Entertaining Tips from Coastal Living's Premier Party

Earlier this summer I had an opportunity to attend Coastal Living Magazine's Premier Party for the Ultimate Beach House. Situated on the rugged Washington coastline, the house was chocked full of inspiring ideas. (Read more about that here and here.)

Elements of a great party range from the venue (windswept beach. Check!), the guest list (A party full of designers, artisan craftsmen, and media-industry folk. Check!), and memorable food (oyster bar by Emmet Watson's Oyster Bar and catering by Gourmando. Check!).

Months later, it's the special touches provided by Gourmando Catering that's still on my mind. I do a little cheer whenever I see them at events. Thanks to their full-flavored food and innovative ideas, over the years, Gourmondo has become one of my favorite caterers.

With the full force of holiday entertaining fast approaching, I'll share a few of their special touches. Keep in mind: the goal for great party food is quick or advance preparation (assemble onsite), teamed with an elegant presentation. Take a cue from the caterers on that one. Entertaining at home is less of a hassle when you're not tied to the kitchen.

Destination: The Coastal Living Premier Party at Seabrook, Washington. See the tent? It's situated on a lot near the water.

This is my favorite style of tent. Side flaps lift up during great weather, or, in this case, come down...creating a wall against the wind. The see-through "windows" add a welcome touch.

The tent is perched on a bluff overlooking the beach. (The tide is out!)

First house on the right is Coastal Living's Ultimate Beach House. Photos of the house, inside and out, are here.

Tying in the beach theme are these adorable clam buckets, which served as passed appetizers.

Ready in minutes: steamer clams and crostini.

Main table for food. Love the risers and colored linens. Buckets with beach grass tie in the theme, along with driftwood, hollowed out and serving as a platform for votive candles.

Table-side presentation.

Chinese "to go" boxes are great for portable food...and keep the line moving. Here we have roast chicken fettuccini with spinach pasta and tri-color peppers. (Loads of color = visual appeal) Adding a bit of branding glam, placed on the front of the box is a gilded sticker commemorating the Coastal Living's 2010 Ultimate Beach House.

A bevy of Washington state oysters and jumbo shrimp. Sauces were served on the side. (Raw bar courtesy of Emmet Watson Oyster Bar.)

Roast beef sliders. Rolls baked in-house provide a rustic touch with yellow & black sesame seeds. Tomato tends to get watery and doesn't hold up well on bread. Here, Gourmondo has skewered the slider, topped with a cherry tomato, cut side up. (The tomato's skin keeps it from bleeding on to the bun. Smart, eh?)

Party guests. Notice the string of lights around the perimeter of the tent? When the weather suddenly turned cloudy, these were crucial. The beauty here? The lights are on dimmers, which makes it easy to adjust when the weather turned inclement.

Of course, a great location is always a plus. Sunset over the Pacific Ocean.