Monthly Archives: January 2013

Don’t Forget the Frig

In the January 2013 issue of Real Simple magazine, there is a useful article called “The Dinner Party, Decoded,” which includes a “check-it-off guide for a memorable, stress-free evening” of entertaining. It includes everything from inviting guests three weeks before, to cleaning the house, “if necessary” (ha, ha!) two days before, to lighting the candles and turning on the music just before guests arrive. As terrific as the article is, one item is missing, in my humble opinion: Cleaning the refrigerator.

Cleaning the refrigerator should be the first thing you do after extending an invitation, especially if it’s for a big holiday meal or for the weekend. Doing so is likely to unearth ingredients you forgot you owned and that might otherwise be added to your dinner party shopping list unnecessarily. More important, it will make available extra storage space you need when you’re having guests, whether for ingredients, make-ahead dishes, or contributions from the guests themselves.

Speaking of chilling out, eliminating all those embarrassing crumbs and spills and the need to tenuously stack one container on top of another is certain to leave you feeling more confident and relaxed.

Choosing Cheeses

“Do you know anything about cheese?” one wild-eyed shopper asked me as he approached the cheese bin in a local market, where I was picking up a hunk of the skimmed-milk Jarlsburg that my husband likes for breakfast. “I’m having some people over for wine, and I want to serve cheese,” he nervously confessed. Since then, I’ve regretted my response and thought a lot about what I should have said.

Not an expert but eager to help, I recommended Morbier, a semi-soft French cow’s milk cheese, which I’ve always enjoyed. And without ever tasting it or considering if it would complement the wines he was pouring, he bought a plastic-wrapped piece and left.

I could have been more helpful by suggesting that he consult the knowledgeable cheese monger at the market down the street. He would have gotten some good advice there, based on such pertinent particulars as the types of wines he was serving and where they were made. He could have sampled some cheeses to see which ones he liked, and taken home fresh cuts, which invariably are superior to pre-cut wrapped ones.

I’m hardly a cheese snob, and I don’t think it’s a crime to serve a cheese simply because you like it. Heck, on short notice I’ve been known to put out the aforementioned Jarlsburg, and everyone happily gobbled it up. But if you’re making cheese the centerpiece of your hors d’oeuvre table, why not take advantage of some valuable free advice and do it right? Who knows: You might learn something.

Fresher Longer

If you waste a lot of money buying fruits and vegetables that rot before you eat them, try Debbie Meyer GreenBags ( According to the company, they’re made with a “natural mineral,” which helps to extend the life of fruits, vegetables, and cut flowers. Presumably, the bags work by blocking the ethylene gas responsible for ripening and ultimately rotting produce.

Recently, a friend and I split the contents of a box to test the company’s claims. Neither of us did a scientific study, but both of us have been impressed. I bagged some fruits and vegetables that I buy weekly and left them on the counter as usual. Six days later, the tomatoes and bananas seem as fresh as they did the day I bought them. The bags are easy to use and can be washed and reused up to 10 times.

If you’ve tried this or a similar product, I’d love to hear about your results.