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

Farro Salad – Yes it’s cold…

Written by Patti on August 9th, 2016

Good Morning Darlings!

Yes, I am still on a chopped salad kick. Today’s entry comes to us from Ellie Krieger, who served her adorable little salads in tiny mason jars.

I don’t want to eat out of a mason jar. I want a real bowl, so I can get every bite. Sue me.

But I digress. If you want to layer this salad in a mason jar, you go right ahead. I’m sure it will be precious. But I’m just hungry!

This salad is just as good the next day. I mean – it is TASTY!

Farro Salad. You should make this. Like right now.

Farro Salad. You should make this. Like right now.

Layered Farro Salad (or not layered – I won’t judge)


1 cup farro
11/4 cups walnut pieces
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cups shredded kale leaves
1/2 cup finely diced red onion
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
11/4 cups crumbled feta cheese (6 ounces)
2 cups quartered red or black grapes


Cook the farro according to the directions on the package. Drain well, then place in the refrigerator to cool completely.

Toast the walnuts in a dry skillet over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant and lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside to cool, then chop.

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Place the kale in a medium bowl, add half of the dressing, and toss to combine. Add the onion, parsley, and remaining dressing to the farro and toss to combine.

To assemble the salad, place the farro in the bottom of a large glass bowl, patting down slightly. Add the kale on top. Sprinkle with the feta cheese. Then layer with the grapes and finally the walnuts. Alternatively, make individual salads by layering the ingredients in wide-mouthed 12-ounce (500 ml) jars.

Makes 8 servings

You know the drill – gobble down like hungry badgers and wash it all down with something delicious. A margarita would be nice here.

xoxo, Patti


Kroger = KroBar = Louis and Alysa

Written by Patti on August 8th, 2016

Good Morning Darlings!

Eric and I do all our shopping at Kroger with an occasional stop at Trader Joe’s and if we’re feeling like pretending we are the 1%, Whole Foods.

In Atlanta we like to name our Krogers. There’s the Disco Kroger on Piedmont which used to be the dance club Limelight and the most unfortunately named but most famous, Murder Kroger on Ponce de Leon (which Atlantans all know is pronounced Ponce Dee Lee On. If you pronounce it with a spanish flair ie. Ponce A Day Lee Ahn, you will have outed yourself and we will all know you are from out of town immediately and might say to your face, “bless your heart”, which if you don’t know, is not something you want a southerner to say to you.)

Anyhoo. The newest Kroger is setting the city on fire. Eric and I call it KroBar and my girlene and Atlanta Movie Tours co-founder, Carrie calls it Boozy Kroger, which I think is hilarious. Now why would we call this particular Kroger this name? Oh, boy, wait til you hear this!

This Kroger has a bar in it!! A bona fide, belly up and order craft beer and wine from an honest to goodness bartender. Now in all honesty, this is brilliant marketing. We show up, have a beverage, meet either other friends that are shopping or brand new friends who are also drinking and we stay. For like HOURS! My newest favorite bartenders, Louis and Alysa keep the party going with their witty repartee and bringing us delicious snacks and allowing us to taste beverages we have an interest in.

THIS IS DANGEROUS. We have wiled away 4 hours between drinking and shopping here. But dangerous in the most fun way ever.  The last time we did this, I walked out with 3 lbs of crab legs that were not on the list, but I just had to have for dinner. I rationalized this by the fact that $25 worth of crab legs was much cheaper than eating at our favorite weekend seafood place. Eric concurred and in the basket they went.


If you live in Atlanta, this is a don’t miss, one-of-a-kind treat.

Say hello to Louis for me!

xoxo, Patti



Still Chopping

Written by Patti on August 6th, 2016

Good Morning Darlings!

Remember when I said I could eat that BBQ chopped chicken salad every day? I might have been exaggerating a teeny bit.

So I have another salad to share with you so you won’t get bored.

This one is a Greek Salad that takes a LOT of liberties with the OG recipe. I mean A LOT. Since it took liberties, so did we. Eric hates kale so we used arugula. We love arugula. We may or may not have bought a bottled basil/garlic vinaigrette that I found at Kroger so we didn’t have make our own. It was still super tasty. Here’s a hot photo of that cool salad.

I've got to switch up my backgrounds. I promise to work on that next week.

I’ve got to switch up my backgrounds. I promise to work on that next week.

This recipe called for chickpeas. I’m not a big fan, but it’s been a while, so I thought I would give them another go. They work really well in this salad and you don’t miss that there’s no meat in the dish.

I found this salad at Gimme Some Oven (how cute is that blog name?)


This chopped kale arugula salad is fresh and full of those Greek flavors we all love!



  • 1 large bunch (about 10 ounces) kale arugula leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cucumber, seeded and diced
  • 1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted
  • 2/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • garlic parsley vinaigrette (see below)


  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed (or finely chopped)
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper



Toss all ingredients together with desired amount of dressing until evenly mixed.


Whisk all ingredients together until blended. Season with additional salt and pepper if needed.

Gobble down like hungry badgers and add a Corona (or two, no judging here). Go visit Ali at Gimme Some Oven, who lives in Kansas City where my bestie John is now living. COME HOME JOHN!

Ahem. I miss John.

xoxo, Patti



Chop It Up, I’ll Eat It

Written by Patti on August 5th, 2016

Good Morning Darlings!

Golly gee whiz, it is HOT here in Georgia. Yes, I know, it’s August. But wow, all I want to eat is chopped salad these days. I’m on a kick and taking Eric with me.

Here is one of the salads we’ve been enjoying recently. I’m a big fan of California Pizza Kitchen and love their BBQ Chopped Chicken Salad. I could eat it everyday. But that would get pricey, so I learned how to make it at home. Would you like to make it for yourself? Let me help!

You can make this at home, too!

You can make this at home, too!

I didn’t say I was dieting, I’m just beating the heat. Add a Corona – don’t judge.

The recipe is from, and I can’t lie, I used tortilla chips and bottled ranch dressing and then threw it all together. If you have the time to follow all these steps, bless your heart.




  1. To Make the Fried Tortilla Strips: In a deep, heavy frying pan, heat several inches of vegetable oil to a temperature of 375 degrees. Working in batches if necessary to prevent overcrowding, carefully add the tortilla strips to the hot oil, submerging them with a metal skimmer or slotted spoon. Fry the tortilla strips until evenly golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Carefully lift them out with the skimmer or slotted spoon and transfer them to paper towels to drain and cool. Set aside, uncovered.
  2. To Make the Garden Herb Ranch Dressing: In a mixing bowl, use a fork to stir together the mustard and cold water, forming a paste. Set aside for 10 minutes. Add the remaining dressing ingredients to the bowl and, using a handheld electric mixer at low speed or a whisk, blend together just until smooth, taking care not to incorporate too much air into the dressing. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  3. To Make the Grilled Garlic and BBQ Chicken: Preheat a stovetop grill or the broiler. In a mixing bowl, stir together the olive oil, garlic, soy sauce, and salt. Turn the chicken breasts in this marinade and leave to marinate at room temperature for about 15 minutes. Grill or broil the chicken breasts until cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes per side. Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator. Cut the chicken breasts into 3/4-inch cubes and, in a bowl, toss with the barbecue sauce to coat well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  4. To Make the Salad: In a large mixing bowl, toss together the lettuces, basil, jicama, Monterey Jack cheese, beans, corn, cilantro, dressing, and half of the Fried Tortilla Strips. Transfer the salads to chilled serving plates. Surround each salad with diced tomatoes and the remaining Fried Tortilla Strips. Top each salad with chunks of Grilled Garlic BBQ Chicken and drizzle the chicken with the barbecue sauce. Garnish with the scallion.

Gobble down like hungry badgers. Crack open another cold beer. Sit in the air conditioning and watch Stranger Things. OMG, I love that show!

What are you doing to beat the heat?

xoxo, Patti



Written by Patti on March 26th, 2016

Good Morning Darlings!

Oh My Goshy! How much do I love Easter? What do I love best? The PEEPS of course! I mean – really! They are totes adorbs and so yummy.

I got a special Peeps cookbook in the mail called Peeps-a-licious! and I’m completely smitten. Apologies for not writing about this sooner, but this book has all the ways you can cook with our little marshmallow buddies. And if you score them after Sunday, 50% off! Voila!

 Look at how cute this cake is – any little one would adore this, so it’s not just for Easter! Okay, not just little ones, I would be totally melty if someone made this for me.




And it’s not too late to make these adorable Peeps In A Nest!

EasterPeepNests (1)


I would use these at each place setting with a sweet pastel place card. What do you think?

These are not just Easter ideas – use them all through Spring!

How about Peep Creme Brulee? Buy the book and learn how to make this! You’ll make somebunny very happy, my little chickadee! See what I did there?


Hoppy Easter my darlings!

xoxo, Patti



Written by Patti on March 25th, 2016

Good Morning Darlings!

I’ve been so busy lately, but I’ve missed you! And now it’s almost Easter.

Bestie Melanie is cooking dinner and I am contributing deviled eggs and lemon meringue cupcakes. Don’t these cupcakes sound divine? Take a look at how pretty they are!


Now, that isn’t my finished product, but it did come from the lovely people at Nielsen-Massey, who were so kind to send me their gorgeous vanilla AND lemon extract so I could recreate this masterpiece at home.

And, it would not be kind of me to keep the recipe all to myself. Here you go – make these and look like a superstar this Sunday!

Lemon Cupcakes with Marshmallow Meringue(Makes 2 Dozen)

For the Cupcakes:
2½ cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups sugar
2 tablespoons lemon zest (3-4 large lemons)
2 teaspoons Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract
½ teaspoon Nielsen-Massey Pure Lemon Extract
3 large eggs
½ cup low-fat buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350?F. Place paper liners into two standard cupcake tins; set aside. In a medium bowl, add flour, baking powder and salt; whisk to blend and set aside.In a large mixing bowl, add butter, sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla and lemon extracts. With a handheld mixer, beat on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Reduce speed to low. Add dry ingredients one-half at a time, alternating with buttermilk; beat after each addition and scrape sides of bowl as needed. Do not overmix batter.Fill each liner with about ¼ cup batter and bake until done, about 18 minutes. Carefully place cupcakes in 2 (9 x 13) pans and cover with plastic wrap; set aside to cool. Make sure the wrap does not touch the cupcake tops; this method of cooling will make deliciously moist cupcakes.

For the Marshmallow Meringue:
4 egg whites
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
¼ cup sugar
1 cup marshmallow creme
½ teaspoon Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract
¼ teaspoon Nielsen-Massey Pure Lemon Extract

In a large bowl, add egg whites and cream of tartar. With a handheld mixer, beat on medium-high speed until foamy. Increase mixer speed to high and gradually add sugar until soft peaks form.Add marshmallow creme, vanilla and lemon extracts, and beat until combined. Using the back of a spoon, mound and creatively swirl meringue onto each cooled cupcake.Place cupcakes on a rimmed sheet pan. Use a handheld kitchen torch or place under a broiler and toast until golden brown. If using the broiler method, watch to ensure meringue does not over brown.

xoxo, Patti


Time to Get Valentining

Written by Patti on February 11th, 2016

Good Morning Darlings!

Is Valentining a thing? It is now!

How will you celebrate? E and I like to stay home away from the crowds and cook a romantic meal together. Complete with cocktails, of course.

Flirtini – isn’t that a fun name? It just makes me want to kiss and hug my sweetie! Here’s the recipe:


Time to get your flirt on!
2 oz. Van Gogh Raspberry Vodka
Splash of cranberry juice
Chilled Champagne
Float with champagne chilled to the top of the glass.
My friends at Van Gogh Vodka are always on the cutting edge of yummy cocktails with their flavored vodkas. Love them!


Oooh, and who doesn’t love chocolate? A Chocolate Almond Kiss would do the trick!

Chocolate Almond Kiss – with extra kisses!


2 oz. Van Gogh Dutch Chocolate Vodka
1 oz. Hazelnut Liqueur 
1/2 oz. Dark Crème de Cacao
Splash of Cream 
Shake vodka, hazelnut liqueur and dark crème de cacao into a cocktail shaker with ice. Top with a splash of cream and garnish with a sprig of mint.


For dinner, I’m thinking a nice spaghetti, like in Lady and The Tramp.


Little candlelight, some nice pasta. Amore!

What are your plans?

xoxo, Patti


SuperBowl Snack Bracket With Van Gogh Vodka

Written by Patti on February 9th, 2016

Good Morning Darlings!

How was your Super Sunday? We had a swell time with a few close friends at our annual Snack Bracket. Everyone brings a dish in one of the following categories:

1. Sweet
2. Savory
3. Dips
4. Vegetarian

Guests will judge the entries in each category and then one winner will reign over all! The winner takes home bragging rights and a trophy.

It’s always a blast. Here’s the table pre-party:


Are you ready for some snacking?

Are you ready for some snacking?

There’s the trophy in the center of the table. Every year I have to find something that might work as a trophy. Last year it was an egg cup with googly eyes glued on. This year we upped our game.

Drinks are an absolutely necessity for every party and this is THE party. The lovely folks at Van Gogh Vodka sent me a couple of bottles along with the cutest and yummiest recipes to match the teams playing. Take a look.



1 1/2 oz. Van Gogh Oranje Vodka

3 oz. Orange Juice

1 oz. Club Soda

Pour vodka and juice into an ice-filled highball glass rimmed with blue sugar.  Stir and top with orange juice and garnish with an orange slice



1 oz. Van Gogh Acai-Blueberry Vodka

1/2 oz. Blue Curacao

5 oz. Lemonade

1/2 oz. Triple Sec

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into an ice filled highball glass rimmed with silver sugar.  Garnish with floating blueberries.

Even though Peyton Manning took home the trophy, our guests loved the Panthers cocktail best.

At our party, it was the Panthers 4-1.

But who took home the Snack Bracket trophy?

This was early in the evening. Not everyone had entered yet.

Everyone had a blast sipping Van Gogh cocktails and watching the game.

Look at those happy faces!

But who won the Snack Bracket???

It was Vareck with his famous meringue pecan pie. It was SOOOO good!

Congrats Vareck!

May I recommend that you mix up these cocktails for your Valentine? They will love you for it!

xoxo, Patti


New Friend Wednesday – Joon Lim, Sommelier Extraordinaire!

Written by Patti on 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

Dinner Party 101 – Setting The Table

Written by Patti on November 16th, 2015

Good Morning Darlings!

The holidays are sneaking up quickly and the dinner parties are afoot. Are you hosting Thanksgiving this year? Is it your first time? Let’s visit.

No reason to be scared. We are going to do this together. The first thing your guests will notice when they enter will be your table. Is it set correctly? Instead of guessing which side the fork goes on, here’s an easy to use chart.

Simple Table Setting

This keeps things simple. Why put the napkin on top of the plate instead of under the forks? This way your guests don’t have to jostle the setting to place the napkin in their laps.

If you are going to be a guest at someone’s home for Thanksgiving dinner and can’t remember which fork to use, always use the outside utensil first. If you get there and the table is not set like the diagram above, always take your cues from the hostess. Do what she does.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about the menu.

xoxo, Patti