The Kitchen Entertainer

Design a Kitchen that Welcomes your Guests

No matter what the occasion, whenever you have people over they always end up in the kitchen. If this sounds like you, then it’s time to create a kitchen environment that welcomes your guests to enjoy this space.

The first concern is space. You need to have enough room to seat your guests. If your kitchen is the natural hang out, then you’ve probably got a pretty good-sized cooking space, so now you need to consider seating. If there is an island or center bar that people tend to lean over, then it’s time to accessorize it with barstools. Select stools that don’t take up a lot of space and that give guests comfortable support.

Eat-in kitchens provide seating for guests, but they tend to separate the action from the kitchen itself. If you’d like to keep the food the focal point then traditional seating might not be your best bet. Leave the formal seating for the dining room and give your kitchen a higher than normal table with barstools. This raises the conversation level to the height of the chef.

If you’re the budding chef and like to have an audience while you cook, then the arrangement of your tools is essential. Keep your supplies at hand, display your spices in decorative jars, have a bucket full of spatulas and other implements, let fresh fruits and veggies serve as centerpieces. Remind your audience that this is a room for food and invite them to participate and enjoy.

Drinks are just as important as the food, so create a bar area. If you have a built-in bar then keep glasses handy so guests feel comfortable helping themselves. If you don’t have a built-in bar, then a simple wine rack will add a party flare or splurge and get a wine table with tray to hold a few bottles of wine, several glasses and maybe a decorative canister full of wine crackers.

Snacks make guests happy, especially kitchen guests. Keep easy and quick snacks handy. A bowl of nuts, chips, mints, cheese and crackers, whatever you choose, but always have a few treats on hand that can quickly be set out for guests.

Plan for the party. If you know that your guests are going to end up in your kitchen, or if you prefer having people keep you company while creating culinary masterpieces then you need to prepare. Keep party supplies handy and be ready to whip out the snacks and pour a few drinks as soon as your guests arrive. Then, keep them entertained with your kitchen skills.

Dinner Tips for the Kitchen Klutz

Handle a sit-down dinner beautifully with these few simple tips.

Are you a Kitchen Klutz?

You are if as each season rolls around to officially kick off all those tastebud-tickling sit-down dinner ‘feastivities’ every year, you literally break out in a serious sweat worrying about how to orchestrate an event which, for the great many beginner cooks of the world, represents nothing short of a Code Blue culinary crisis.

Think you can’t glide like an Olympic skater from the kitchen to the table without at least a few major glitches along the way to trip you up? Not only can you put together some exceptionally tasty dishes on your own, you can stage the kind of sit-down dinners that every one of your guests will leave raving about. And you can do it beautifully, almost effortlessly, just by employing a little deceptive ingenuity that will never betray what a true kitchen klutz you really are.

The keywords here are “leave nothing to chance.” Test the recipes you are going use for the event at least twice on your own family. You won’t find more honest judges of your dishes if you took them all the way to the Supreme Court.

Must Do’s

Meticulously set the table in the morning of your dinner if you the time or even the day before if you don’t (throw a clean sheet over your set table) to make sure it’s picture-perfect. A gorgeously-set table is guaranteed to set the stage for the dishes you will bring to it. The more beautiful the table, the more your guests will perceive you to be a seasoned cook. You want them to believe you are indeed that fantastic in the kitchen – which means, no apologizing or excuse-making as you serve!

Above all, never confess your kitchen fibs no matter how hard someone at your table tries to wheedle them from you. If Heinz made the gravy, only you and the microwave you nuked it in ever needs to know the truth. (Stir a few spoonfuls of the pan drippings from the roast into the bottled gravy to make it look especially “homemade” before you serve it.)

Keep those Secrets Secret

If you suddenly choked at the bat and bought everything from the hot deli counter at the supermarket, arrange each course and side dish in your own serving dishes. Take the cheeses and relish items off of their oh-so-perfectly arranged store platters and arrange them on your own platters not quite as perfectly. You want everything you bring to the table to seem “homemade” by giving it a homey touch. (Don’t forget to hide those containers from the deli outside in the garbage can before your guests arrive!)

Don’t ever confess that Food Smart was the true chef at your gathering. Remember, the mission you have undertaken is deceptive ingenuity. As long as your guests dig in and enjoy the meal, you’ve done your job. Anyone who asks for your recipes simply smile apologetically and say, “I’m sorry, they’re family secrets, I can’t share them. You understand.”

About that holiday turkey: If heaving a stuffed 22-pound bird into the oven and babysitting it with baster in hand from the crack of dawn on is more of a personal commitment than you think you’re ready to make when your guests come together, simply turn to your adorable Significant Other and whisper the magic word: BARBEQUE!

Your guests will let you know there is nothing like a stuffed turkey fresh off the grill surrounded by your sumptuous side dishes on the table. And your side dishes will be starring acts, thanks to your own ingenuity in the kitchen!

Kids Safety in the Kitchen

While reading and listening about safety in the kitchen is not the most exciting thing for a child, it is really important that they know some tips before letting them start cooking. Avoiding accidents in the kitchen will make cooking more enjoyable for everyone.

Handling knives. A knife is one of the most important instruments that a chef uses. On the same hand, it is also one of the most dangerous. Remember to cut on a cutting board to protect your work surface. The sharp edge of a knife should always be facing down toward the food. It is very important to stay focused on what you are cutting, so the knife does not slip. When walking with a knife, always hold it with the point facing down towards the floor.

Handling graters. Sometimes it necessary to use a grater for cheese, vegetables, and other foods called for in a recipe. Always be cautious as you rub food on a grater, so you do not scrape your fingers or knucles. Hold the end of the food you are cutting away from the grater and use the handle on top. When a piece of food is getting small, it is best to get another piece. Don’t try to grate the whole thing.

Handling peelers. Be sure to hold the peeler firmly by the handle with one hand and the piece of food you are peeling firmly with the other hand. Always move the peeler away from you as you peel.

Pot holders and mitts. Pot holders or mitts are necessary when working with hot dishes and pans. Mitts work better for kids than pot holders because they cover the whole hand. It is very important to make sure pot holders and mitts are dry when you are using them. If they are wet or damp, they will not protect you and can easy cause a burn.

Using a stove. Always use the suggested temperature for your recipe and do not deviate from that. Setting an oven at the wrong temperature can easily ruin an otherwise delicious recipe. If you are using an electric oven, remember that one of the back burners will get heated, as well. When a stove is on do not mess with any part of it. If cooking on the stove top, keep pot handles pointing out away from other burners. The handles become very hot otherwise, and can easily cause a burn. If lifting a lid off a pot on the stove top, lift it away from your face. Otherwise a blast of steam may coming from the pot could burn you, as well.

Pouring hot liquids. When you need to drain food of its liquid or are pouring hot liquids for any other reason, the liquid has a tendency to splash. The steam from boiling water can cause a burn. It is a good idea to use a ladel or other appropriate utensil to remove the food from the boiling water. Or better yet, get an adult to help with this step.

Safe food handling. Handling food in cooking preparation can be dangerous because of bacteria or other outward elements that can be harmful. Always wash your hands before and after cooking with hot, soapy water. Have a clean work surface and clean utensils. If using poultry or meat, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap before handling other foods. Do not place cooked food on the same plate as raw meat. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly to remove dirt and pesticides.

Here’s an excellent resource for more information.

Happy cooking!

Spring Is Nearly Here. Come Visit Us Downtown.

Daffodils and cherry blossoms all abloom, springtime has arrived in Ashland! It’s a wonderful season to come downtown, see a play or take a walk through Lithia Park. While you’re here, stop by and pick up a deli sandwich or have lunch in our cellar cafe, and browse our fine selection of regional wines and gourmet foods.

  It’s a new year, a perfect time to join us for one of our cooking classes. We’ve got a great lineup, from Confident Cooking, our 10-week series, or one of our fabulous workshops. Contact Us For More Information. 
  We offer the finest selection of cook’s tools in Southern Oregon, featuring brands such as:

  • All-Clad
  • KitchenAid
  • Capresso
  • Cuisinart
  • Emile Henry
  • Le Creuset
  • Wusthof-Trident
  • Global
  • and many others

Cooking Classes
Inspiring the Home Chef

  At Allyson’s, our mission is to help our customers gain more enjoyment from time spent in the kitchen. To support our mission, we offer an extensive array of classes, all taught in our on-site gourmet demonstration kitchen.  Our cooking school roster includes Specialty Workshops, and Wine Tastings.  We are offering a special class in Spanish cooking sponsored by Saveur magazine.

  Located in the heart of the historic and culturally rich town of Ashland, Oregon, Allyson’s of Ashland is a shopping paradise dedicated to the home gourmet. Upstairs, browse our extensive selection of quality pots and pans, cutlery, appliances and kitchen gadgets.
Wander downstairs, and you’ll find a delicious selection of Gourmet Foods, Artisan Cheeses, Specialty Meats, Wines and Gourmet Ingredients from around the world.
Let our expert sales staff help you find the perfect gift or a great bottle of wine for your everyday celebrations. Or settle into a great sandwich or bowl of soup in our deli.
Click here for our deli menu.  Soups and specials change daily.