiza Miami’s Steve Santana and Washington Charles brought their A game and A team (Saltz!) to serve octopus al pastor and wood grilled hanger steak with chive flowers and radish, both on special pink peppercorn masa tortillas.  Chef Bradley nailed a perfect falafel sandwich with hummus, baba ghanoush, and Israeli salad all stuffed into a warm pita and topped with tahina, pickled red onions and habanero “assburn” hot sauce, if you’re doing it right.

+ Pour fast and smile!  Running out of drinks is no fun for guests or host.  To keep the beverages flowing, simple is usually best.   Eric Larkee decided on a Gin & Tonic bar but rather than corralling a wide range of Gins to represent the range of historical styles, classic producers and cool smaller micro producers (you know he wanted to!), he exercised restraint.  He picked one solid Gin, Plymouth, to headline the party. Thank you Pernod Ricard, for only the best.

+ Just chill.  For the bar, Larkee went with Fever Tree, Q Tonic and Jack Rudy’s tonic syrup (which requires soda water), all with wonderful flavor and great dryness. But the key is serving them chilled.  “Heck, if you can, chill the Gin too,” he adds. “This is a drink that is better the colder it is and when you’re at a party, walking around especially indoors and out, the drink is going to heat up in your hand a little faster than normal. So you can’t really start cold enough.”

+ Keep it fun, not too serious.  Larkee’s finishing touch was the garnish selection, where there’s room to play without getting silly.  To step it up past the slice of lime, he chose a selection to accentuate some of the more subtle fruit and botanic flavors in the Gin. So: lemon, limes, red grapefruit, strawberry, cucumber, pear, rosemary, basil, thyme, mint, cilantro, cinnamon stick, cracked black pepper.

+ Be genuine.  The most important tip of them all.  Do what you know and be who you are. This not only makes for a simpatico crowd, but an executable set up.  Don’t try to do anything out of your comfort zone. There is time for R&D, but this isn’t it!  Give the people what they want.

Huge thank you to Giovanny Gutierrez of Chat Chow TV for helping us document the evening.   Until next year!

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