Monday, August 1

August's easy summer entertaining tips and a look at my La Fondita Family Party

August is the last hurrah
for summer entertaining
so let's celebrate with easy summer parties
but with a little punch and less work please! 

Check out my LaFondita (small kitchen) family party
I threw a few weeks ago... 

It's no secret I love to entertain and you've most likely read my easy entertaining posts in the past.  Remember my Beach Picnic post, or my Easter Sunday brunch, or my 2010's Fourth of July menu inspired by our California trip, or even one of my Culinary Club's Pot Luck Dinner -- here's last spring's Greek Night made easy. 

Let me confess that although I love to host events for my friends and family, and do consider myself an excellent cook, there are simply times I don't want the fuss. I am not trying to become the next Martha Stewart all the time, and while I do love her and own a glue gun for craft projects, it is mostly collecting dust in my drawer (well, yes I do have a craft drawer so I'm a little guilty as charged).  But seriously who has time to make homemade paper flowers for a table setting on a regular basis?  Who has time to make every single item from scratch when hosting a large party (unless you are lucky enough to have a full staff), especially when we can pepper our meals with good, delicious food.  Now I have crafted pretty little paper items before, but mostly I do not have time.  We are a complicated group these days because we have great style, love to cook, love to entertain, love to eat, love to decorate but quite frankly we have busy busy darn lives (I have two careers, two kids and lots going on and I know you do too).  

This does not stop me from bringing my friends into my home and sharing great times.  Sometimes I make meals from scratch, but other times I pull it all together with a little help from the amazing resources in my community.  This particular week I was swamped with work.  I confess to tapping into the great sources and finding them at a bargain (relatively speaking). 

If you are a local Hamptonite you may know about LA FONDITA

photograph courtesy of

It is a fabulous little Mexican take out shop that our family loves in Amagansett and it feels very authentic.  You order from the window and carry your food on a tray to picnic tables in the backyard.  The food is delicious and the closest to my Mexican born sister-in-law's cooking that I have found in the area. 
LaFondita offers some of their items to go, so when planning my annual family party (a group of us have been hosting these summer parties for eight years now) I pulled out my best frozen Mango Margarita recipe (salt and all), made some homemade quesadilla (this is so easy it's a snap) and steamed up some fresh from the farm stand artichokes with melted herb lemon butter as appetizers.  The rest was ordered up at the counter, I picked it up and after full instructions from the very helpful manager, I went home armed with chicken, beef and fish tacos, beans, rice, Mexican corn on a stick, guacamole and homemade salsa and chips.  The only work was assembling everything just before serving so it stayed fresh -- we even waited to encrust the roasted corn with the chili mayonnaise until the last few minutes before serving.  The entire meal cost only a little more than if I had bought the groceries and cooked it all myself.  Like I mentioned I'm not Martha Stewart but rather I am a resourceful hostess serving up a delicious meal to fifteen friends on a beautiful day in the Hamptons -- and I was not frazzled and enjoyed my delicious homemade mango margarita with a parasol umbrella.  Voila! 

You can do this too...take a look:

For this party my summer Nikko blue and purple hydrangeas were in full bloom so I simply plucked them off the vine and put them in pretty white metal pails I bought from Target

at the local paper party store I bought this pinata for $10 and stuffed it with the kid's favorite candy

 I filled the lanterns with shells, strew starfish garland (bought online), added pink and white polka dotted napkins and a punch of color with these hot pink striped table linens...remember I write often about bringing your unique accessories and other quality items from inside the home for outdoor entertaining to carry your design style outside and indulge your guests.

 parasol umbrellas (oriental trading company online) in bright colors and a fun blue tray (Target) spiffed up the meal.  Guacamole and Salsa in my Japanese bowls, homemade chips from LaFondita (still warm when we picked them up), of course my antique cement mermaid kept watch over the ladies.

 a beautiful afternoon -- a perfect day for a dip in the pool and not a tornado in sight (do you remember last year's party I had a tornado with two trees down in my front yard as the guests arrived...not joking!)
For my non local friends who'd like to make this corn check out Rocco DiSpirito's recipe for a similar version.  I made his version and it was spicy, delicious and very easy to prepare, however I recommend using the sticks for easy picking up. 
the secret is in this darn sauce -- La Fondita sells their tomatillo and various red sauces and served up nicely with some fresh limes.  Many grocery stores now have a section for Mexican food and ingredients.
I made traditional Baja fish tacos with cole slaw and a creamy dressing, fried fish and delicious corn tortillas -- assembled moments before serving.  I first had the most delicious fish tacos when visiting San Diego, California.  They are amazing and if served correctly the fish is fried with a light batter, flaky and moist.  The shredded cabbage adds crunch and the spicy remoulade sauce makes it perfect.  Don't forget to use two small corn tacos to hold it all in.  Here's a very good recipe I recommend for fish tacos by
 not a pretty salad but it was the hit of the evening: jicama, corn, avocado, tomato and chopped lettuce salad with crispy tortillas on top and tossed with a tangy, lime dressing -- everyone went back for seconds.  This salad is quite unique and the crunchy tortillas added in with the vegetables made for a great contrast in textures. For a similar salad try this recipe by  I made it this weekend and it was close in flavors. 

Next, for my homemade simple quesadilla:

Use a non-stick pan, two flour tortillas and put shredded monterey jack cheese in between.  I brown on each side of the pan, cut into wedges with a pizza cutter and serve with salsa and sour cream - kids love this and I leave it simple, but for grown up flair you can add tangier cheeses, cilantro, chicken and other vegetables. 
 when making authentic beef and chicken tacos use small tortillas, double them and add chopped onion and cilantro on top of the meat.

I like long narrow tables for entertaining
in small spaces because it can feel expansive

What group of kids doesn't like to tear apart a Pinata and eat all the candy?

 remember to help your guests feel comfortable by offering them re-fills on drinks, extra napkins, lots of seating and fun conversation
 steamed artichokes with herb butter and lemons

photograph courtesy of Novel Eats
try Novel Eats Steamed Artichoke recipe, however, I like to take the tops and bottoms off before steaming (tops so they are easy to eat and bottoms so they sit flatly on a plate).  Use lemon when steaming so they retain their green color.

check out this easy to make Frozen Mango Margarita recipe from  I love the mango flavor because the sweetness balances the salty rim.
 go on throw yourself a fun, easy party
feel free to follow my ideas
Find your very own local LaFondita equivalent but don't forget to add some interesting colors and touches and at least a couple of your own homemade items -- when you do, please send me a message and even a photograph because I want to hear about it on Nest! 

 xo Tamara


My Dog-Eared Pages said...

I love this post and must try La Fondita one day... the pink + white stripes are just the BEST!!! Craving a fish taco now! ; )) ox

William Brinson said...

Looks like so much fun, great job!

Tamara Matthews Stephenson said...

Thanks Stacy and House of Brinson -- these are some of my favorite posts to write. The House of Brinson photograph of artichokes this week is incredible -- check it out everyone! xo tamara

Anonymous said...

Thanks Tamara and I wish you had put up your mango margarita recipe because I could use one right now. I will bookmark this post for Cinco de Mayo next year. thanks for a view, Christine

Renae Moore said...


I loved this diary of your party! As I have gotten older I don't feel the need to be 'Miss Martha Stewart" as I did when I was younger. I was known to my friends as 'Martha'. NOW though, I'm either lazy or smart, I like to embellish as you have done. I like the idea of you going ahead and making up the tacos...I usually do a buffet, but that can really slow down the traffic! Mexican food is the best to entertain with. Those mango margaritas looked so would forget there is alcohol. Loved your table, it has been too blessed hot to even think about being outdoors here and the skeeters are loving the hot weather! I think I will wait until fall and remember you when having a party!


Anonymous said...

I bought William Sonoma's mango margaritas after reading your story and made them last night for our house guests. So easy and yes they were delicious too. Oh, thanks again for the inspiration T.

Sharon B.