I'm so jealous of this duo - what I wouldn't give to throw fabulous parties with my sisters and then publish our secrets in a fabulous book. That's just what Lauren and Anne Purcell have done in their book "Cocktail Parties, Straight Up! East Hors D'oeuvres, Delicious Drinks and Inspired Ideas for Entertaining with Style." You can get the Sisters' Secrets to Confident Entertaining here, just in time for all the summer parties you promised to throw.
My favorite party theme from their book is the "Map-Happy Evening for Anyone Who's Been Everywhere." Here's how it works: Every traveller has a travel tale/disaster/triumphant just-happened-to-stumble-upon-it discovery to share and this party brings out the stories as a way to inspire brilliant, laughter-filled conversation among the best of friends or guests who just met. All you need for this party are an oversized world map and plenty of pushpins to tempt guests to "mark their spots." Instead of lamely asking each other "So, where are you from?" they'll be exclaiming, "Wow, you've been there?!"
It's an easy entertaining theme but works so well with wine. Invite guests to bring a bottle from a country they've visited to go with the theme. And there you go - party planned, easy-peasy.
Here's a favorite recipe from the Purcell Sisters that works well with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc:
Cucumber Goat Cheese Spread -
-This spread is a hit even with guests who think they don’t like goat cheese. Tarragon’s subtle hint of licorice gives the spread an interesting flavor that people invariably ask about.
1 hothouse (seedless) cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
8 ounces soft mild goat cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh tarragon leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
In a food processor, purée 1 cup of the cucumber with the goat cheese, lemon zest, and lemon juice until almost smooth.
In a bowl, stir together the goat-cheese mixture, remaining cucumber, tarragon, 1 tablespoon of onion, and the pepper. Add salt to taste.
Garnish with the remaining tablespoon of onion and serve with slices of soft, crusty bread.
Makes about 1 1/4 cups of spread.
Make-Ahead Factor:The spread may be made 2 days ahead and kept covered and refrigerated. Let it soften and stir before serving.