May 2, 2008

Las Vegas Part 2- party girl

It is becoming a distant memory now--the desert, the flowers, the food and the family. Well, not the family because they're never far from my thoughts. We're a tight knit family and not least because of the loss 8 years ago of our leader, our matriarch, our loving Italian mamma.

So it seems I have stepped into the role of entertainer and provider for my family (in the kitchen that is). I am just like my mom in that I love to entertain and I pretty much seamlessly stepped into her shoes. And those are no small shoes to fill. My mom used to host my brother's entire football team every Thursday night for pasta dinner. And the parties at our house were numerous and well loved by all.

So it was that when my brother decided to bring home 9 of his friends from New York for a backyard cook-out, I did what I could to make it a party. There would be almost 20 of us. My brother and his friends all work together at a great place in NYC called Freeman's on the Lower East Side. All really nice, very hip and fun guys and girls. And all restaurant people. I decided to make it simple and grill some chicken and burgers with all the sides, a caprese salad and a big fruit salad for dessert. They brought the beer. I made it all happen.

I did the shopping at a place called Fresh and Easy. I had never heard of the place, but apparently it's a UK-based chain of grocery stores providing fresh options for people in a pared down environment of no frills shopping. Whole Foods it's not, but neither are the prices! I was amazed at the fresh options, the variety of meats and cheeses, fruits and vegetables all displayed in individually wrapped clear plastic (one flaw in all the good--too much plastic). I was told that the system is all about putting out only the freshest and as soon as an item has been on the shelf a day, it is marked down or removed and something newer takes its place.

I found everything I needed and more - all very fresh and CHEAP. I almost was suspicious at how cheap it was. But I checked out their site and found their philosophy to be all about providing options that everyone can afford. And, on top of that, they carry some pretty cool imported things that you wouldn't find anywhere else, like Cotswald cheese, Spanish membrillo and jamon serrano for only $5!! The whole thing had a very Euro vibe which I liked. And there were very friendly people working there and no clerks --you check and bag your own groceries using your own reusable bags. I was sold. Maybe we'll be getting one in Nashville one day... right now they're only on the West coast.

(I may get busted for this, but here's a picture of some of the Euro items I liked...)

So the shopping done, I went home to chop and wash and prep the meats while my dad and daniel prepared the grill and set up for the party.

Once they arrived we fired up that old thing and one of the sweetest of the bunch named Nicky stood at the grill and flipped burgers and chicken for me while enertaining us all. What a great guy.

And then the next night we had another dinner for just the family and I had promised my dad I would cook him his favorite--rigatoni with red sauce and sausage.
My aunt and her husband joined us and her dessert was the best part of the meal in my opinion. Berry Pavlova. A base of meringue topped with whipped cream and berries. Yum. I will have to try it some day. As you can kind of see (it was getting dark) it was dripping with gooey, fruity goodness and it tasted even better than it looks.


  1. Looks like you have a great family. You fill your role very well, indeed.

    Right now, my grandmother cooks all the major meals for our family. I can't imagine what it's going to be like when that changes. Kudos to you for taking up those reins and doing such a great job.

    Oh, and Berry Pavlova = mound of goodness.

  2. I bet your mother would be proud.

    Looks like it was a fabulous time, and I'm envious of that pavlova - it's on my have to try list, just haven't gotten there yet.