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Simply Entertaining: Directions a first step for good host

Thursday, January 03, 2002

By Mary Miller

Was most of the conversation at your holiday party about how lost the guests became trying to get to the party?

As usual, this subject came up after a blunder of my own. I provided poor directions for a party and then felt bad for the lost guests driving around on winding roads on a dark, rainy night. Since that evening, I've given a lot of thought to the art of giving good directions.

Besides making your party look sparsely attended, the lost guests who finally arrive aren't usually in a "let's party" mood. (Sharon, I don't mean you.)

Sometimes lost guests call on their cell phones for directions, but it's difficult to hear the phone ringing over the loud conversation and music. The lost then become hopelessly lost (and quite annoyed).

Many people -- sorry, usually males -- won't stop to ask for directions, so they drive around until the party is almost over and then decide to go home. You are stuck wondering why so-and-so didn't show up when he said he would. The next morning you hear his sad little message on the answering machine. Help, I'm lost. And you, as the host, have lost, too.

So unless you're inviting guests familiar with the area, always include directions. If the event is being held at two locations, for example a wedding and a reception, include directions to both locations. Entertaining expert Donna Pilato suggests giving guests three sets of directions in these situations. One to the wedding, one to the reception, and one from the church to the reception.

There are a few ways to provide good directions. The first is to use a map Web site. Mapquest is just one of the good ones. Once at the site, you type in your location and the address of your destination and the site magically finds a direct route. It includes directions and a map.

Another source of directions can really save time and trouble. If your event is at a restaurant, church or banquet hall, the facility often already has printed directions available. Call and ask. All you have to do is copy or retype them for the invitations.

Another way to provide directions is write them yourself. First, drive the route from major roads to your house, taking note of any landmarks, signs and mileage readings. Then type the routes as clearly as possible. For example, after you pass a llama farm on your left turn right onto Crazy Chicken Lane (1.2 miles past llama farm).

Give a phone number in case your directions fail. Try to set the ringer on a high level so there is a better chance of hearing the phone.

Keep a few printed directions on hand in your junk drawer for last-minute direction giving. OK, I don't do this, but my dad does. He has directions to most family members' homes on file. I can just call him for a detailed route to my home (in case I get lost).

Remember that a marker, such as a balloon or ribbon on your mailbox, can signal to guests that they've made it.

Similar to Hansel and Gretel, your guests can follow the path to your home not by picking up bread crumbs but by following the scent of garlic.

These crunchy garlic-scented treats served with Italian cheese and red wine are perfect for a winter Sunday afternoon.

GARLIC CROSTINI WITH PANCETTA

1 crusty baguette
2 large garlic cloves, halved
About 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
About 12 ounces pancetta, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the baguette into 1/2-inch-thick diagonal slices. Rub with the split garlic cloves and brush lightly with olive oil. Arrange on baking sheet and bake about 8 minutes, until starting to crisp but not brown. Remove and set aside.

Shortly before serving, preheat the broiler. Top each piece of bread with a thin slice of pancetta and arrange the crostini on the baking sheet. Run them under the broiler, keeping the slices about 3 inches from the flame. Broil until the pancetta begins to seethe and soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve hot. Serves 6 to 8.

"The Splendid Table"


Mary Miller is a Fox Chapel-based registered dietitian and food writer. Her column appears twice monthly. For questions or comments, she can be reached at marymar333@home.com

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