Sunday, August 19, 2012

You like chili, don't you?  When I left home for college, I pretty much lived inside of my neighborhood taqueria.  Huevos rancheros for breakfast, tacos for lunch, and for dinner, I ate whatever would absorb a handful of tequila shots the quickest.  It took me a few years before I used any kitchen appliance outside of a toaster oven and a tea kettle.  That being said, the first recipe I ever mastered was this vegetarian chili from the Silver Palate cookbook.  This recipe quickly became my go-to party meal, and the process of creating this dish has pretty much defined my entire approach to hostessing.

When it comes to making chili, especially a dish with a zillion spices and chopped veggies such as this one, one has to embrace the community of food prep.  Inviting your dinner guests to chop, sample, spice, and sip, immediately creates intimacy.  I can't think of any better way to get people to open up and settle in than putting them to work creating something sumptuous.  Unless, of course, you throw a little healthy competition into the mix.

Three years ago my husband and I hosted our first annual chili cook-off, and amidst the bribery, insults, and sabotage, we found ourselves one joyously happy little fete.  The first prize chili was contested so heavily, we didn't have a choice but to provide another opportunity for the losing chefs to earn back some credibility.  And so, the birth of a tradition...

Here's my mood board for this year's contest.  It won't happen until October, but it's never too early to plan a party! 

Clockwise from top left:

Lime sorbet margaritas from Real Simple- What could possibly be better than lime sorbet and tequila?  Nothing, unless it's a 90s dance video featuring an as-yet-undiscovered Ryan Gosling busting a move in his color-block silk shirt.  Then it's a close call.

Taste Test Recipe Book from Anthropologie- In my dreamworld, I'll have it together enough on the 5th anniversary of this contest to bind a "winners circle" recipe book for all of our entrants.  I love the simple cover of this book, very inspiring!

Slate Cheese Board from the MoMA Store- Let's class it up a bit, shall we?

Mason Jar Cocktails from Betty Crocker-  This is such a great idea, and so easily converted to "kid-friendly" libations.

Eat Seasonably Calendar- I love the layout and design of this calendar, and am thinking of how to incorporate these design elements in our next invitation.  Maybe add a little flair to the judging cards, as well?

This table setting from At Home with Kim Vallee might have been created for an outdoor movie night, but I love the whole mood created in this vignette.

So, what's your trick to hosting a great party?