Entertaining with Ricardo Larrivée
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When it comes to throwing a party, no one does it better than Ricardo Larrivée, host of Ricardo on Food Network Canada and author of the cookbook, Weekend Cooking, (Whitecap Books, 2006). He's got about a zillion ideas on how to host a casual party: from what to serve to what to have on hand to plate up a dish with style. Ricardo shares his thoughts on serving up comfort foods to friends. Here are his tried-and-true rules for entertaining in style.
Q: What are your standard rules for entertaining?
A: I always decide on a menu in advance and my trick is to stick to known territory. Hosting a dinner party is not a good time to experiment with new recipes. If I'm serving a large group, I rarely choose recipes that require lots of last-minute preparation. Often, I prepare a game plan with my wife, where we decide who will be doing what, like serving drinks and preparing the food. It makes the party flow better. And the number one thing to do before entertaining is to write up a grocery list as soon as possible so that nothing is forgotten.
Q: What's your philosophy about inviting people over?
A: Having people over is a pleasure for me. It's a moment where time stands still, where friends and family reunite to chat and pass on our culinary traditions to our children.
Q: Do you have a stand-by menu that you always serve?
A: I have a few. I love risotto, any kind of pasta recipe, homemade pizza and I love serving a classic roasted chicken. It's so simple and delicious.
Q: How do you make sure that people are enjoying the party?
A: I do my best to plan out every detail and I try to think of everything from the music to the food. Then it becomes my guest's responsibility to enjoy and share the night with me!
Q: Do you believe in casual or formal entertaining?
A: I love both. Casual works well for last-minute gatherings, but I do try to keep formal entertaining to small groups of people. I don't want to bury myself in all the preparations and not be able to speak to anyone. It's harder to be detailed with larger groups.
Q: How do you feel about themed parties?
A: Once in a while, I go all out and set a theme for a meal. This enables me to be creative in a cultural way. I love exotic and international food. Through my theme parties, I discover new spices, ingredients and flavours.
Q: What are some last-minute entertaining ideas that are easy to pull together?
A: I always keep on hand several ingredients that could easily make up a last-minute meal such as frozen shrimp, arborio rice for risotto, frozen vegetables to toss into a sauce and lots and lots of pasta. Any of those make great last minute meals.
Image courtesy Les Productions Coutu Larrivée