Is there a more useful, more comprehensive, more thought-provoking food blog than The Kitchn? If so, I haven't found it. Part of the Apartment Therapy family, it is one of the most popular food sites on the web, covering topics ranging from kitchen makeovers to unusual ingredients to weeknight dinners. The Kitchn is run by freelance food writer and cookbook author Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan. Her newest book is the dinner party-centric Good Food to Share: Recipes for Entertaining with Family and Friends, which is full of casual yet simple menus. Today, she shares some of her entertaining wisdom with us. Thanks, Sara Kate!
1. Name, occupation, and city
Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan, founding editor of Apartment Therapy's The Kitchn, freelance food writer, and author, New York.
2. When was the last time you threw a dinner party, and who was invited?
If cloth napkins, candles and warm plates mean it's a dinner party, then I am having dinner parties almost every night when I cook for my daughter and husband. The time before that was last week when we had our friends Stephen and Haidy over to talk about summer vacation ideas.
3. What is the best menu you've ever made for company?
I think my summertime cooking is best because I feel most free with the ingredients. We entertain a lot in the summer; I'm thinking of a dinner last summer with lobster from a nearby dock, local corn, heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo and a huge salad from my garden.
4. What's your preference: wine, beer, cocktails?
Usually wine. Unless it's Mexican food, then I like a cold Negra Modelo.
5. What's your favorite dinner party soundtrack?
A mix of the latest stuff I've downloaded after hearing it on KCRW in Los Angeles, my hometown. (I listen online and it costs me at least .99/day in downloads)
6. Some friends are coming over for a last-minute dinner. What do you make?
If there's time to make dough, I start with pizza. There's usually enough randomness in the fridge for toppings. Then maybe a nice hunk of meat from our wonderful local butcher, or if I have time to pop up to the Union Square Greenmarket, I'll let whatever is available there guide me. Even in the dead of winter you can find enough for an entire meal without ever having to scan a UPC code.
7. Do you usually cook everything yourself, or do you have help?
Sometimes a little help. My husband is great at setting the scene so he'll take care of ambiance (table, music, lighting and drinks) while I cook. I like to leave a few things for guests to do, even just simple chopping, so they feel involved. The best way to get people to talk about the food is for them to get their hands in it.
8. Do you ever buy store-bought food, or is everything on your table made from scratch?
I don't cure my own prosciutto or cornichon. I do make my own bread and ice cream.
9. What do you like to serve for dessert?
Depends on the menu. In the summer, a simple platter of fruit is hard to resist. Have you ever had peak-season apricots sliced in half and sprinkled with a tiny bit of fleur de sel? [Ed: drool.] Summer also means a lot of pie-baking at our house. Now that I started making pie crusts with leaf lard, I can't really stop. I also love to make my own ice cream. My husband is a chocolate lover, so I also like to make chocolate mini-cakes.
10. If you could invite anyone over for dinner (living or dead), who would it be?
I'd like to have all my grandparents to dinner and ask them about their lives. I never asked enough questions when they were around.
[Photo credit: Jenafer Gillingham]