Saturday, October 24, 2009

Cookbooks: The Entertaining Encyclopedia by Denise Vivaldo

Today I dropped by my local Home Depot only to be met with a shock: the rows upon rows of barbecues I’d seen there just a few weeks ago had disappeared and been mysteriously replaced with ... fake Christmas trees and decorations. After I’d recovered and had gotten my too-hard-beating heart under control I stopped and took stock. After all, the time between when you see the first Home Depot Christmas tree of the season and when seasonal entertaining begins is not necessarily very long.

Upon my return home, I remembered the copy of The Entertaining Encyclopedia (Robert Rose) by Denise Vivaldo that I’d been perusing for the last few weeks. Suddenly its presence in my lair made sense.

Vivaldo is, after all, a sort of catering queen to the stars. Los Angeles-based, she’s catered the Academy Awards Governors Ball and she’s cooked for some of Hollywood’s top names. That being the case, it seems as though she’s a good person to look to advice for when it comes to holiday entertaining -- or any other kind, for that matter.

“It might sound too simple to be true,” she begins, “but the best way to ensure that your guests are having a great time is to have one yourself.” But it’s a big, fat book. Even in paperback. Loads of recipes, lots of advice: a lot of it, in the end, dedicated, to helping you be proficient enough with the idea of entertaining that you will have a good time, despite yourself.

The Entertaining Encyclopedia: Essential Tips and Recipes for Perfect Parties is a great primer on ... well, everything to do with entertaining. Identifying and choosing glassware. Stocking a bar. How to handle coffee service. How to garnish a plate. Choose a location. Get a hard-partying guest to leave when the party is over.

And then the food: which is fantastic. Even if you have no intention of ever hosting a party, you’ll find useful recipes here. Some very good versions of old standards -- chicken satay, cheese fondue, spare-ribs, barbecue sauce. Scones. Some sophisticated modern dishes and the thing that I found most arresting: Vivaldo’s casual approach to food. For example, an hors d’oeuvres party appears almost as magically as if it had been waved in by a wand. Several pages of elegant hors d’oeuvres that are so simple, they seem almost to make themselves. And hors d’oeuvres are, of course, just the very beginning. There are over 200 recipes in the book.

If you have questions about entertaining or planning a party, you’ll find sensible answers in Denise Vivaldo’s The Entertaining Encyclopedia.

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Blogger Food Fanatics Unwashed said...

Thanks for the great review, Monica! We are going to repost immediately! xo

Saturday, October 24, 2009 at 5:45:00 PM PDT  

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