Hello, Chicago! On Thursday, June 17th, we're throwing the kind of party that will help you throw better parties! I'm talking time-saving tricks and insider tips for easy entertaining with style. Creating the WOW Party, we're calling it, (without work). These days, I think we're all staying in a little more than we used to, preferring casual gatherings at home that are a lot easier on the wallet than fancy evenings out. But when it comes to cocktail parties at home, hors d'oeuvres needn't be limited to store-bought hummus and pita, chips and and a chunky salsa. Now don't get me wrong: As an ex-caterer, I'm all for cutting corners if it saves time and money, but the critical part of the equation—the WOW factor everyone's always after—is presentation, presentation, presentation. It's the golden ticket, the insider secret all the pros know but never tell you. Until now. 


Well, not quite now, but soon! The 17th of June at 7 pm, to be precise, at the historic Dunham Woods Riding Club in Wayne, Illinois. Joining me will be the talented Debra Phillips, owner of Scentimental Gardens in Geneva, a fantastic home and garden store full of beautiful, one-of-a-kind antiques. And trust me: Debra knows how to throw a party. Check out the fountain she used as an icing tub for a party she threw at her store when Jaithan and I were in town. How clever is that?


And now it's time for a flashback: The first job I ever had was at a catering company in Greenwich called Watson's on Pemberwick. Everyday, after school, I'd ride my bike down to the store, where I worked as a dishwasher, scrubbing floors and taking out the garbage. Eventually, I worked my way up cooking, doing window displays, styling tables and creating "edible landscapes," beautiful, often elaborate spreads of food for the set-it-up-and-forget-it cocktail party, the kind you as a host get to enjoy the most!  


Whether you're hosting four or four hundred, cheese plates are such a staple of cocktail parties, so why not learn to create the most fabulous one you can? Good cheeses are important, yes, as are a handful of other things, but more than that, it's about you how you layer and build the plate that can really wow your guests. Of course, even the most wow-worthy spreads have humble beginnings. Behold the cabbage. 


Feeling a little empty, are we? 


How about a bevy of vegetables, colorful and crisp, to keep you company? The dip is a classic 1950s recipe my grandmother Dottie taught me. It's complex, so make sure you write it down. Ready? Sour cream, together with Lipton Onion Soup Mix. How easy is that? Sure, you could spend hours doing a dip from scratch, and when I was in culinary school, believe me, I did. But sometimes, you just can't beat the convenience (and taste!) of Lipton's. With a beautiful presentation, who'd know the difference?


So I hope you've enjoyed a sampling of time-saving tricks and stylists' tips enough to join Debra and me at Dunham Woods on the 17th. From everyday ingredients, we'll create extraordinary spreads that will inspire and delight you! And the best part of it all? You get to dig in! Tickets are $65 general admission and $40 for bloggers. To RSVP, email theshop@scentimentalgardens.com or call (630) 232-1303. Space is limited, so hurry! See you in Chicago, everyone!