When I open the Hamptons house for the summer, I am both excited and anxious. Excited because it is the first day of a new season that promises fun, relaxation, great weather, family and friends. Anxious because, after this winter, who knows if there might be dramas waiting for me. A leaking fridge? A malfunctioning oven? With fingers crossed, I invite a group of friends for dinner—eight at 8:00 PM—what could be better?! In between trips to the garden center and maybe even the hardware store, it’s so easy to pick a few things for dinner.
I love spur-of-the-moment, last-minute, come-as-you-are dinners and I often invite friends when I bump into them at the supermarket. But for this night, I have made plans in advance and invited a group to join me and celebrate the ‘Opening of the House.’
Through the years I have learned to rely on the fantastic array of local markets available in the South Fork. My dinners are now not cooking extravaganzas, rather a put-together menu with delicious local produce. There are wonderful sauces and lots of wine. At the end of the day, it is the sum of all parts not the amount of hours we spend in the kitchen that makes entertaining effortless, elegant and fun.
The evening starts with a house drink—the most wonderful way to get everyone in the spirit. At home I serve pineapple and vodka in tall glasses garnished with mint. So refreshing, it’s easy to make and oh, so pretty. At the bar, I place a bowl of spicy nuts made with roasted pecans and red chili piri piri and another bowl with dark olives. It’s all we need as dinner will be quite substantial.
The menu for tonight is retro, classic and totally delicious. I can get it all done in three stops in Southampton: The Village Cheese Shoppe, Catena’s Market, Sant Ambroeus. The menu consists of cheese and salad as the first course, meat loaf with mashed potatoes as the main, finally ice cream and fruit for dessert.
At the Village Cheese Shoppe I pick up the cheese course. They carry the most wonderful array of local and international cheeses and all the accoutrement that goes with it. For this early summer dinner manchego (hard, sheep), cambozola (blue, soft, cow), and chèvre (soft, goat) make a great combination. I am adding a green salad dressed with a champagne vinaigrette and serving it with warm baguettes.
The main course comes from Catena’s as I am totally addicted to their meatloaf and mashed potatoes. I order it whenever I can. I dress the meatloaf with bacon strips, cover it with my Smokey BBQ ketchup, wrap it in foil paper and keep it in the warm oven until I’m ready to serve it. I transfer the mashed potatoes to an oven dish, sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese and dot with butter. I then broil them for a few minutes before serving. Just like homemade, but way better!
Dessert is as simple as store-bought ice cream and fresh berries. I dress up the ice cream by making it into balls and pressing chopped nuts on the outside. I keep the ice cream in the freezer until ready to serve. Just garnish the bowl of berries with a touch of orange juice and a few mint leaves.
I set the table using oranges, whites, and green. Bright tablecloths with white and green accessories make a wonderful combination. My style tends to be casual and elegant, mixing styles and provenance but keeping colors to the same two or three hues to make a stronger statement. Flowers, plants, shells, books, pencils, feathers, eggs… I find room for everything at my table. Décor is about what I have at hand, not an elaborate flower center piece that looks out of place at home.
Entertaining is sharing what we have, and it is my way of giving back, of solidifying friendships and making new ones. It is opening my house to friends and welcoming them into our lives. It is comforting and relaxing and to me, and the best way to spend the first weekend of the summer. Welcome home.
Victoria Amory is a cook, author, TV personality, and hostess extraordinaire who grew up between Madrid and Seville, where she learned the art of gracious entertaining. Her all-natural, award-winning Victoria Amory & Co. condiment collection available in the Hamptons gourmet stores and online is designed to help women create graceful, memorable meals with ease and confidence. Victoria, her husband and their three boys spend their summers in the family home in Southampton.