It’s no secret that Eddie and I love to entertain. In our home in Santa Clarita, that has a big kitchen and dining area, we sometimes have large groups. Our Las Vegas home, which is our starting-to-scale-down home, is better for smaller groups. Having just one other couple over is really our “sweet spot” for entertaining there. And with the addition of our Wine Room in Vegas, that has four upholstered swivel chairs (and two cushy ottomans when needed) we often start there with appetizers before moving to the dining room for the main course. (We do sometimes entertain in the kitchen, as that’s where the action is: Ed cooks and plates there.)
When we entertain guests we also plan a menu and drinks based on what we think they would enjoy, keeping their comfort in mind. Let me explain. Part of this is due to the different levels of our guests’ wine interests, and secondly to make sure we’ve made the best possible match – between what guests we will have together, what drinks we will serve and what’s for dinner.
One gal pal prefers Rose wine while her husband sticks to light spirits. So for this couple we will plan a dinner that pairs well with those choices like a light pasta or fish. We sometimes make something heartier, and while we switch to red wine, and our friends may try a glass, they always return to their favorites.
Another pal prefers Pinot Noir, though she is known to drink everything, but we do try and make a dish like pork Wellington or salmon for her to pair with her preferences.
One couple admits that they only drink “rubbish” and though we know they are joking, and they do appreciate great wines, we don’t kill ourselves selecting rare bottles from our cellar when they come over. I usually select something a little less expensive from places like the Central Coast, Australia, Argentina or Chile and steer clear of the aged Napa or French wines that come from more expensive real estate. And the menu can be whatever we like, nothing too grand.
We have pals that appreciate the expensive and non-expensive wines, and base their choices on their palate. For them we have an array of wines to taste. Once, at a local restaurant, we all enjoyed a wine I had selected from the wine list for our dinner. I realized that a friend of mine may have imported the wine. I sent him a quick text, and sure enough he had. He told us which store sold it, at $12 a bottle verses the restaurant price of $60, and we – all four of us – went in on the purchase of a case together.
Another couple has their own wine label from Napa, not too pricey, and it’s lovely when we dine in. However when we dine out this couple prefers a wine in the $200 and up range. Needless to say that’s a bit high for us, especially as the markup can be three times the actual price of the wine – which makes it nearly impossible for me to justify spending, even when they ask me to select the wine for them from the wine list. For these occasions we tend to bring in one of our better bottles (that is not on the wine list) and pay the corkage.
We have other couples that only like the really fine wines so we follow suit and only serve our fine wines with them, another that prefers cocktails alone and that gives me a chance to work my home bartending skills, and so on. Again, we adjust our menu to suit the preferences of our guests.
We will literally plan a month of entertaining around who is coming and what we’ll be drinking, and have found that while we are catering to our guests, we are catering to ourselves as well. So, for example, after a night of fine wine we will take a night off and our next dinner will be with our friends that prefer cocktails, and so on again. It’s like dressing up one night and relaxing in sweats the next.
We’ve had pals that wanted to meet some of our other pals. But I’m sometimes concerned that the wine aficionados wouldn’t pair well with the rubbish wine drinkers. I needn’t have worried; everyone is gracious drinking the good stuff and the jokingly called swill stuff. However, later, when I’ve spoken with these friends I learned that they didn’t feel they had that much in common in general. Just another reason why I feel that pairings, food/wine/friends, requires thought. And Vive la différence!
How do you do it?
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in the first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video (over 16k views), authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Las Vegas Proof Awards, LA Wine Competition, Long Beach Grand Cru and the Global Wine Awards. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits.