Anatomy of a Dinner Party: a day in the life of a hospitalityaholic

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New Friend Wednesday – Joon Lim, Sommelier Extraordinaire!

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

Good Morning Darlings,

Are you ready for Thanksgiving? We are kicking it very low key at our house tomorrow. Just Eric and me. I can’t wait.

If you are going out to eat or are looking for the right wine, let me introduce you to my friend, Joon, the sommelier at Kevin Rathbun Steak. He is so passionate about wine and he will steer you in the right direction.

That's Joon to my left.  He is the wine guru!

That’s Joon to my left. He is the wine guru!

Q: Who was your biggest influence in deciding to become a sommelier?


A:  My biggest influence is a gentleman by the name of Bob Stepic, my then-GM and sommelier at a little bistro I worked at called Park Cafe in Duluth, GA.  I started as a server having just the very basic knowledge I had gained through a Dummies book on wine.  I didn’t know how to go about becoming a sommelier and didn’t know anyone, having just moved to Atlanta from Kentucky.  As time went, I expressed much interest in being a sommelier and knowing about the industry as a whole, service and beverage.  I’ve had bosses in the industry prior to working at Park Cafe, but Bob was a true mentor to me.  He was full of wisdom and just plain common sense.  He was one of those who could put two and two together like no one can.  Though not a certified sommelier himself, he planned a detailed path with a timeline as to when I would accomplish certain steps, that would lead to me becoming a professional sommelier with the certification that goes along with that.  There was an atmosphere of accountability and without it, I couldn’t have stayed on track.  Bob Stepic also introduced me to many industry professionals, namely people involved in education and distribution of wine.  That in turn gave me the opportunity to network with other sommeliers in the city and around the country.  My career, current place of employment, certifications, great people I’ve connected and have become friends with over the years, were all made possible either directly or indirectly, through Bob Stepic.  It all started with him eight years ago.


Q: What do you believe is most diners’ misconceptions about consulting a sommelier at a fine restaurant?


A:  Misconceptions of diners – I think more diners are comfortable now than ever before in approaching a sommelier for help in selecting wine.  There are some though that still approach us with much apprehension mainly because of a fear that they’ll be looked down upon for either saying the wrong thing or just coming across as less experienced.  One of my favorite movie scenes is from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off when Ferris and his two friends go in to the fancy french restaurant that his father frequents, called Chez Quis.  The stuck-up maitre’d gives a glare of disapproval the moment they walk in to the restaurant, given their youthful age and the way they’re dressed.  Ferris didn’t know any better to make a reservation so he claimed to be the sausage king of Chicago and the maitre’d just scoffs at him.  I think some diners still have that image of that maitre’d when they think of sommeliers.  The truth is, we’re there to help you.  We wouldn’t have jobs if it wasn’t for you asking for help.  Some lists can be quite lengthy, we don’t want you to be lost in a sea of pages, robbing you of your time to enjoy with other guests.  We curated the list and take pride in every bottle of wine that is offered, so as far as we’re concerned, you can’t make a bad decision!


Q: Why did you choose to become a sommelier?


A:  Why did I choose to become a sommelier?  I love wine as much as life itself.  I feel that I’m called to do it.  I feel that God smiles at me when I take time to hone in on my craft and cultivate the desire he placed in my heart.  In particular, I love how historical traditions are so closely intertwined with the style of wine that is produced.  Only when you gain a revelation of the history, the culture, and politics, can you truly understand why a wine from a certain country tastes like the way it does.   I’ve had many “ahh” moments when tasting wine simply because I understood the historical and legislative context in which the wine was made.  The topic of wine encompasses many disciplines and the amount of information is endless.  It always keeps me striving…  and humble.


Q: When should we start choosing our wines for the holidays? Are there any new varietals that we should be taking notice of?


A:   When you should choose wine for the holidays?  I’m not sure that a correct time exists.  The choices are abundant and more readily available than ever before.  For Champagne and sparkling wines in general, I like to shop for them some time before thanksgiving, for enjoyment on Christmas or New Year’s.  There’s an assurance of supply for your favorite producers, especially if what you’re looking for is a small grower producer.  As for varietals, I’m excited about California petite sirah and petit verdot.  These two are typically regelated as blending grapes for Bordeaux blends but more and more winemakers are realizing their potential as a stand alone variety.  They produce delicious wines with good color, floral aromatics, good tannin structure and rich berry fruit.  Another variety that doesn’t get the attention it deserves is Austrian Zweigelt, with its intense cherry fruit, freshness, and savory herbs.  Like Rodney Dangerfield, it just can’t get no respect!  The price to quality ratio is in favor of the consumer as well.  Try a bottle of Umathum and you’ll be hooked.


Q: Where would you most like to travel to learn more about your craft?


A:  Where would I like to travel to learn more of my craft?  South Africa.  Everyone I have spoken to attests to its beauty.  They too have a long history of wine production dating back hundreds of years, much of which remains a mystery to the rest of the world.  The future is bright for South Africa with much creativity, innovation, and value coming out of this country.


Happy Thanksgiving!


xoxo, Patti

Meet Annette Joseph

Monday, November 9th, 2015

Good Morning Darlings!

Who is Annette Joseph you ask? Why she’s only an expert on entertaining, cooking, and styling. She regularly appears on The Today Show and Martha Stewart Sirius Radio. Her recipes and party ideas have been featured in Better Homes and Gardens, Epicurious, DesignSponge, MSN, The Huffington Post, Southern Living, and Woman’s World among others.

Her first cookbook, Picture Perfect Parties published by Rizzoli NY, is an engaging how-to guide that provides blueprints for a year’s worth of get-togethers, covering every holiday and occasion.  Her focus is always on making use of items that are already at hand in the house, ingeniously transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary—a style of entertaining that doesn’t require spending a lot of money.

In other words, an Icon. I had the supreme pleasure of meeting Annette at the Ferrari Trento luncheon a few weeks ago and inquired to see if I could interview her so you could get to know her, too. She said yes! Here is the interview. Enjoy darlings! All photos courtesy of Sarah Dorio.

Meet Annette Joseph. She is going to make you a party maven, too!

Meet Annette Joseph. She is going to make you a party maven, too!

Who inspired you as you were starting your career?


There are so many people that inspired me coming up. I think that one of the first people was my boss at my very first job. He taught me about looking at everything and seeing how cohesive a composition was.


Then later I met my very first Art Director, and she was a huge help and influence in making my eyes see like a camera. 


I was very inspired by stylists I assisted while learning my craft, each and everyone of them contributed in a different way to what my style has become to date.


Photographers always inspire me and help me see things in different ways. Even clients have inspired me. In the world of styling the goal is to give the clients what they envision while staying true to your own style.


This is a lesson that I feel is most valuable when starting a career in styling. It will keep you working and it will make more work come your way.
What can you share with other working women on making it all work and not feeling guilty about taking time for themselves?


I think taking time to recharge your creative battery is the most important aspect of the keeping it fresh. This idea of working and not taking anytime off is one that will kill your career.


If you have a family, children you should make time for them and make time for yourself. I take the summers off ( most summers are my slowest time) and live in Italy. The inspiration is astounding and makes me a better stylist.


What are the newest trends in party giving, both in food and decor?


Not sure there is a trend, good parties are good parties. I tend to do parties that are very me.

I think a new trend of outdoor parties with hanging globe lights and long tables is on point, but all the parties  tend to look alike and it’s most important to do you, you’re unique and your parties should reflect that.


The most important thing in my mind is to just entertain in your home.


Find your style and do you. I am not a trend person I am a style person.
You can give fab parties, too! Exactly like Annette.

You can give fab parties, too! Exactly like Annette.

Where do you feel your most comfortable?

Definitely in the Kitchen, I am lucky to have one here in the States and one in Italy. I enjoy them both equally.

Cooking to me is relaxing, creative and my happy place.

How would you like to see your future unfold? Any future plans you can share?

About 2 years ago I started my Style + Photo Workshops

The next one is in February in Marrakech, and then in June in Italy, in my hometown. There is great satisfaction in teaching people how to make the best images they can, plus pass on the 20 plus years of experience I have in the business.


In big future news : We are in the process of buying a farmhouse in Tuscany that will be the location for my Style + Photo Workshops it should be finished in about 1 year. In the meantime I am still styling for clients, styling cookbooks and working on my second book, which will be about my food experiences in Italy. The school is probably my future, I hope to bring all the amazing creatives I know to the school to teach, we will have cooking, art, writing , styling and photography, yoga lessons. I am really excited about this. All my years styling are now turning into the best possible scenario, passing on knowledge, inspiring creative thinking and working with people I love.


Thanks, Annette! Picture Perfect Parties would make the perfect holiday gift for everyone on your list. I’ll be buying one for myself, too! Treat yourself!


xoxo, Patti

Company In An Hour? Don’t Panic!

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

Hello Darlings!

It’s November. The season of parties is upon us.

Bestie Melanie and I were discussing getting ready for company as I was getting the house ready for Bestie Holly’s visit for the weekend. And seriously, after giving Karen the border collie a bath in one bathroom and the other looking like a crime scene, I was in a bit of a tailspin. Let’s not sugar coat this stuff. You’ve been there, right? (please agree so I don’t feel like an epic fail!)

The kitchen wasn’t dirty, well, because we’ve been eating Lean Cuisines and going out. I’ll be cooking plenty this month. Don’t judge.

Okay. How do you get the house company-ready when you have an hour or less? Let’s get to it.

I present to you, The Holy Trinity of Cleaning:

Help is on the way.

Help is on the way.

But, Patti, I only have bleach in the house! Then you are good to go. Pour it in the toilet bowls and the sinks. Let it sit 15 minutes. Wipe the sink with a rag or sponge and the toilet bowl with a brush. You are ready! Trust me. Seeing a pink ring at the bottom of a toilet bowl makes me a little judgey. Just a bit. Ick.

Have 30 minutes? Febreze will make your house smell less like the Bulls of Pamplona have just made their yearly run and Clorox Wipes – good gracious – what did we ever do before those things? Wipe down sticky counters and nose prints from the dogs. Bestie Melanie swears by Oxyclean. Mix a scoop in a sinkful of warm water and slather it all over everything. Countertops, stove, the floor.

Oh, and be safe and wear rubber gloves if you have them.

Okay – you have a bit more time than 30 minutes? Swiffer wet mop the house. It smells so good! And it dries pretty quickly, too. I could use the Swiffer duster, but to save time I usually just put the wet mop out and drag the mop toward me – anything on the floor will move toward you and when you take the pad off, just grab up the residual dust.  Don’t cook – order out. Light candles. Lots of candles and turn the lights out or use those dimmers (I would DIE without dimmers!) Put out your largest wine glasses and make everyone drink a big drink as soon as they arrive (they’re all taking Uber, right? Of course they are!) Now everyone is feeling dreaming and tipsy. Great job!

Get out there and start entertaining! I love and support you!

xoxo, Patti

ps – Holly doesn’t care if my house smells like wet dog. That’s what besties are for. But I still want to make her feel pampered. :)

pps – I wasn’t compensated by any cleaning product for this post. This is just what I use. If they want to send me free stuff – I would love that!

ppps – While writing this I had to get up twice to chase Karen and her dog-self off the couch. That I just sprayed with Febreze. For the second time. #ItsGettingReal

Making Meatballs – How Did I Do?

Thursday, October 29th, 2015

Good Morning Darlings!

You all know I love to cook and entertain. When I saw this video, I about lost my mind and knew I had to try this recipe.

I bet some of you have seen this meatball stuffed with mozzarella video, too, right?

Here’s what my meatballs looked like before adding them to the sauce in the crockpot.


And here’s what they looked like all cooked and ready to gobble down.


Don’t you love that tiny plate? I get them at CB2. Here is a link to their new holiday line which I must order immediately. How cute are these? No, I don’t advertise for CB2, but hey, if they feel like sending me the new line, I would not complain. :)

So, how did they turn out? Not as expected. Here are my notes:

1. Make bigger meatballs so you can stuff a bigger piece of cheese inside. For some reason, I thought I counted 22 meatballs in the video. Math is not my strong suit. My cubes of mozzarella were small and totally disappeared in the meatball. NONE of the meatballs had that cheesy center I was hoping for. Next time: Make 15 big meatballs with a much bigger cube of cheese. Heck, slather them all with a thick layer of mozzarella cheese. You can never have enough cheese.

2. Brown the meatballs before placing in the crockpot. I know this rule, but got lazy and thought they would be just as good. Nay nay my darlings. The sear really adds to the flavor, so I will be taking this extra step next time.

3. Make your own sauce. DO NOT USE JARRED SAUCE. This probably goes without saying, but I’m saying it anyhow. I make mine with an entire bottle of red wine. Do not judge me.

4. Don’t use almond milk in place of whole milk in meatballs. I thought this substitution would work. It did not. I think it contributed to much tougher meatballs than I would have preferred.

5. After making the meatballs, put them in the fridge overnight and then reheat. Why? They get greasy and after a nap in the fridge, you can skim all that fat off and have nothing but meat and sauce.

Verdict: I would definitely make these again, but with the above tweaks. What a fab way to feed a crowd. Eric and I made spaghetti with this and each had 3 meatballs, which left us with a ton of meatballs and sauce leftover that went straight to the freezer for a busy night. I don’t know about you, but November is going to be crazy busy around here!

Happy cooking!

xoxo, Patti

The Boys Are Back!

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

Good Morning Darlings!

If you are a fan of divine parties and fab furnishings, then you must be tuned into Eddie Ross, yes? He is the East Coast Editor for Better Homes and Gardens and I am so lucky to call him and his incredibly charming partner, Jaithan, my friends.

Have you been with me for a while? If so, you will remember the night Eric and I hosted Eddie, Jaithan and a flock of other marvelous friends in our home for a grand dinner party.  We had the best fun!

Eddie and Jaithan have been hard at work on their fantastic book, Eddie Ross Modern Mix.

Featuring never-before-seen photographs of Eddie’s own homes—his eclectic apartment in New York and Pine Hill Farm in Connecticut—Modern Mix cracks the code to navigating thrift shops, yard sales and flea markets with confidence.

And if you are lucky enough to catch him when he comes to your town, you might be able to join him on a shopping expedition so you can find your own treasures!


Buy This Book!

The book is chock full of delights! This past Thursday I had the chance to catch up with my friends when they arrived in Atlanta. Steve McKenzie gave a fab party for the boys in his own new outlet filled with things you have to have for your home!

Me, Eddie and Jaithan

Me, Eddie and Jaithan

I apologize for the size of this photo. Next time I will not use the phone and bring the Canon along with me.

Some fab photos of Steve McKenzie’s goodies!

I need all of these for the holidays!

I need all of these for the holidays!

I also had the distinct pleasure of saying hello to NY Times best selling author, Mary Kay Andrews and renowned food stylist and party maven, Annette Joseph. Annette will be giving us some tips for the holidays in November. Stay tuned!

Me, Mary Kay and Annette

Me, Mary Kay and Annette

Go buy Eddie’s book for Christmas. Everyone will want one!

xoxo, Patti

Guest Post – A Twist on Blueberry Pie!

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

Good Morning Darlings,

I am so happy to hand the reins over today to my dear friend and business partner, Carrie. She is an incredible cook and can whip up a party in a moment’s notice. It’s truly fabulous to behold.

Southern Living Magazine is one of our favorites, so when they asked if I would pick something to try from their newest issue, I was just dying over the pie on the cover.  Carrie picked up the ball and ran with it…here’s her story. Enjoy!

Take it away, Carrie!

TV Stars and Healthy Eating

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Good Morning Darlings,

I know Memorial Day has come and gone, but you know what? We still have an entire summer of cookouts ahead of us.

What does this have to do with anything?

The Food Does Not Matter

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

Good Morning Darlings!

This article was sent to me by a sweet friend.

I seriously could not say it better myself.

Click here to read.

And don’t slave over the food…


Raising A Glass With Nobilo Icon

Friday, December 6th, 2013

Good Morning Darlings!

How wonderful to see you all – I have been very busy.

What’s new? Click to continue »

Happy Independence Day!

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

Good Morning Darlings!

Here in Atlanta we are going to see torrential rain for July 4th. Will that stop the party?

Heck no!! We will be at our dear friend, Melanie’s house. It is going to be a HAPPENING. I can’t wait!

I am making double bacon potato salad. If some bacon is good, more is better, right?

What are you up to? I am crushing on these fun photos:

Cupcakes, icing, and well, more cupcakes!

Apparently, I’m on an icing kick.

I’m not even sure what these are, but I need them in my life.

And I HAVE TO HAVE everything on this sweet website:

Love love love

I wish you and your loved ones a fabulous and safe July 4th. Leave a comment and let me know what you are up to!!

xoxo, Patti