Manhattanites know how precious space is, since there isn’t much of it to go around. But no matter how big or small, there is always room for fine dining. Chef and New York restaurateur, Donatella Arpaia, dishes out her top tips for bringing a little formality to dining at home:
Tip #1: Create Food Stations
Whenever I entertain in my apartment I create “food stations.” My kitchen counter becomes my place for hors d’oeuvres or antipasto platters. My dining room table is set for the main event. My coffee table becomes a place for coffee and desserts. I set everything up ahead of time so when my guests are done with dinner, they don’t have to wait while I reset for dessert. They can simply head over to my living room.
Tip #2: Mini Me
When throwing a party in your home, remember that any dish can be miniaturized. This will allow for more options in a smaller space. Some examples include:
- Mini caprese salads on skewers
- Shot glasses of cold soups or espresso cups of hot soups or desserts, like pudding or panna cotta
- Asian spoons filled with a mouthful of risotto
Tip #3: The Eyes Have It
Remember we eat with our eyes first, so the visual is very important: Dress up a cheese platter with artisanal honey, chestnut or lavender, for instant culinary credibility. Serve it with a honey spool. Skip the pre-made cheese cubes platters and go to a local cheese monger and select four or five cheeses based on a country- you can’t go wrong.
Tip #4: Signature Cocktails
If you are on a budget, alcohol can be a big expense. Find some great buys, like MARTINI Prosecco (SRP $14.99) or Rose (SRP $13.99). You can also create a signature cocktail for the evening, and put a name to it, like mine – The Donatella (the recipe is below). Make it ahead of time so your guests won’t realize you used an inexpensive alcohol.
Tip #5: Get Your Just Desserts
Baking doesn’t have to be hard. My aunt’s recipe (see below) is so easy because there is no crust and you can make it all in a pot – and everybody dies for it! Plus, if you make it the day before it’s actually better the next day!
RECIPES FROM DONATELLA
- 3 ounces MARTINI Prosecco
- 3/4 ounces of GREY GOOSE
- 1/2 ounce of MARTINI Bianco
- 3 slices cucumber
- 1 leaves of basil
- 1 cherry tomato
- 1/2 ounce of lemon juice
- 1/2 ounce of simple syrup
- Garnish: 1 Campari Tomato
In a cocktail shaker place all ingredients. Muddle gently. Add ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a tall glass. Top with Prosecco. Add garnish.
Zia Donata’s Ricotta Cheesecake paired with MARTINI Asti
- 8 large eggs
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
- 3 pounds fresh ricotta
- 1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
- Juice and grated zest of 1 lemon, juice strained
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup sweet liquer such as limoncello or Strega
- 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
PREHEAT THE OVEN to 350°F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9″ springform pan.
TO MAKE THE CHEESECAKE: Beat the eggs in a large bowl with an electric mixer until foamy and light yellow. Add the sugar and beat on medium speed until smooth. Add the flour and beat until incorporated. Add the ricotta and whipped cream and beat until smooth. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla, and liqueur to the ricotta and stir gently until incorporated. Pour the mixture into the pan, place on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake for 1 hour 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in it to settle for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven to cool completely. Dust the top of the cheesecake with confectioners’ sugar (this will be the background for the caramel flourish).
TO MAKE THE DECORATIVE TOPPING: Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Put the granulated sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly as the sugar melts. It will bubble and begin to turn golden. When the liquid becomes deep golden, remove from the stove. Dip a metal spoon into the molten sugar and drizzle onto the wax paper, forming letters or designs. Let harden, then gently peel off the paper and arrange on the cheesecake. If making it ahead of time, cover and refrigerate and bring to room temperature before serving.
- Pair with MARTINI Asti, a sweet sparkling wine with a fragrant bouquet.
- Serves 6 to 8
- Equipment needed: electric mixer, 9″ springform pan
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