Posted by Victoria Amory on January 02, 2015
Just before New Year’s Eve there is a lull in the festivities… travels and weather play
havoc with our plans and I often find myself having a few minutes to reminisce about
years past. A house full of family and friends has triggered me to look back on the high
points of my entertaining life. Welcoming friends and family at home is still wondrous
and exciting. Whether large scale or just for 4, welcoming guests is always a pleasure.
I have been entertaining friends and family since my early twenties (for quite some time
now) and have collected a large repertoire of recipes and table setting ideas for which I
am constantly solicited. Guests at my table enjoy themselves not just because they like
the food or find my table pretty but rather a synthesis of elements that show I have
actually made an effort to entertain them. I do not pore over the stove for days, nor do I
arrange every last flower like a soldier at attention. What I do is plan fun get-togethers
that are quick so that I can spend time with my boys, entertaining so that my husband
doesn’t throw me out of the house, and lastly innovative/elegant/flair to satisfy my
An interest in appearances is not so shallow as one might think. I was fortunate enough to
grow up in Madrid and Seville in privileged circumstances. And what I learned at home I
now consider the basics of entertaining: simple excellent food paired with genuine
graciousness, an inclusive sense of etiquette, and as anyone who has been to Spain knows
a great deal of convivial conversation. Throwing a good dinner or lunch is not about
advancing one’s position, nor impressing your friends, it is about making bonds that last
in even the most minute way.
Over the years, my life has changed dramatically and I am now a very busy wife, mother
of two teenage boys, manager of two households, and founder of a rapidly expanding
artisanal food brand. Miraculously, my love of entertaining endures.
Growing up I was a spectator to many grand gatherings at my parent’s home that my mother pulled off with
remarkable ease. Looking back, I now remember the half dozen servants, my mother’s
vegetable garden in Seville with every type of vegetable and fruit, and the cupboards of
china, crystal and silverware. With that support system, of course she could do it! The
most important lesson my mother thought me is the art of the menu selection. The dishes
have to complement each other, the meal has to be looked as a whole rather than
individual dishes as variations, colors and textures are essential for a successful meal.
At Arenales my parent’s ancient country house outside of Seville the walls are covered
17th century tiles depicting country life in fantastic hues of blue, yellow and green. There
is one room I am particularly enchanted with and it is the hunting room where my mother
has mounted a few generations worth of (hunting and) bull fighting trophies on the walls.
My parents both grew up with wonderful things and at Arenales they pull out all of the
stops. It was there, where the Infanta Elena of Spain celebrated the eve of her wedding.
750 european royals arrived at two in the afternoon and the last guests left at two in the
morning. In between there was what one could call a celebration of all things Spanish.
The food was perfect country cooking, from egg and potato tortilla and ham croquetas to
a fully loaded paella. Naturally enough the entertainment was flamenco And, the setting
was my late father’s bullring festooned with red geraniums and olive trees. The guests
could not have been more aristocratic and royal but the sheer numbers made my mother
concoct a simple plan that came off as extraordinary due to its scope.
I started entertaining 20 odd years ago in a romantic turn of the century ballroom
(actually its own separate structure) that my ex-husband and I rented in a derelict Tuxedo
Park estate. In order to avoid bike rides with my husband that led over hill and dale I
started to stay at home and plan dinner parties for our friends: cooking and entertaining
became my favorite way to spend the weekends. For the most part the dinners were
simple affairs but the setting was magical. I especially recall wintertime when most of the
ballroom had no heat and I became a specialist in stews and other warming one-pot
dinners. At times it was so frigid that I had to put blankets and shawls on the backs of the
chairs so that my guests wouldn’t freeze. That stage gave way to other more adventurous
meals. Soon, I was on my way to becoming a true hostess in the best sense of the word.
I lived in New York City from 1983 to 1997 where I worked in a variety of jobs that have
helped me immensely. I began my working career with a misstep at Martha, a couture
salon on Park Avenue. After two weeks there, I was fired for having spent to much time
talking with boyfriends, dressing like a customer and not a salesgirl and finally for not
using the employee exit when I rushed out of the shop to greet the Queen of Spain! A few
other fashionable jobs led me to the Banco Bilbao Vizcaya where I worked in Corporate
Promotion or what I call “girlie banking.” That was a position where I excelled in
entertaining bank clients on both small and large scales. I planned large corporate events
and sent the out right gifts from the president’s office. I then moved on to an even more
entertaining job at a private law firm that represented Latin American clients in the US
and Spain. Both of these jobs were immensely educational for me and built up my
confidence in entertaining. I’ve continued learning from friends and my library of
cookbooks that I consult and actually love to read.
I married C. Minot Amory in 1995, moved to Palm Beach and that began another era. We
both grew up in fabulous households and are determined to continue that tradition. Minot
loves to eat well and entertain a crowd. Our lives, of course, are different in the twentyfirst
century and we treasure time with our sons and time for ourselves. I might be
arriving from Spain at one in the afternoon, and Minot might be inviting four for dinner
that evening, news of which sends me straight to Costco to fill the larder. At home I use
my own brand of condiments to elevate everyday ingredients, chop the vegetables,
marinate the fish and take a nap to collect myself. Most of my dinners take just a few
hours to prepare and the table, while elaborate, gets set by pure instinct. The guests arrive
at about 8:15 and the first course is at the table around 9:00. Just enough time to reacquaint
ourselves, tell a few jokes and have a glass of wine. Dinner usually proceeds
like clockwork but if there is a mix up I can take it and I make the best of it. A perfect
example being my fallen soufflé that started as an accident but is now de riguer.
Cutting back on cooking time allows me the luxury of having my nails done, taking the
aforementioned nap or spend time with the boys. I have dozens of logical shortcuts
ranging from using frozen pearl onions (who has the time to peel a 150 onions?), to
keeping a well-stocked kitchen. And as long as I am lighting the stove I usually make
extra sauce to get another meal or two out of it, bake an extra chicken or roast a few more
vegetables for tomorrow.
I truly enjoy all aspects of preparing for a party: making lists, sending invitations,
planning the menu, shopping for food, and decorating the house. Most of all, I adore
welcoming friends to our home.
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