Expert Tips: Easy Entertaining With Katie Lee

Author, chef, and hostess with the mostess Katie Lee shares her top five tips for easy entertaining. Prepping for a party has never been so simple.

1. Have a “house wine.” Choose both a white and red wine. I stock up on Clos du Bois Chardonnay and Clos du Bois Cabernet Sauvignon. They both pair well with summer fare. I purchase a case of each so that I'll always have wine on hand for an impromptu barbecue. Most wine stores offer a discount on wine by the case, so it’s a budget-friendly option as well.

2. Lighting is so important for creating a warm party atmosphere. Get creative and hang paper lanterns from a tree for an outdoor dinner party, or even try hanging an old chandelier attached to an extension chord. White Christmas tree lights are always nice too. I add a twist to the traditional twinkle lights by attaching starfish to the chord with raffia ribbon. Different size candles are always nice. Be sure to use unscented candles so you don't attract bugs or detract from the smell of food and the taste of the wine.

3. Choose a theme for the menu, wine, décor, and music. For example, have a modern barbecue with a twist. Instead of the usual cheeseburger, add sliced heirloom tomatoes, artisanal cheeses, and spicy pickles. Have a beach party and serve lobster rolls, fill hurricane lamps with sand and candles, and write guests names on seashells for place cards. Or, rock the Kasbah. Go for a Moroccan theme with tagines, a variety of spreads and salads, and buy colorful fabrics to use as a tablecloth.

4. Craft a menu of chilled dishes for an easy option. Prepare the food earlier in the day and refrigerate until serving time. Serve a chilled soup, a salad of shaved vegetables, and a poached salmon with a light dill sauce. Preparing chilled food earlier in the day also takes the pressure off when your guests start to arrive. I never like missing out on the party and feeling “stuck” in the kitchen.

5. Set up a self-serve bar for guests. A large tin bucket from the gardening store suddenly looks elegant when filled with ice and bottles of wine. Put out cocktail napkins, glasses, and a small platter of bite-size appetizers. Also be sure to include a non-alcoholic drink option, like a bottle of sparkling lemonade, for guests who are not drinking.