Madame Verte’s Entertaining Essentials

I thoroughly enjoy entertaining and there are certainly items I can’t live without. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list, but these are items I think every host or hostess should have to make entertaining at home an event.

1. Two sets of napkins for at least 8 persons. One set in a solid color or more formal pattern (I like Damask) and one set for more casual meals. I’m a big fan of color and reflecting personality through table linens.

2. At least one tablecloth that coordinates with both sets of napkins. Invest in a well-made tablecloth and it will last for many years and many washings.

3. At least one interesting centerpiece that reflects your personal style: a set of antique candle-holders, a sculptural piece that you can surround with tea lights, a uniquely shaped or colored vase for holding a floral arrangement, etc. The one thing I think is most important about centerpieces is height — will you be able to see your guests around it? Can you carry on a conversation, or does the centerpiece get in the way?

4. A set of white china with clean lines. When I prepare a meal, I want the food to be the star. The china doesn’t have to cost a fortune, but I like my china to have a certain “weighty-ness” to it.

5. At least two sets of flatware, one in a formal design and one for more casual dining. The flatware set should also include serving spoons and forks.

6. One set of formal stemware — water goblets, wine glasses, and champagne flutes, and one set of casual stemware — here, I think most people can get away with basic water glasses and wine glasses.

7. At least one formal set of salt and pepper shakers in a coordinating design or color.

8. A few white serving pieces and bowls for entrees, sides, desserts, and appetizers. The serving ware should include a large platter suitable for a holiday spread like a turkey, ham, or standing rib roast. I bring a teacup from my china set along with me to the store (all wrapped up, of course) to find the perfect shade of white to match.

9. Two sets of spreaders to use with butter or an appetizer. I like fun colors and designs, or chunky handles.

10. A set of bar tools, including a corkscrew and bottle-stoppers.

11. One good set of knives including at a minimum: a chef’s knife, a serrated knife, and steak knives for 8 persons.

12. A pitcher for iced tea, cocktails, or water.

13. A set of ramekins. I have several sets, and you’d be amazed how often I use them!

14. A set of baking dishes that can go from oven to tabletop and still look classy. If you can splurge a bit here, I also love my Dutch oven for family-style dining.

15. A couple of well-made trivets to hold hot dishes and protect surfaces.

There are many more items I could add here, but I really tried to create a basic list of the things I use most frequently. I hope it is helpful!

What are the items you can’t live without?