Most cookbooks focus on cooking for smaller groups but what happens if you are serving a party? British chef Alice Hart rides to the rescue with Friends At My Table, a book with 12 menus, three for each season, enough to get you through a year of effortless entertaining. Hart shares tips for entertaining including details on which menu items can be prepared in advance. Her menus are the types of set pieces designed so the host can spend more time entertaining guests and less time in the kitchen. If you've ever wanted to host a large event but weren't sure how to begin to plan, this book is a warm and wonderful companion. Hart is a reassuring guide to the world of entertaining, encouraging the host to enjoy the process and also giving advice on when to take short cuts and when to splurge.
The menus are fun and festive: a light Vietnamese bridal shower in the spring, a garden wedding meal, a beach barbecue, and there are drinks, both with alcohol and without, that pair well with the meals. Hart also includes bits of helpful advice for swimming, playing cricket, even cloud gazing. There's a sense in this book of bring completely given over to the enjoyment of the day, something that is often missing in other guides to entertaining.
For this time of year the fall and winter menus will be of particular interest. A pumpkin salsa is sweet and rich and a tart of leeks, mascarpone, and roasted garlic warms a new year's meal. A Greek/Moroccan inspired meal with dolmas and a honey roasted beet and carrot salad set the tone for a menu for a fun evening gathering that includes suggestions for indoor pary games.
Overall the book leaves one with the desire to attend one of Hart's festive gatherings, the next best thing is to host one yourself.