Hostess with the Mostess: Ready, Set, Impress!

Lola MagazineHome and Entertaining, Jessica Comegys

There are few things as special as gathering around a beautiful table to enjoy a meal with the ones we love. Setting the table to fit the occasion is one of the most enjoyable details of hosting. At times the rules of table setting can get a little tricky. Let me help you set a table to wow your guests and make Emily Post proud.

Have a plan for table setting perfection.
-How many place settings will be needed?
-Menu is key. How many courses? Will you be serving buffet or family dinner style?
-What kind of drinks will you serve, and what kind of glasses will you need?

Pick your Theme and Color Pallet
-The newest trend for tableware is using a verity of colors and patterns along with a mixture of everyday and fine china. This is also a great way to double your place settings.
-White dishware is a great place to start, and then bring in design glassware, tablecloth, napkins, chargers, accessories, florals, etc.
-Add some sparkle to your table with metallic elements. Add candles to create a warm, welcoming atmosphere — candles will also make your tablescape glow.

Vary Height to bring WOW factor
-Visual wow can be added by adding varying heights of glassware, candles, and florals.
-Stagger the height of candlesticks or floral arrangements, but make sure the tablescape height allows for guest to see each other across the table.

Make your guests feel special with personal touches.

-Seating arrangements and place cards add design detail and a little extra love for your guests.
-Print out your menu to add excitement about the thoughtful meal being served.

Serves: makes 4 regular servings — recipe can easily be doubled or tripled
1 bunch of fresh asparagus spears
1.5 quarts of chicken or vegetable stock
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
2 finely chopped shallots
2 finely diced garlic cloves
2 cups arborio rice (or riced cauliflower for healthy swap see notes)
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup fresh shredded pecorino cheese (parmesan made me used)


  1. Cut or snap off the woody ends from each asparagus spear but don’t discard them – cut them in half lengthways.
  2. Put the stock and halved asparagus ends in a pan, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes to extract all the flavour. Strain the flavoured stock into a clean pan and discard the bits left in the sieve. Keep hot over a low heat.
  3. Heat the oil and butter in a medium-size pan, add the shallots and stir over a medium heat for 5-6 minutes until soft but not browned. Add the rice and stir well until all the grains are coated in the oil and butter.
  4. Add the white wine and simmer gently, stirring, until it has been absorbed. Add a ladleful of the hot stock and stir until all the stock has been absorbed before adding another ladleful. Continue this way for about 20-25 minutes, stirring frequently, until the rice is creamy and tender, but still has a little bit of bite. You might not need to use all the stock.
  5. Shortly before the risotto is cooked (5-6 mins remaining) add in the asparagus.
  6. Once the rice is tender, stir in the pecorino. Spoon the risotto into warmed deep plates and shave over a little more pecorino to serve.

Notes for using cauliflower in the place of rice: follow all steps except adding the rice, instead add the cauliflower and asparagus at the same time to the reduced wine, shallots, and garlic. Add 1/4 cup of milk or unsweetened plain almond milk and 1/8 cup stock. Cook until asparagus is slightly tender, careful not to over cook the cauliflower, you want it to have an “al dente” texture to resemble rice.

3 tablespoons all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 3/4- to 1-inch-thick lamb rib chops
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium red onion, halved, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
1 cup unsweetened black cherry juice
1 cup halved pitted fresh Bing cherries or other dark sweet cherries (about 7 ounces whole unpitted cherries)
1/3 cup thinly sliced fresh basil, divided
Ingredient Tip: Look for unsweetened black cherry juice at the supermarket and natural foods stores.

  1. Preheat oven to 250°F. Mix flour, 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt, and 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper on large plate. Lightly coat lamb chops with flour mixture; shake off excess. Melt butter with oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add lamb chops and cook to desired doneness, about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer chops to baking sheet and keep warm in oven while preparing sauce (do not clean skillet).
  2. Add onion to same skillet and sauté 2 minutes. Add cherry juice and bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits. Boil until liquid is slightly reduced and onion is slightly softened, stirring frequently, about 4 minutes. Stir in cherries and half of basil and cook 1 minute. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Place 2 lamb chops on each of 4 plates. Spoon sauce over. Sprinkle remaining basil over and serve.

Adapted from Thomas Keller’s French Laundry Cookbook
Serves: makes 2 regular servings, or 4 small servings — recipe can easily be doubled or tripled
3½ lbs fresh peas, shelled (or 3 ½ cups frozen peas)
3 quarts water
½ cup sugar
½ cup kosher salt
½ cup water, plus more as needed
4 oz. creme fraiche
Zest of one lemon, plus 1 TBSP juice
drizzle of good quality truffle oil or olive oil, optional
Pea shoots for garnish, optional

  1. Bring water, sugar, and salt to a boil in a large pot. Add half of the peas, and boil for 6-8 minutes for fresh, or 4-5 minutes for frozen, or until tender.
  2. Fill a large bowl with water and ice, and have it standing by when the peas are done cooking. Remove the peas from the pot with a skimmer or slotted spoon, and place them directly into the ice bath. This will stop the cooking, and help preserve their bright color. Return the water to a boil and repeat with the rest of the peas.
  3. Drain the cooked peas from the ice water, and add them to a blender or food processor. Add ½ cup fresh water, and puree until completely smooth. If the mixture is too thick to blend, add more water as needed.
  4. (Optional) Pass the puree through a fine mesh sieve. Use a scraper or rubber spatula to press all the liquid through.
  5. Taste, and adjust the seasoning if necessary. If the consistency is too thick, add more water to thin as needed. Optionally, stir in a TBSP or so of good quality olive oil, to enhance the velvety texture of the soup and add flavor.
  6. Soup can be warmed on the stove, or chilled in the fridge before serving.
  7. When you’re ready to serve, whisk together the creme fraiche, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Serve alongside the soup, or drizzle it over to garnish along with truffle oil.

Hibiscus Strawberry Curd Tart with Toasted Meringue
Serves Four 5-inch tartlets or one 8″ or 9″ tart
Tart shell (or use store bought)
1 egg yolk
2 Tbs. very cold water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup almond flour
1⁄3 cup sugar
1⁄4 tsp. salt
8 Tbs. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1⁄4-inch cubes
Hibiscus Strawberry Curd
1½ cup sugar
1½ tablespoons dried hibiscus
¾ cup strawberry purée, strained (from about ¾lb of strawberries)
3 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons lime juice (from 2-3 limes)
2 teaspoons lime zest (from 1 lime)
2 teaspoons corn starch, sifted
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch cubes
Toasted Meringue
3 egg whites
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
¾ cup caster sugar or powdered sugar

  1. Place all flours, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine.
  2. Add butter cubes and pulse until dough begins to clump together. (This might take a few minutes – it will appear dry at first, but it will eventually clump into a coarse meal).
  3. Divide dough between four tartlet pans with removable bottoms (or one large tart pan) and use your fingers to press dough evenly in bottom of pan and up sides.
  4. Freeze crust for 15 minutes while you prepare the hibiscus strawberry curd.
  5. Bake 350°F for 15-17 minutes, until it begins to turn golden brown. Use the back of a spoon to gently press crust down to make it flat it. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before removing them from the pans.

Hibiscus Strawberry Curd

  1. Pulse sugar and dried hibiscus in a food processor until hibiscus is finely ground.
  2. Prepare a double broiler, or fit a heat proof bowl over a large pot filled with an inch of simmering water.
  3. In the heat proof bowl, combine hibiscus sugar, strawberry purée, eggs, egg yolks, lime juice, lime zest, and corn starch. Whisk to combine.
  4. With stove on medium-high heat, cook, whisking continuously, until mixture thickens and reaches 170°F on thermometer, about 4-5 minutes.
  5. Remove bowl from heat and strain curd through a fine mesh strainer to remove any pieces of cooked egg or hibiscus.
  6. Add butter and whisk to melt and combine.
  7. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate while you bake the crusts.
  8. When the crusts have cooled, divide the curd among the four prepared crusts, using a rubber spatula to spread it evenly. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours (or up to 1 day) before serving.
  9. Just before serving, prepare meringue (recipe below).

Toasted Meringue

  1. Wipe the bowl of your stand mixer to make sure it is super clean.
  2. Add egg whites and cream of tartar and whisk on medium speed until it begins to foam and holds soft peaks.
  3. Add sugar, one spoonful at a time, and whisk on high speed until stiff glossy peaks form. Check to make sure the sugar has dissolved by rubbing a bit of meringue between your finger tips to make sure it’s not gritty. If it is, keep whisking until sugar dissolves. The meringue is done when you hold a spoonful upside down and nothing drips.
  4. Transfer meringue to a piping bag with a wide round tip and pipe meringue on top of each curd-filled tartlet, or if you don’t have a piping bag, spoon the meringue directly onto the tarts.
  5. Use a kitchen torch to lightly toast the meringue. (If you don’t have a kitchen torch, you can place the tarts under the broiler for 2- 4 minutes, watching carefully until just toasted).