Ideas For Casual Entertaining

An expert hostess offers casual entertaining tips and ideas


We all like to gather family and friends together as we lead up to the holidays. Here are a couple of ideas for entertaining more casually.

Fun and Fizzy: make-your-own Pizza Party with sparkling Beverages
For an entertaining option that both parents and children will love, host a make-your-own pizza party.

Make your own pizza dough, or buy prepared, then arrange an assortment of toppings for your guests to express their culinary creativity with. Use your imagination in creating the assortment of toppings, but be sure to have perennial favorites like tomato sauce, pepperoni and mozzarella cheese, then feel free to mix it up with an assortment of veggie and fruit toppings from Seekonk’s Four Town Farm, like local greens, thinly sliced potatoes, onions (caramelized and raw), even roasted beet slices, apples, pears and thinly sliced Butternut squash.

Seek out locally-raised meats at Barrington’s Persimmon Provisions or the farmers market, and include chopped cooked chicken breast, bacon and sausage in your pizza-making buffet. This being Rhode Island, we must include seafood: clams, scallops and shrimp all work well on pizza, too.

And don’t forget the cheese: Narragansett Creamery’s award-winning Renaissance Ricotta and Salty Sea Feta are great alternatives to mozzarella; crumbled blue cheese and goat cheese round out the selection.

Set the ingredients and pizza dough out, and let everyone’s inner TV chef take the stage. Serve sparkling wine for the adults, and Yacht Club soda for the kids, and make a dessert pizza if the urge strikes (perhaps topped with roasted apples, cinnamon and a drizzle of Rhode Island maple syrup? Or chocolate and marshmallows, a la S’mores?).

Serve Simpler with Small Bites
A holiday open house is a breeze when you serve an assortment of appetizers. The oysters from this dinner menu can be included in a smorgasbord of snacks, along with stuffies from Tony’s Seafood in East Providence, bacon-wrapped scallops, stuffed mushrooms and clams casino, all purchased oven-ready. Getcheese, pâté, olives and charcuterie from Tiverton’s Milk and Honey Bazaar, or one of their hors d’ouevres platters, which can be pre-ordered. Offer crostini topped with festive options like prosciutto, Gorgonzola and figs, and sautéed greens with roasted garlic to round out the treats. To be sure you have enough food to go around. Plan to serve 2 ounces of each cheese, 2-3 scallops, 2 clams casino, 2 stuffed mushrooms, 1 oyster, 1 stuffie, and 2 crostini of each type per person.