My husband has a habit of inviting people over.

I love this about him. He never met a bad excuse for a party. Whether it’s a newly promoted colleague, the visiting son of college friends or the local resident he sat next to on an airplane, Marty is quick with the invitations.

I love this about him. His generosity means I get to do what I adore:

  • Set a table;
  • Create a menu; and
  • Feed people.

But the process isn’t always smooth. Sometimes the ideas and menus flow; other times, it’s a culinary wrestling match.

Next week, three of Marty’s out-of-town coworkers (including his boss) will arrive at our house expecting dinner. I spent the better part of this month hashing out menu ideas — creating, revising, then ultimately tossing. I couldn’t come up with a plan that hung together. Nothing struck the right balance between casual and celebratory. Nothing I played with gave me the calm, almost Zen-like feeling I get when I envision a dinner and intuitively know it will work.

Then this morning, browsing through my local garden store, I found my inspiration:


A small serving tray with a mirrored bottom. My first thought when I saw it: “What a great way to serve shots of gazpacho as an appetizer!”

From there, a menu emerged that pays tribute to our guests’ positions (the boss) without drowning in fustiness and self-importance. Next Sunday, we’ll be sitting down to:

  • Gazpacho shots; grilled clams with lemon and prosciutto; and vegetables with blue cheese dip for appetizers;
  • Spice-rubbed beef tenderloin; quinoa tabbouleh salad; and a medley of green beans, snow peas & baby chard for dinner; and
  • Brown-sugar meringues, macerated berries and whipped cream for dessert.

Served outside on colorful linens, I think it will be perfect.

Where do you find your entertaining inspiration?