One of the most commonly asked questions as a Private Chef working around the world for over 20+ years cooking in people's homes as they approach the holiday season has to be "What holiday kitchen gadget gifts should I give someone who loves to cook?". Or, "If I wanted to buy myself something special for my home kitchen, what should it be?", or the year round question of "What's your must have favorite kitchen gadget tool?"

We all have those really old relics in our own kitchens that have been passed down for generations between family members, those infamous rummage sale finds, or from your college dorm years when you shopped exclusively at the 99 cent store, because hey, we were all poor college kids at one point, and that's all you could afford at the time, right?

When it's either time for a total kitchen equipment upgrade, or you're looking for that perfect gift for a home cook, new aspiring chef, or for yourself, just because you deserve a treat, I've got the perfect ideas for must-have home kitchen gadgets and items!

best 2022 home kitchen gadget ideas

My 2022 10 Best Kitchen Gadgets & Gizmos are:

1. Cosori Air Fryer Max XL 5.8 Quart

Best Air Fryer for 2022 Cosori Air Fryer Max XL
.

Air fryers have been all the rage for years now, and there's a good reason. They make quick work out of cooking fried foods without extra calorie from oil, or smoking up your kitchen with splattering hot grease. However the number one complaint most air fryer users have is that the capacity is always too small. The Cosori Air Fryer Max XL 5.8 Quart comes in a variety of colors, and is truly the answer to your prayers! This very large capacity air fryer will make quick work out of your favorite fried foods. Check out my recipe for the best air fryer chicken wings that you can make in just a few minutes!

2. Mercer Culinary Genesis 5 Piece Kitchen Knives 

mercer genesis knife set

These knives are built to last! From the experts of all things cutlery, The Mercer Genesis Series 5 piece knife set feature incredibly superior blade durability, a nonslip Santoprene comfort grip, NSF certification, and are backed by an incredible warranty.

As a professional chef, these knives are the exact ones I have been using every single day for nearly a decade now. This basic 5 piece set features almost all of the knives you will need for at-home cooking. A chef's knife, a bread knife, a utility knife, and a paring knife.

The best way to care for your fine kitchen knives is just to wash them in hot water with a little non abrasive dish soap, and towel dry them. A good set of knives will last a lifetime if you follow two easy steps: Never put your kitchen knives in the dishwasher, and always have them routinely professionally sharpened at least once or twice a year by a reputable cutlery sharpening company. This is no time to utilize that random vendor at your local flea market, or take your knives to a hardware store my friends.

3. Ooni Koda Pizza Ovens

Ooni Koda Best Home Pizza Oven for 2022

Home pizza ovens shouldn't have to cost tens of thousands of dollars to produce really fantastic pizza at home. Ooni has been crushing the restaurant quality pizza at home market for a few years now with their Koda series outdoor propane or wood fired pizza ovens.

The Ooni Koda Pizza ovens come in two flavors, the smaller model is the Ooni Koda 12 Pizza Oven which is can make pizzas up to 13 inches, and the newest model the Ooni Koda 16 Pizza Oven which is perfect for larger families, tailgating, or aspiring pizzaiolos who want to crank out delicious Neopolitan style pizzas up to 16 inches in under 3 minutes.

These ovens can heat up to 950 degrees F in just about 15 minutes, and can cook many other foods besides pizza, such as chicken, fish, steaks, and the most delicious caramelized vegetables.

4. Royal Wood XXXL Bamboo Cutting Board

Royal Craft Wood XXXL Best Bamboo Cutting Board for 2022

Royal Craft XXXL Bamboo Cutting Board provides a generous 24 x 18 inch workspace for all of your kitchen needs. Bamboo cutting boards are naturally anti bacterial and knife friendly. You can use this cutting board both as your daily go to for all of that carving, slicing, or chopping, but it also can double as a charcuterie, cheese, or serving board as well.

The best way to take care of your bamboo cutting board is to wash it hot soapy water, and immediately dry it with a clean towel after use. Never put your wooden cutting boards in the dishwasher, and keep them out of any type of prolonged contact with water. None of the cutting boards in any home kitchen need to "soak in the sink".

Bamboo cutting boards are easily maintained with a light coat of food safe mineral oil, liquid beeswax, coconut oil, or sunflower oil. Click here to learn how to care for your wooden cutting boards.

tramontina 6.5 quart dutch oven pot

5. Tramontina 6.5 Quart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven

Probably one of the most versatile pieces of cookware you will ever own, the Tramontina 6.5 Quart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven will quickly become your new best friend in your home kitchen. These heavy-duty enameled Dutch Ovens can go from stove top to oven, to tabletop to serving.

You can use Dutch ovens for a myriad of recipes such as soups, stews, braises, searing, and even baking your favorite bread! To have your Dutch oven last a long time never put it in the dishwasher, or run cold water in it right after it's come off the stove or out of the oven. Always allow it to cool to room temperature first, then use hot water and dish soap for cleaning. To protect the enameled finish, always use silicone or wooden utensils inside the vessel. This is one of those legacy cookware items that if you take good care, you will be able to pass it down for generations to come.

6. SodaStream Fizzi Sparkling Water & Home Soda Maker

Soda Stream Fizzi Best Sparkling Water Maker for 2022

Forget about the high cost of soda and sugary drinks! New in late 2021, the SodaStream Fizzi Sparkling Water Maker takes ordinary water, and injects high pressure carbon dioxide (CO2) into it to create your own sparkling water, and soda right in your own home kitchen. This fizzy kitchen gadget will save you tons of money and help the environment reduce waste by avoiding single use water bottles and aluminum cans.

I love my SodaStream, and use it every day to keep my hydration goals on track. Simply put cold water in the provided bottle, attach it to the machine, and press the carbonation button. Add in your favorite flavor drops or powders, or even just a fresh squeeze of lemon, lime, or orange juice. One of my favorites is cucumber lime, just toss a few slices of cucumber and a teaspoon of fresh squeeze lime juice into the bottle after carbonating. SodaStream CO2 refill cylinders are easily available online as well.

7. HexClad Hybrid Stainless Steel 7 Piece Cookware Set

HexClad Hybrid Stainless Best Cookware for 2022

The HexClad Hybrid Stainless Steel Cookware has really impressed me using it in our commercial kitchen. Truth be told, I originally thought that it was just another cookware gimmick or fad, until I tried it in one of my clients homes. I was so impressed, I went out and bought a piece of it to try out in our industrial heavy use setting to see if it was all hype or not.

This non-stick cookware allows you to use metal utensils in it without fear of scratching or damaging the non-stick surface. The patented laser etched surface of the HexClad cookware gives you the durability of traditional stainless steel, with the versatility of non-stick without the fear or burning or scorching the coating, or having it flake off into your food.

HexClad is oven-safe all the way up to 500 degrees, and will work on gas, electric, or induction cook tops. Easy cleanup with either hot soapy water and a scrubby sponge if needed, or simply just toss it in the dishwasher. (Yeah, yeah, I know, I cringed too, but the manufacturer states that it's dishwasher safe, and we've tossed it in our heavy duty commercial kitchen dishwasher without any durability or finish scratching issues so far!)

8. Anova Culinary AN500 Professional Sous Vide Precision Cooker 

Anova Pro AN500 Sous Vide

The Anova AN500 Professional Sous Vide Precision Cooker sits on my kitchen counter and never gets put away. I was fortunate enough to be on the Beta testing team for this device prior to it's release and I now proudly own two of them. Sous Vide, or precision water bath cooking at home allows you to cook virtually anything perfectly without ever under or overcooking the food, as it will never get hotter than the water temperature that you set.

It doesn't matter if you're preparing chicken, beef, pork, vegan meals, eggs or pretty much any other type of food. The Anova allows you to "set it and forget it", while being able to monitor the cooking process of your dish with the free Anova smart phone app for iOS or Android.

Anova makes several models of their precision cookers, I prefer this Anova AN500 Pro model due to its ability to quickly heat up the water, and to maintain temperature accurately when cooking larger batches of food. Yes, you too can take a frozen piece of meat, place it into the sous vide bag, and cook it to perfection with this kitchen countertop immersion circulator.

One of my favorite non-cooking tricks to do chill wine in a hurry with your sous vide!

Ninja Professional 1100 Best Blender for 2022

9. Ninja Professional 1100 Watt Blender BL660 

The Ninja BL660 Professional Blender packs the performance and power to turn ice into snow in seconds. Perfect for those desperately needed adult beverages when the kids are at their friends' house or you've had a rough day at the office! This powerhouse comes with an 1100 watt motor, a 72 ounce BPA-free blender pitcher, and two "to go" style 16oz blender cups for smoothies, etc. One of my favorite things besides the power of this blender, is its price point. I really have a huge problem paying upwards of $300-$500 for a blender brand like VitaMix. My Ninja is fantastic at blending both cold, and hot drinks, smoothies, soups, purees, etc.

A powerful blender like this will make light work out of not only crushing ice for that margarita or whiskey sour, but will also make velvety smooth soups, and fruit smoothies. To prevent premature failure of the blender pitcher or blades, never put them in the dishwasher. The high temperature of the dishwasher environment will cause premature failure and crazing of the pitcher. Also, any time you are blending anything hot, leave the pitcher pour spout open, and place a triple folded kitchen towel over the top to prevent splashing, and to allow steam to escape.

10. Tinana Silicone Ice Block & Ice Ball Mold Set

Tinana Silicone Ice Molds Best in 2022

2022 is the year of all things Whiskey! Tinana Cube & Ice Ball Mold Set lives on the top shelf of my freezer! If you are a whiskey aficionado, lover, or admirer, these are the silicone ice molds for you.

These durable silicone ice molds make six of the most perfect large single cubes, and six 2 inch sphere ice balls for chilling down your favorite bourbon, whiskey, brandy or cocktail spirits without the rapid dilution that you get with small traditional ice cubes. A little mini funnel is included to make filling the ice ball mold quick and easy. Both silicone ice molds also are stackable, to help save you valuable freezer space as well.

Chef's Secret Tip: These ice molds are also heat proof up to 428 degrees F, which means you can bake in them as well for fun shaped cakes or cookies as well!


Check out our other recipes, tips & tricks for Easy, Effortless, Entertaining from AWG Private Chefs! 

About the Author: Certified Master Chef, Sommelier & Wine Educator, Sean Andrade is the executive chef/owner of AWG Private Chefs, named the #1 Private Chef company in California. Chef Sean has worked in the restaurant and hospitality industries worldwide for more than 25 years. His company AWG Private Chefs offers highly custom-tailored, bespoke private chef dining experiences, and private event catering in over 30 countries around the globe.

2020 was the year that will live in infamy for eternity, as it was the year that COVID-19 came to town. Like everything else since 2020, your 2021 holiday party planning is going to again look different this year as well. But, just because we might not be able to have the pre-pandemic style of big holiday parties in person like we used to, that doesn’t mean we still all can’t celebrate together. For 2021, it's still important to celebrate, create memories and remember that many people are still having low morale, or are feeling disconnected from their friends & family.

DISCLAIMER: Before we get into the nitty-gritty of actual event planning a holiday party during covid, please do your research on the guidelines issued by your state, county, or city surrounding in-person gatherings. Paying special attention to the maximum headcount permitted mask-wearing requirements, locale restrictions, ie: exclusively outdoors, limited indoors, etc.

2021 Holiday Planning

How to Plan Your 2021 Holiday Party During COVID19

Smaller 2021 holiday party events are still best

Smaller parties allow for better social connections. Even with vaccinations, some people are still very concerned about being around larger groups of people during a holiday party outside of their immediate families or social circles, even if they claim that they've "been safe".

Select a smaller number of people for a spot on your guest list this 2021 holiday season. We find that parties with fewer than 24 people are where most guests can reach feel more comfortable about their attendance. The smaller the headcount, allows for everyone to be able to converse with one another at a normal volume, and to actually be able to hear each other, and be heard when speaking.

white event tent on green grass field

Wide open spaces with plenty of fresh air can provide comfort

Always provide an outdoor open space for guests to be able to utilize. Even as the holiday event season weather turns cold or wet, you can still utilize the outdoors to still add that extra layer of comfort for your guests. You can easily keep things warm and cozy by utilizing patio heaters, fire pits, or big fluffy blankets. If you don't happen to have an outdoor gazebo or large covered patio, contact your local party rentals agency or our concierge team about renting a heated event tent to keep you warm & dry during your holiday festivities.

Create positive memories, get festive with your decor!  

Kick the decor up a few notches! Since you aren't spending a ton of money on huge amounts of food and booze for your traditional huge holiday shindig, splurge a little bit more on the decor. For example, utilizing festively colored cloth napkins at your dinner table in lieu of paper, varied colors, quantities, and sizes of candles, custom lighting, etc. Always remember that not everyone who may be attending your event may celebrate the same holidays as you do.

Think non-holiday-specific color themes such as fall harvest colors, or a winter wonderland color scheme with lots of snowflakes whites, blues, and either gold or silver glitter can make everyone feel welcome and a part of your holiday party. To help make people feel more comfortable as some may wish to remain socially distanced, try utilizing individual bistro tables for guests that seat 2-4 people. Reach out to a local calligraphy artist about creating custom name tag place cards for the tables.

holiday catering appetizers on a white platter

Forget about platters & bowls on the buffet!

Discover a signature food & wine pairing experience. Even into late 2021, public health experts still strongly suggest that things like self-service open bars, passed appetizers, and self-service buffet or family-style shared platters of food, be avoided due to "multi-touch" potential for exposure to COVID19. Instead, simply turn to interactive seated "signature experiences" such as a food & wine pairing menu, or signature cocktail & appetizer, or small plates tapas pairing experience menus. These types of "special occasion" holiday party style concepts can still create positive memories, along with allowing people to feel safer, comfortable, and more relaxed, all while still remaining interactive, tasty, and fun.

One of the additional great benefits of having a smaller headcount during your event is that you may be able to afford more specialized, higher-quality ingredients or menu items. These dishes will elevate the elegance and help make your party stand out as highly memorable, special, and unique. Think something uniquely special and showstopping like adding a spectacular sustainable caviar and small producer champagne pairing course.

black Tsar Nicoulai caviar on cracker with salmon

Gifts and Swag Bags

Don't forget that people love a small gift. Let's face it, 2020 was the year from hell, and 2021 wasn't much better. Little gifts and swag bags can provide something fun and memorable. You can find really inexpensive clearance section 2020 themed gag gifts such as a dumpster fire candle, or a 2020 bad rating t-shirt. Don't forget to include items that your guests may want to use right away upon their arrival, such as hand sanitizer, or festive holiday-themed face covering if they feel more comfortable.

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Relax, have fun, and always leave it to the professionals! 

Be a guest at your own party! Have AWG Private Chefs handle all of the holiday party details for you. Our COVID-19 safety-trained event planners, chefs, and service staff can handle every last detail from all of the food & beverages, specialized decor, party rentals, event tents & heating, and even host/hostess gifts for you. The best part of it all, we handle all the cooking, service, and we even do the cleanup, allowing you to experience our signature stress-free "Easy, Effortless, Entertaining" services allowing you to be a guest at your own event and spend quality time this holiday season with your family and friends.

To inquire about booking your holiday party, or any gathering or special event, contact the AWG Private Chefs client concierge team at 1-877-753-2727 or place your inquiry online.

Learn how to cook steak perfectly every time, and say goodbye to improperly cooked steaks!

How to cook the perfect steak.  A Certified Angus Beef Steak pan seared perfectly by a private chef.

What's In This Article?

How Do I Choose The Right Cut of Steak? 

Selecting the right cut of steak is always a personal choice depending on the texture and flavor profile that suits you best. Being a private chef, there are 5 primary cuts of steak that I am most commonly asked to prepare by our clientele.

The Filet Mignon

What is a Filet Mignon?

The filet mignon comes from the small tip end of the beef tenderloin. It is one of the most tender cuts of beef. Filet mignons are generally more on the expensive side, and quite lean, and don't contain a lot of fat or gristle.

The T Bone or Porterhouse Steak:

 What is a T Bone or Porterhouse?

The T Bone or Porterhouse steaks are one of my most favorite steaks to prepare. I think that they have the perfect balance of meat to fat ratio to create that delicious signature beefiness that everyone loves, plus in essence, you get two different steaks in one.

These two cuts of meat come from the short loin, contain a T-Shaped bone that runs through the middle of the steak. On either side of the bone reside the strip loin or the tenderloin.

What is the difference between the T Bone and Porterhouse Steak? 

T-Bone steaks are cut from the front end of the animal and have a smaller tenderloin. The Porterhouse steaks are cut from the back of the animal and have a larger tenderloin attached.

porterhouse steak in a cast iron pan with rosemary and garlic bulbs

The Ribeye Steak:

 

What is a Ribeye Steak?

 A Ribeye steak contained a generous amount of marbling (fat) throughout the steak that melts beautifully in the mouth, stays tender when cooked rapidly at high temperatures. The Ribeye steak comes from the rib area of the animal between ribs six through twelve.

Not all of the fat will render out when cooking, so if chewing through or cutting away meat fat isn't your cup of tea, you might want to select an alternate cut of beef, such as the New York Strip steak.

  

The Hanger Steak

 

What is a Hanger or Butcher's Steak? 

The hanger steak is an elusive cut of steak that may be more difficult to find but is definitely worth the hunt. This super tender and intensely beefy flavored cut of meat hangs off the diaphragm in the lower belly of the animal.

Also known as the Butcher's Steak, or the Butcher's Secret Steak, only one hanger steak exists per cow, whereas with most other cuts of steak there are multiple steaks per animal. Due to the highly concentrated beef flavor and extreme tenderness of the hanger steak, a simple seasoning of just salt or pepper is all that is needed.

 

The New York Strip Steak

What is a New York Strip Steak?

The New York or New York Strip Steak is cut from the short loin area of the animal. It is a lean cut of steak that has a bit more chewiness. It's the strip loin side of the Porterhouse steak and is only served boneless.

new york steak bone in on a butchers block cutting board with a cleaver

Should I Buy Boneless or Bone-In Steak? 

The biggest "bone of contention" between consumers and chefs alike is the age-old debate of should I buy bone-in or boneless steaks. While not all cuts of steaks are offered with the bone, for those that are, I always suggest going bone-in when it's an option.

While they do take longer to cook, having the bone-in gives you additional flavor enhancement from the bone marrow which comes out during the cooking process and then reincorporates itself into the meat for added flavor. Bone-in steak can help aid in the prevention of inadvertent overcooking of your steak due to the insulative properties of the bone.

What Grade of Beef Should I Buy?

 

What do the different grades of beef mean? 

There are 4 primary grades of beef most often found in stores here in the United States. According to the USDA beef grading shield matrices, they are Ungraded, Standard or Non-Specified, Select, Choice, and Prime.

Ungraded, standard or non-specified beef is the lowest quality and will often be the cheapest in price. This is commodity grade or mass-produced beef and should be avoided under all circumstances as this is the minimum grade determined that is edible by humans by the USDA.

Select grade of beef is generally what is put on the market at an attractively advertised lower price. Select beef is generally regarded as "not that great, but not that bad either", it hits slightly higher quality and price points over the ungraded or standard beef.

Choice grade beef is the middle of the road both in quality and price point. Choice beef is higher quality than select, and much higher quality than ungraded, standard.

Prime grade beef is of the highest rated quality by the USDA and comes in at the highest price tag as well. Prime grade is our choice for the beef we serve our clientele.

USDA prime steak grilled perfectly and sliced and fanned out on a wooden cutting board

How Do I Cook A Steak? How To Cook Steak:

 What Doneness Temperature Should I Cook A Steak To? 

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and as such, steak doneness is also of the same ilk. As a chef, the standard doneness temperature that I prefer to serve a steak at to my guests is medium-rare.

Important Note: The temperatures discussed below are the temperature that you should remove the steak from the heat, allowing it to rest tented with aluminum foil for a full 10 minutes prior to cutting into it.

Rare:

A steak cooked to 120 degrees F is rare. The steak is warm on the outside and cooler in the middle, very soft to the touch, and has a very red, shiny, nearly raw appearance when sliced.

Medium-Rare:

A steak cooked to 130 degrees F is medium-rare. The steak is just warmed throughout, soft to the touch with just a bit of resistance, and has a red to deep pink appearance when sliced.

Medium:

A steak cooked to 135 degrees F is medium. The steak is warmed all the way, is slightly firmer to the touch, and has a nice blush of pink in the center when sliced.

Medium-Well:

A steak cooked to 140 degrees F is medium-well. The steak is cooked through all the way, firm with just a slight amount of resistance when touched, and has just a tiny amount of remaining pink in the center while the rest is grey, and is beginning to dry out.

Well Done:

A well-done steak is cooked to 150 degrees F. The steak is grey all of the way through, incredibly firm to the touch, and is grey with no residual pink, and very little to virtually no moisture at all.

Cooking The Perfect Steak:

 

Equipment Needed For Cooking Steak:

There are really only two pieces of essential must-have equipment you need in your kitchen to prepare the perfect steak.

Lavatools Javelin Instant Read Thermometer

Having a reliable, and trusted instant-read digital meat thermometer is an absolute must when cooking. I exclusively use the Javelin Lavatools PT12 Instant Read Meat Thermometer as my everyday go-to thermometer in both my home and professional kitchens.

cast iron frying pan with lid and red rubberized handle attachment

The second essential piece of equipment for the perfect steak is a Preseasoned Cast Iron Skillet of at least 10 or 12 inches in size. Cast iron pans provide the evenest heat distribution and retention, tolerate all high heat situations, and can go from stovetop to oven without worry.

Before You Begin Cooking:

Before you embark on preparing the perfect steak, there is a critical step that always must be followed. Remove the steaks from the refrigerator, discarding any packaging. Place the steaks on a plate or rimmed sheet pan, and let stand at room temperature for a full 60 minutes prior to cooking.

How To Cook The Perfect Steak:

So by now, you've chosen the best cut of steak for you, removed it from the packaging and allowed it to rest at room temperature for an hour, and have your trusty instant-read thermometer and cast iron pan.

Ingredients You Will Need:

Steak Cooking Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F conventional, or 375 degrees F convection.
  2. Preheat your cast-iron skillet over medium-high to high heat for at least 10 minutes.
  3. While the skillet is preheating, pat the steaks dry on all sides with paper towels.
  4. Generously season all sides of the steaks with kosher salt and black pepper.
  5. Once your skillet is smoking hot, place the steaks in the skillet, laying them away from you as they make contact with the pan.
  6. Don't move the meat! Sear the steaks over high heat for 2-3 minutes per side. Turning only once.
  7. Once the steaks have seared, toss the garlic in the pan, and spoon the unsalted butter over the top of the steaks.
  8. Place the skillet into the oven. Cook the steaks until 5 degrees prior to the desired doneness using your instant-read thermometer. For example, if you are looking for a medium-rare steak, remove the steaks from the oven at 125 degrees F.
  9. Remove the steaks from the cast iron skillet, and baste the steaks with the garlic butter.
  10. Cover with heavy-duty aluminum foil and let the steaks rest for a full 10 minutes. The steaks will continue cooking, adding the remaining 5 degrees and arriving at the perfect desired doneness temperature.
chef prepared flat iron steak on a wooden cutting board

How to Slice and Serve Your Steak:

After your steak has rested in its foil tent for a full ten minutes, it's time to slice. Using a sharp knife, slice the steak across the grain to maximize tenderness. Transfer your steak to a warm plate, and top with a bit more of the garlic butter from the pan.

If you're looking for a great quick sauce for any steak, check out our recipe for Easy Red Wine Reduction Sauce.


Check out our other recipes, tips & tricks for Easy, Effortless Entertaining from AWG Private Chefs!

About the Author: Certified Master Chef, Sommelier & Wine Educator, Sean Andrade is the executive chef/owner of AWG Private Chefs, named the #1 Private Chef company in California. Chef Sean has worked in the restaurant and hospitality industries worldwide for more than 25 years. His company AWG Private Chefs offers highly custom-tailored, bespoke private chef dining experiences, and private event catering in over 30 countries around the globe.

Let's face it, ladies, we're all beyond ready to have an amazing girls night out, right? It's time to let our hair down, get together with our besties, and have an amazingly fun time together doing nothing more than just celebrating life!

Spending a night out on the town can be super expensive, venue choices are limited, and planning to paint the town red with your girlfriends can be time-consuming and daunting.

So let's plan that ultimate girls night out, in!

a group of friends enjoying girls night out with cocktails

How To Plan The Perfect Girls Night Out With Friends

1. The Guest List: Choose Your Accomplices

Make a list of your nearest and dearest partners in crime. While we all love to have big parties, try and keep the total number of people under 10. Keeping the guest list manageable gives everyone attending a chance to talk, interact, connect, and celebrate each other and create those quality memories we all love.

2. Set The Mood: Choose A Theme! 

Choose a theme for your event based upon what all of you have in common. Think of common ground, mantra statement, a special occasion that you all are connected by, such as you were sorority sisters together, you work together, grew up in the same town, love shoes and handbags, you all have the same ex-boyfriend, whatever it may be!

Once you've decided on the theme, dial it way up! Invite the girls to dress up in alignment with the theme, think drop-dead gorgeous outfits, dripping in jewels, the red carpet with a step and repeat, with all the accessories. If you're going for something totally opposite and comfy casual, think of having everyone wear their favorite thrift store chic couture, onesie footie pajamas, spa outfit, yoga stretchy pants, or their favorite significant others worst frumpy t-shirt and slippers!

Whichever direction or theme you choose, take it all the way to the limit girlfriend! Make that magic!

delicious cocktails are a must during girls night out parties.

3. Cocktails: Honey! It's Happy Hour! 

Kicking off your girls night in celebration of friendship starts with a delicious, inventive, and fun cocktail.

Think outside the box and skip the usual go-to drink that you grab at the bar after work. Check out the current trends of amazing seasonal cocktails from the top mixologists in the world. Hand-crafted cocktails feature premium spirits, fresh ingredients, beautiful garnishes, and unique depths of flavors that keep you coming back to that glass for another delicious sip.

3 ladies enjoying music and dancing outdoors during their girls night in party.

4. Pick a Party Playlist: Set The Night To Music 

Shake your groove thing lady! Whether you love to boogie to the latest top 40 hits of the day, shake your moneymaker to country, rap, club music, or international beats like reggae, salsa, or flamenco!

Create a playlist of at least 4-6 hours of a mix of music that fits with your theme, in the beginning, ramps up after happy hour for some dancing, slows back down for meal or grazing times, then ramps back up for the evening festivities.

Keep your playlists fresh, fun, and festive. If there are those signature songs you all are tied to, plan your playlist to be able to sing those together in your own version of living room karaoke!

Having a karaoke machine on hand is always a great way to get everyone to join in the revelry, laugh, and create those lasting memories of your girls night out, in.

grilled mexican elotes corn on a skewer in a black ceramic bowl

5. Power Nosh: Nibbling All Night 

Instead of a traditional dinner, power nosh all night! Power noshing involves a menu of 6-8 small dishes, tapas, or heavy appetizers spaced out over the course of the evening. Select a menu that matches your theme to keep the night on point.

Being the hostess with the mostess that we all know you are, prior to your girls night gathering, ask everyone if they have any food allergies, dietary restrictions, or ingredient aversions. Keeping those ingredients at bay for your menu will keep everyone included in the noshing all night.

playing cards

6. Games, Gambling, Gossip 

Game night is so much fun to do to keep things lively and festive during your celebration of friends. You can get as crazy as you wish because the general public isn't invited to this exclusive VIP event, so have fun, get loud, and game it up!

Go for games that are interactive, create competition, or a wager.

Adult themed card games that foster huge laughs, and gossip, like Do Or Drink, The Best Friend Game, For The Girls, or Drunk Confidence is a great way to play, and still have that signature cocktail or plate of noshing nibbles in your other hand while having a ton of laughs.

Have prizes for the winner(s) of the evening. If it's the winner of your game, winner for best outfit, or some campy awards for "most likely to be late to their own funeral". Have fun with it! Prizes can be something simple like a hand full of lottery scratchers, a pampering kit, a gag gift, or something a bit more luxurious in a little box from Tiffany!

Upping The Ante: 

Want to make it more interesting? Think about a Monte Carlo theme, and contact a local casino games rental company. Have a few of your favorite games brought in for a casino night party. Are you a card shark? Try your hand at craps?

Pay it Forward: Entertain with purpose, and donate the winnings from the evening to your favorite charity, a women's organization, or other feel-good organization, in the name of all who have attended. Make a positive impact on the world, right from the comfort of your own home. 

7. Entertainment

Have some secret entertainment lined up that you don't share with the rest of the girls. Entertainment comes in all sorts of flavors, shapes, and sizes. From a live vocalist, musician, interactive cooking experience with an amazing chef, psychic, sip and paint, an escape room at home challenge, adult-themed comedian, exotic pole dancer, crazy photo booth, or whatever strikes your fancy.

Keep the entertainment short, around an hour or so. Just to add that little extra sparkle to your girls night out evening plans.

women outdoors enjoying eachothers company during girls night out, one is holding a beer.

8. Alternative Venues - Progressive Party Option 

If another friend or two lives close within walking distance, consider having a progressive girls night out party experience.

Start the evening off with cocktails and nibbles at your home, after a couple of hours, proceed over to your next girlfriends house for games or entertainment. Then round out the evening at a third friends house for dessert and dancing. Keeping people moving will also make the evening intriguing and fun.

Just remember no drinking and driving please! Keep the distance between venues as walkable as possible, or rent a limo, party bus, or use Uber or Lyft for the evening.

massage therapy, two women pictured, one with hot oil being poured into her hand.

9. Wild And Crazy Isn't My Thing: Problem Solved! 

If music and dancing til dawn isn't your cup of tea, no sweat! I've got just the thing for you ladies! If you're a hard-working mom, sometimes just don't have the high energy that we did back before kids and the husband came to be. Switch your girls night around from high energy to more calming and comforting, all while still having a blast!

Make it a luxury spa-themed pampering party! Reach out to your local massage therapist, esthetician, skincare specialist, nail person, etc. Book them to come to the house and provide 15-minute massages, facials, foot treatments, mini mani-pedis, quick touchups on your nails, etc.

layered chocolate confection featuring dark chocolate, vanilla mousse, milk chocolate mousse, and raspberry coulis

10. The Big Finale: Dessert Decadence

Who loves something a little sweet? I'm talking all things dessert.

Who doesn't love tasting a multitude of decadent desserts! As your evening begins to wind down, have a decadent dessert tasting experience. Offer an assortment of 4-6 mini desserts that are packed full of beauty, flavor, and indulgence. Have both fruit and chocolate-based desserts that have a wide variety of textures, flavor profiles, temperatures, etc.

Leave Every Last Detail To Us! 

AWG Private Chefs have been voted Best Caterer and Private Chefs in the San Francisco Bay Area for multiple years running. Our team of event planners, mixologists, Certified Master Chefs, concierges have a combined experience of over 100 years in the hospitality, culinary and event planning industries.

Simply share with us your vision for your perfect girls night out event, and leave the rest to us! Book a consultation with one of our event planners today to plan the ultimate girls night in party today!


About the Author:

Rayna Hess is Senior Event Designer for AWG Private Chefs and owner of Eventfully Yours Event Designs. For over 25 years Rayna Hess has created, styled, and executed in-home micro-events, weddings, and large-scale corporate events nationwide. Her unique style and focus on exceeding every client's expectations have led her to be a highly recognized multi-award-winning event industry expert professional.

backyard with lounge chairs, pool, open space

So, the weather outside is gorgeous, and you want to entertain and bask in the sun and the fresh air! We've developed these few quick and easy tips to help your backyard entertaining. Enjoy your time with friends and family, instead of focusing on the little annoyances that go with entertaining outdoors.

tips for backyard entertaining, prevent inviting bugs.  Beetles and a spider.

 Don't let bugs bug you, or your guests!

Adding citronella candles or tiki torches to the perimeter of your party space will help keep bugs at bay. Do remember that citronella is not food-friendly, so avoid putting it on tables where people are eating, or anywhere near your buffet, grill, or food stations. In addition, adding baited yellowjacket traps can help keep those aggressive flying insects away from your guests and your food. The secret to great backyard entertaining is to place the citronella, wasp traps, etc is around the perimeter of the gathering area, and not near the food or guests themselves.

Also, think about calling your local pest control company to spray your yard for bugs a couple of days prior to your event for even more added protection.

unscented pillar candles used as a centerpiece, surrounded by greenery.

Plain tables are boring and uninviting! Opt for chic but inexpensive centerpieces.

Centerpieces on tables add a touch of elegance and fun to any event. Something simple like a mason jar or bud vase full of inexpensive seasonal flowers, or simple ivy vines, with an unscented pillar candle (always avoid scented candles!). Alternately, you can use very inexpensive white LED tealight candles scattered on the table to add a little extra ambiance during dusk and evening entertaining.

Even something as simple as a bowl of fresh citrus fruit with some lemon leaves inside to create a warm & casual accent to your table. Whatever style of outdoor centerpieces you choose, make sure that they are kept at "conversation height" meaning that they should be no taller than 8-10 inches on the table, so that the natural eye line and conversation between guests isn't disturbed by the centerpiece.

ice cubes

Don't run out of ice. EVER!

There is nothing more annoying than having to interrupt your entertaining and run to the store in the middle of your event for more ice. Buy or rent a couple of large marine coolers from your local party rental place, and fill them with clear beverage ice. For enhanced visual appeal, keep the coolers hidden out of sight, in a cool spot like the garage, or under your shaded bar table for easy access.

How much ice should I have for my party?

A good rule of thumb is a minimum of 2.5 pounds of ice per guest when serving mixed drinks, cocktails, mocktails, etc. If you're just serving beer & wine, then reduce to 1.50 pounds of ice per guest as a minimum for purposes of keeping the beer and wine chilled.

Having an all-day affair? Add an additional 1.5 pounds per guest per 4 hours.

young girl drinking a glass of water

Not everyone likes to drink booze all day!

Always have non-alcoholic beverage options available. For more casual events, think of things like flavored sparkling waters (We love LaCroix Sparkling Water in Assorted Flavors!), served with fresh slices of fruit in them as a garnish.

For self-service buffet-style events, create a beverage station with a selection of flavor infused spa waters, with flavors like lemon-lime, strawberry kiwi, mint & cucumber, etc. Also, a few bottles of sparkling juices or sparkling non-alcoholic cider on ice is always a winner.

If it's summertime, and it's warm, always have plenty of non-alcoholic beverages and bottled waters on hand, again with plenty of ice to help keep your guests hydrated, and the hangovers at bay!

black trash can with a clear trashbag sitting next to it containing assorted rubbish

Have plenty of trash cans available!

No one likes to look at a half-eaten plate of food with flies, bees, or wasps swirling around it that's been baking in the hot summer sun. Having several garbage cans that have lids on them, readily accessible to your guests will help keep things looking tidy.

Also, keep trash cans emptied regularly, always have an ample supply of garbage bags available. Putting the trashcans on the perimeters of your party spaces will also help reduce bugs, ants, and bees as well.


Check out our other recipes, tips & tricks for Easy, Effortless Entertaining from AWG Private Chefs!

About the Author: Certified Master Chef, Sommelier & Wine Educator, Sean Andrade is the executive chef/owner of AWG Private Chefs, named the #1 Private Chef company in California. Chef Sean has worked in the restaurant and hospitality industries worldwide for more than 25 years. His company AWG Private Chefs offers highly custom-tailored, bespoke private chef dining experiences, and private event catering in over 30 countries around the globe.

With micro weddings becoming instantly popular due to COVID-19 we've developed tips to make your micro wedding menu planning a stress free breeze!

micro wedding ceremony with immediate family.

What is a Micro Wedding? 

Micro weddings are an intimate gathering of friends and family to celebrate a couples commitment ceremony. Typically micro weddings are less than 50 people. With the vast majority of micro weddings being in the 15-35 guest headcount range.

Just because you choose a micro wedding over a macro wedding with 200 or more attendees, doesn't mean you ever should sacrifice the details that are most important to you as the couple getting married.

You Don't Have To Forget The Important Details!  

If details such as incredible tablescapes featuring things like custom linen color schemes or textures, over-the-top amazing floral arrangements, or even something as unique as a flashing laser-etched LED ice sculpture are important to you, don't throw those plans out! Have that incredible meal and celebration with those who are near and dearest to you.

Having a lower guest headcount means you can have even more options for your special day! Really put some thought into your list of desires, and share that with your AWG Private Chefs concierge, so that we can help make your vision a reality for you.

How Do I Plan A Menu For A Micro Wedding?

So you're having a minimony or a micro wedding, that doesn't mean that you need to have a tiny menu as well. Envision your dream menu, with all of the nuances, favorite dishes, and special details that you'd ever want to have. Your all-star dream menu can be much more affordable than you think when you have that micro wedding reception with a smaller headcount.

mint martini being strained into a martini glass.

Take The Cocktail Hour Up A Notch!

You've just completed your ceremony, and the celebration is about to begin. The cocktail hour gives guests a chance to mix and mingle while photography is being completed. Guests can interact with each other, enjoy the venue, and grab a drink or two prior to the main meal.

Have one of our mixologists create custom handcrafted cocktails for you and your guests using only the freshest and finest quality ingredients. Our professional bartending team will custom create a menu of themed signature cocktails made exclusively for your event. If you're a big fan of incredibly fresh, innovative cocktails, a mixologist is a great addition to your micro wedding cocktail hour design.

During the post mini wedding cocktail hour, hors d'oeuvres and nibbles can certainly still be abundant. With widespread public health restrictions banning things like passed appetizers and self-service buffets, your wedding cocktail hour service can be easily elevated with a beautiful selection of creative plated appetizers for your guests to enjoy.

In lieu of grazing tables or a large buffet that would require plexiglass barriers and extra serving staff, look to individual appetizers such as mini charcuterie or seacuterie boards, custom-designed themed bento boxes, mini canapes boxes, and avoid the big platters.

get gourmet with your micro wedding menu. A piece of pan seared seabass with a saffron sauce and blistered tomato

Go Ahead and Reach For The Stars!

Our chefs love to get inventive and creative with every menu we custom design for you. One of the biggest benefits to a small wedding menu is with the lower headcounts, it allows for our chefs to focus on quality, over quantity when serving you. Your special day is all about creating lasting memories, from the second the guest arrives at the venue, until the moment they drive away at the end of the evening.

With a smaller number of plates to prepare, give your guests a dose of the wow factor. Utilize those gourmet, imported, or higher-end ingredients, break the traditional mold of "beef, chicken or fish". Our chefs will create that ultimate signature menu for you, your partner, and your guests that is unique only to your micro wedding reception event.

Get Creative With Your Menu: Tell Your Story With Food

Enjoy a Chef's tasting menu, or flights of international small plates or tapas from places around the globe, or even the nation that you and your partner have traveled together. Collaborate with our chefs to create that special minimony menu that is unique only to you as the happy couple, and have it tell a story about your love, your passions in life, or where you've been together, and where you're going next.

two women hugging, holding brightly colored desserts on a stick.

Make Sweet Memories With Curated Signature Desserts 

With a micro wedding menu, dessert service just got a whole lot sweeter. Individual mini desserts served either individually plated, or in duets, trios, quads, or even go for the ultimate dessert gusto with a quint, are very unique and special. If you're a sweets lover, consider having an entire separate dessert tasting flight menu to indulge in after the main course. Long gone are the days of the run-of-the-mill traditional white, tiered, wedding cake being your only option for something sweet at the conclusion of your micro wedding celebration menu. Serve desserts that speak to you and your partners' favorite sweets.

If having photos of the both of you cutting the cake, feeding it to each other, or even smashing it is important, absolutely go for it! Our pastry chef can design the perfect sweetheart mini cake to make that happen for you.

To take it one more indulgent step further, consider adding a dessert wine pairing, or perhaps a luxury chocolate tasting to your micro wedding dessert menu to add something unique and special to your minimony menu.

cupcake with a lit sparkler in it.

Signature Micro Touches To Your Micro Wedding Menu 

Have mini single-serving or splits of your favorite brand of champagne, sparkling wine, or prosecco with color-coordinated paper straws in lieu of the traditional champagne toast.

If your party is rocking and you enjoy shots of liquor as a toast, try having monogrammed shot glasses that double as party favors for your guests to take home in memory of your special day. On the flip side of that coin would be custom neoprene beer koozies are a great micro gift for your guests and addition to your guest giveaway and swag bags as wedding guest gifts.

Capture the essence of the word "micro" in your micro wedding by serving miniaturized cocktails, mini bottles of wine, rosé, or giving them to your guests as a wedding favor with a mini customized label to remember your special micro wedding day.

woman on a zoom call with 12 people.

Don't Forget About Your Virtual Wedding Guests!

For your guests who may be attending your minimony virtually, either because of distance or due to COVID-19, to allow them to feel included as a part of your special celebration, we can design and deliver them a "reception in a box" to include nibbles, mini desserts, and a premixed signature cocktail or a mini bottle of wine or champagne for them to enjoy during your reception.


About the Author:

Rayna Hess is senior event designer for AWG Private Chefs and owner of Eventfully Yours Event Designs. For over 25 years Rayna Hess has created, styled, and executed in-home micro-events, weddings, and large-scale corporate events nationwide. Her unique style and focus on exceeding every client's expectations have led her to be a highly recognized multi-award-winning event industry expert professional.

Whenever you're in the kitchen and preparing food, what's the number one item you always reach for? A knife, the hardest working item in your kitchen. One of the most frequently asked questions I get as a private chef, cooking for my clients in their homes is "what kind of knives do you use?"

Disclosure:

I have not received payment from any third party, manufacturer, or distributor for this article. The views and opinions of the products contained in this post are purely my own based upon my professional opinion and experience in ownership and use of the actual products.

mercer genesis knives being used to slice fresh salmon.

You don't need a huge set of 10 or 15 knives to accomplish most home kitchen tasks!

No matter if you are a Certified Master Chef or an avid or beginner home cook, having the right knife to do the selected task at hand makes all of the difference in the world on getting the cutting job at hand done right, safely, reduce fatigue, and the potential for repetitive stress injuries.

Many people will select a block set of knives that has 8 or 10 different sizes and types of knives in it. Some of these knife sets can cost several hundred dollars upwards to over a thousand. Do you really need 3 different sizes of the same style of blade?

Believe it or not, the answer is a resounding no.

using a chefs knife to cut vegetables.

Chef's Knife: The Most Used Knife In The Kitchen 

The number one knife you will use in your home kitchen for daily chopping, slicing, and dicing meal prep is the Chef's Knife. Chef's knives are primarily used for cutting meat, dicing vegetables, chopping herbs, etc. A chef's knife comes in a variety of inch lengths, the most common sizes are 6, 8, 9, and 10-inch blades.

For most home cooks, I recommend using the Genesis series 8 inch chef's knife made by Mercer Culinary. If you have larger hands or routinely do a large volume of cutting, then a 9 inch or 10 inch blade could be more appropriate for your needs. The larger the blade size, the heavier the weight of the knife in which more cutting can be accomplished per slicing motion, resulting in getting your work done faster, and with fewer repetitive strokes which can result in fatigue, letting the knife do the work for you.

As a professional chef, I use a 10 inch blade because I do large volume and have big hands, whereas my sous chef, who also does large volume, but has smaller hands, prefers a 9 inch blade. A 6 inch chef's knife is perfect for kids just starting out in the kitchen to use, as the knife isn't too heavy or too large.

using a bread knife to slice through a crusty baguette

Bread Knife: No More Squished Bread 

The second knife you should have is a serrated bread knife. How many times have you grabbed a random knife out of your drawer or block and tried to slice into a fresh loaf of bread only to have it end up a squished and mangled mess?

Bread knives take the risk out of squishing your fresh bread or turning crusty bread like baguettes, sourdough boules, or your morning bagel into a huge pile of breadcrumbs instead of clean slices.

The Mercer Culinary Genesis 8" Wavy Edge bread knife makes short work of slicing through bread without leaving a path of destruction or huge mess of crumbs behind.

mercer genesis closeup of handle and tang of paring knife.

 

The Paring Knife: Peeling Precision 

The third knife you should have in your home kitchen is a paring knife. A paring knife is primarily used for peeling vegetables, fruits, and garlic. They are great for lower volume, higher precision cutting tasks where a large blade would be either too difficult to manipulate or its weight could potentially damage fine or soft ingredients.

The 3.5 Inch Mercer Genesis Paring Knife makes quick work out of peeling the skin from an apple, peach, or tomato. Small or micro-fine cuts, garnishing, peeling and slicing a shallot, or making clean slices into pie dough for venting are all common uses for a paring knife.

Paring knives are also great for younger kids to begin to use a knife when you feel that a 6 inch chef's knife might be a little too big for smaller hands.

close up of mercer genesis boning knife

Boning Knife: Make No Bones About It! You Need One! 

The fourth knife you need to have is a boning knife. Boning knives have very sharp tips to make piercing meat and skin much safer and easier. Boning knives are primarily designed for disjointing, cutting through tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissue when removing meat from the bone. Boning knives can be used not just for meat, but also fish and poultry as well.

There are two styles of boning knife, the Mercer Genesis 6 inch stiff blade boning knife, or the 6 inch flexible blade boning knife. The main difference between the two knives is the flexibility or give in the blade. Both feature the same safety and comfort of the Santoprene handle.

closeup of mercer genesis utility knife

Utility Knife: Versatility, Utility, and Comfort

The final knife you should have in your home kitchen is the Utility Knife. Utility knives combine the precision cutting of a paring knife, with the ability to do larger jobs like a chef's knife.

The 5 inch Mercer Genesis Utility Knife is great for slicing larger fruits, vegetables, potatoes, tomatoes, and cheese. They have longer blades than a paring knife which allows you to cut more ingredients in less time, again reducing fatigue and the chance of repetitive stress.

 

Why Buy Mercer Culinary Knives? Why The Genesis Series? 

We all know there are plenty of knife manufacturers on the market today, and it seems like there are new brands popping up literally every week claiming that they are the best and the brightest. Blah blah blah.

Mercer Culinary has been primarily a "chef's only" or culinary industry knife company for many years. They manufacture a wide array of knives at all different price points from the extremely inexpensive to the luxury high-end. They aren't about flashy marketing infomercials on TV, but rather Mercer Culinary is focused on producing affordable, high quality, durable knives, cutlery, and kitchen accessories.

Key Features of Mercer Genesis Knives: 

When selecting a knife, the type of steel matters.

Knives from Mercer Culinary are made from heat-treated X50 Cr Mo V15 steel. One of the finer grades of stainless steel around. This steel is often found in much more expensive culinary competition-grade knives. The X50 Cr Mo V15 steel is soft enough to resist breakage or failure when under stress or accidental impact like dropping the knife. The steel remains strong enough to keep its shape while being hard enough to hold a sharp edge.

I've found that even with large-scale daily use in a professional kitchen, my Mercer Genesis knives require just an occasional quick honing to bring back a razor-sharp edge. I still absolutely recommend having your knives professionally sharpened at least once or twice a year depending on use.

Why Forged Blades vs. Stamped Blades? 

Forged blades is a term that refers to the thickness of the blade. Mercer knives often feature a bolster at the back of the blade for added thickness, increased balance, durability, and comfort. That little bit of extra thickness at the handle end of the knife makes a difference in the length between needing to be sharpened.

Stamped blades are a uniform thickness from beginning to end of the blade, and are often found in cheaper, lower quality knives. Stamped knife blades are often more flexible, made out of cheaper quality steel, and have lower durability.

Santoprene Grip: Safety and Comfort 

Probably the most comfortable knife I've ever held! The Mercer Genesis knives feature something called Santoprene grips. The only way I can describe these handles is that they are semi rubberized, grippy, and so comfortable in your hands.

After 25 years in the foodservice industry, my hands have gotten pretty beat up. The Santoprene grips give you a cushion when the blade impacts the cutting board. The added grippiness of the Santoprene handle is great when you have wet or slippery hands when working with raw meats or ingredients giving you that extra little bit of non-slip safety.

a beautiful modern home kitchen image focused on the stove and countertops.

How Should I Buy My Home Kitchen Knives? 

I prefer to always purchase my knives in open stock format. Open stock means that you can buy individual pieces to create the perfect set that works best for you. Some people may have a preference of having more than one of a particular knife, or perhaps an additional blade size or style.

Block sets are a manufacturer pre-determined set of knives that they think you will use most often. Some people are very accustomed to only buying knives. If you are someone that likes having a block set, Mercer Culinary created the Genesis 5 Knife Block Set that's perfect for you, and contains the knives above, with a really beautiful glass storage block. This set is the actual set I have in my home kitchen as well, and the same knives I use at work all day long.

How Often Should I Sharpen My Kitchen Knives?

First, let's differentiate between honing and sharpening.

With use over time, the micro fine edge of your knife will begin to roll over and get out of perfect alignment, this is totally normal. When this happens, the knife begins to become what some tend to think of as dull. This then results in you having to push harder to get through the product in which you are cutting. Always remember that a dull knife, is a dangerous knife.

The process of honing a knife uses a rod called a honing steel to push and realign the micro fine edge back to center. Honing the knife does not actually remove metal to realign the micro fine cutting edge. You should hone you knives every 2-3 uses, or whenever you feel that the knife edge isn't performing perfectly.

How to hone a knife:

Whereas, when you sharpen a knife, metal from the blade is actually shaved, ground, or removed to produce a new sharp edge. Annual or semi-annual professional sharpening will return the knife to brand new or better than brand new status.

How do I care for my knives? 

Conclusion: 

Great quality knives don't have to be flashy or expensive. You don't need a huge collection of knives. Having the 5 styles of knife I've mentioned above will allow you to accomplish most cutting or slicing tasks in your home kitchen. Look to the Mercer Genesis series of knives for great affordability, durability, and comfort. They are my daily drivers both at work and at home and I believe they will be a great set for you as well.


Check out other great recipes, and tips and tricks for Easy, Effortless Entertaining from AWG Private Chefs 

About the Author: Certified Master Chef, Sommelier & Wine Educator, Sean Andrade is the Executive Chef Owner of AWG Private Chefs headquartered in Northern California. Voted best personal chefs and best caterers in San Francisco, and #1 Private Chef company in California. Chef Sean has worked in the restaurant and hospitality industries worldwide for more than 25 years. AWG Private Chefs offers highly custom-tailored, bespoke private chef dining experiences, personal chef service, and private event catering in over 30 countries around the globe.

Stainless steel cookware is the workhorse of your kitchen. Cleaning your stainless pots and pans properly can keep them looking out of the box new for a lifetime! With no discoloration or stains, no one will ever know you've made countless meals in them. Here's how to clean stainless steel cookware!

Several pieces of very clean stainless steel cookware.

Benefits And Advantages Of Stainless Steel Cookware

How do clean stainless steel cookware & use care tips:

How to Care For Your Stainless Steel Cookware

So you've invested your hard-earned money in a set of stainless steel cookware. The one huge benefit to stainless steel cookware over all others is its long-run durability and even heating and easy cleanup. Over time without routine care and maintenance, your cookware can lose its shine and luster, resulting in a dull or dingy appearance. But how do you take care of the cookware so it lasts a long time and looks new again?

Avoid Cookware Thermal Shock 

Thermal shock occurs when you take a hot pan and rapidly cool it down by plunging it into cold water for example. The rapid temperature change can cause your pan bottoms to quickly warp. Always allow your cookware to air cool naturally to room temperature before running water in it, or plunging it into water for cleaning.

Most stainless steel cookware is comprised of a solid core of aluminum or copper, bonded together with a stainless steel exterior. The solid core metals are specifically chosen for their ability to evenly disperse and retain heat. These cores cool at a much different rate than the stainless steel exterior which can result in warping of the pan bottom surface which can create undesirable results such as uneven heating by the stainless layer becoming convex or bulging away from the solid core. This can cause your food to unevenly lay in the interior of the pan, and your liquids and oils to run to the outside of the pan.

On the exterior bottom side of the stainless steel pan, thermal shock can cause the pan bottom to warp and not sit evenly on the burner or stovetop, resulting in the pan rocking and unable to sit flat. This is a huge safety hazard, especially if you're cooking with the kids in the kitchen.

Another side effect of stainless steel cookware thermal shock is it can cause the rivets that hold the handles onto your cookware to loosen or prematurely fail. This can cause handles to fall off at the wrong time or cause the pan to wobble when you're holding the handle. Both are dangerous and can be easily avoided.

plates, silverware, and stainless steel cookware in a dishwasher.

Never Put Stainless Steel Cookware In The Dishwasher! 

Let me be crystal clear! No matter the type of cookware you have be it stainless steel, non-stick, ceramic coated, copper, or cast iron cookware, never ever put your cookware in the dishwasher!

While your dishwasher does great washing up plates, cups, glasses, and flatware, it's not great at all for washing your pots and pans. Regardless of the fact that your dishwasher has that fancy button labeled "pots and pans", putting your cookware in the dishwasher will drastically shorten overall product life, and damage its finish and durability.

The environment inside your dishwasher can be very harsh on your cookware finishes. Dishwashing tablets, pods, powders, or gels contain harsh chemicals that are made to dissolve food. These same chemicals that get your plates shiny and squeaky clean, can eat away at the finish of your cookware resulting in hazing or fading of that shiny steel surface that we all love. Dishwasher soap compounds can also cause premature oxidization of the rivets or screws holding your handles on.

multi piece stainless steel cookware set

 

How Do I Clean Stainless Steel Pots and Pans?

 

What Do I Need?  

Bar Keepers Friend is known for its unique formula and excellent cleaning power. It's endorsed by major cookware manufacturers as safe for use on multi-clad or all-clad cookware. Bar Keepers Friend Cookware Cleanser & Polish Formula contains 50% more grease-cutting detergents than their other cleanser. Bar Keepers Friend Cookware Cleanser can remove stains from most types of cookware, including glass and ceramic casserole dishes, copper, stainless steel, enamel-coated cast iron, and other cookware.

Do note that BKF is not recommended for use on fiberglass, plastics, anodized aluminum, or brushed metal surfaces such as appliances, etc. Whenever using a new product on your cookware always spot test it first.

How Do I Get My Stainless Steel Cookware Clean?

These simple steps for cleaning and restoration method for stainless steel cookware will keep those pots and pans looking fresh out of the box shiny for years to come.


Check out other great recipes, and tips and tricks for Easy, Effortless Entertaining from AWG Private Chefs 

About the Author: Certified Master Chef, Sommelier & Wine Educator, Sean Andrade is the Executive Chef Owner of AWG Private Chefs headquartered in Northern California. Voted best personal chefs and best caterers in San Francisco, and #1 Private Chef company in California. Chef Sean has worked in the restaurant and hospitality industries worldwide for more than 25 years. AWG Private Chefs offers highly custom-tailored, bespoke private chef dining experiences, personal chef service, and private event catering in over 30 countries around the globe.

Let's face it, everyone is very concerned about entertaining safely during COVID-19 pandemic isn't easy. We all know humans are inherently social creatures and have a deep-rooted need for human contact. We've all been on "social distancing" lockdown for what feels like decades. Together, we want to all do our part to help lower infection rates in hopes of lifting the lockdown restrictions, but at the same time still, be able to have some degree of "normality" in our lives.

We've come up with 7 helpful tips on how to entertain safely and reconnect with friends & family during these challenging times.

DISCLAIMER:

You should always follow the most current set of published guidelines by your local public health officials. We are not public health officers, nor officials. The views expressed in this post are of our opinion only and must not be used or construed as official directives, guidelines, or advice.

a woman relaxing in a field of sunflowers

Tips for safer entertaining during the pandemic: 

Tip #1: Keep It Intimate

The public health officials have been saying it all along, and it is certainly worth repeating. Limit the number of people gathering to those who live in the same household, or are within the same quarantine unit, "social bubble", also known as a cohort. The more people that you invite, the larger chance of virus transmission. If you are fortunate enough to already be fully vaccinated, remember that not everyone else has. Continue to focus on having smaller groups. Before inviting people over, always check with your local health department's website on the current limit to the maximum number of people you can gather with.

A great way to maintain that fun and intimate feel is instead of sitting close together at a single communal table where no one can hear each other talk anyway. Try setting up individual "sweetheart" style tables for guests, couples, or small round or banquet style tables for other families or guests who don't reside in your household. Smaller tables allow for better conversational flow. Decorate the tables with small floral arrangements, and some decor surrounding the theme of the party. This way you can still dine together, carry on conversations, and enjoy each other's company, just at a bit further of a distance (minimum 6 feet).

using of hand sanitizer from a pump top while entertaining safely during covid

Tip #2: Keep it Clean!

We all know the importance of washing those hands! Set up a handwashing station that's available for everyone to use both upon their arrival, as well as throughout your time together. Hand sanitizing wipes, gel, or even a bucket of soap and water and a garden hose can absolutely do the trick.

Have a good supply of single-use paper towels on-hand, and a recycling bin on-hand for people to deposit their spent paper towels in. You can even take it a step even further if you wish, have mini hand sanitizer bottles on each table tied with a nice ribbon or a note, or give them to your guests as a host or hostess gift. Having sanitizer visually present will encourage automatic use of it without having to remind your guests of its importance.

assorted face masks

Tip #3: Make it a Mask-querade!

Even if you are gathering with others who you think "have been safe", or may have been vaccinated, there is never a 100% guarantee that one or more of your guests may not be asymptomatic. Have some extra masks available for your guests, just in case they forgot theirs.

If kids will be joining you, have them use washable markers and have them create their own works of art on their masks prior to going to the gathering. That way they are encouraged to participate and it's something fun for them. Perhaps have a prize for each of the kids who participate in the "show us your mask" parade.

a beautiful bathroom

Tip #4: Be Single Bathroom Friendly!  

Make sure that all of your guests know where the "guest" bathroom is. Try and avoid having all of the bathrooms in your home used by guests & others not living in the home. If possible, designate a single bathroom that is closest to the backyard to be exclusively for guest use.

Tell your the family members that live in your home, to use the other "non guest" bathrooms in the house. On the bathroom counter, have a stack of folded single-use paper towels on hand, of course, plenty of hand soap. Place a cheery note on the bathroom mirror encouraging guests to use paper towels to turn on and off faucets, and when opening the restroom door handles. Have guests always put their masks on before entering your home to use the restroom. Again, a little sign by the door as a friendly reminder is a great way to keep things light, but still reinforce the importance of keeping your home safe too.

outdoor alfresco dining

Tip #5: Keep The Party 100% Outside! If at all possible!

Let's get outside and dine alfresco! Some public health agencies have either severely restricted or expressly forbid indoor gatherings of those who do not reside within the same households. You can still have a wonderfully relaxing, socially interactive, and memorable event simply by moving the party completely outside.

If you are located in an area that now permits indoor dining, make sure to leave as many doors and windows open for adequate ventilation as possible. Also, the use of fans to assist in ventilating the area can help to increase airflow movement. A great rule of thumb is have a minimum of 30% of the openable windows and doors wide open during the entire duration of your event. If the weather is nice, the more opened doors, windows, skylights, etc... the better. Moving fresh air is a wonderful way to help to minimize the risks.

A great way to keep things focused when gathering outdoors is to gather around your fire pit, break out the graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows to make some S'Mores.

By having your family on one side of the fire pit, and your guests on the other, the flames help to create natural thermal protection, as well as a more comfortable natural visual barrier without being invasive or off-putting.

Tip #6: Always Use Rentals or Disposables! 

Contact your local party rentals company and rent china, silverware, glassware, napkins, tables & chairs, and whatever other items you may need for your event. Instead of using your own plates & flatware, the use of rentals allows you to keep these items that have been used and touched by others, completely outside of your home, and simply have the rental company come pick them up and cart them away after your event is over.

BONUS: Not having to do any dishes, but you aren't bringing possibly contaminated, or high-touch items into your home and dishwasher.

Alternatively, if you are having a more casual style gathering, simply break out the Chinet and red Solo cups! Have appropriate trash, compost, and recycling bins already set out and clearly labeled, and simply ask your guests to chip in and bus their own tables or if you've selected, to have our catering staff handle it for you.

AWG Private Chefs staff member displaying PPE being worn during a private event during the pandemic

Tip #7: Minimize exposure by no sharing of "high touch" items! 

The days of self-service buffets are sadly now a thing of the past with COVID-19. In a traditional buffet environment, all of your guests would congregate near the buffet table, and touch the same serving spoon or set of tongs to serve themselves. This is called a "high touch" item.

Instead of having each guest serve themselves, instead, designate a single member of our catering staff or one person in your group to do all of the food handling for your micro event. That person should always wear a mask and gloves while working with food for others.

Remember that just because we are still in the midst of this COVID-19 mess together, doesn't mean with a little planning and forethought, that we cannot safely gather in small numbers to help emotionally support each other. To celebrate a special occasion, create memories once again, or reconnect with friends & family we haven't seen in a long time.

Just use common sense, maintain safe social distance, and always fully comply with your local health authorities current regulations surrounding gatherings. In the end, we will all make it thru together and can return to normal much quicker!

Stay safe, stay healthy, and continue to make positive memories together! Safely.


Check Out More Delicious Recipes and Entertaining Tips & Tricks from AWG Private Chefs:

About the Author: Certified Master Chef Sean Andrade is Executive Chef/Owner of AWG Private Chefs, named the #1 Private Chef company in California. Chef Sean has worked in the restaurant and hospitality industries worldwide for more than 25 years. His company AWG Private Chefs offers highly custom-tailored, bespoke private chef dining experiences, select location meal delivery, and event catering in over 30 countries around the globe.

Champagne, sparkling wine, zekt, cava, cremant, bubbly, prosecco, whatever you choose to call your favorite glass full of bubbly fun, you definitely need to be pairing it with food. We're going to take a glimpse into the wonderfully weird world of food and champagne pairing ideas that might just make your tastebuds sit up and take notice.

The term Champagne only refers to wine that hails from the Champagne region of France, the rest is sparkling wine, which is made all over the world. Whatever you want to call it, is fine as long as you're enjoying what's in your glass!

We've all heard of food and champagne pairing with things like buttered popcorn, cheese, or having champagne infused with a suggestion of OJ for breakfast, but it's time to let your hair down a bit, have some foodie fun, and think outside of the box a little!

a bottle of chandon champagne in an ice bucket with two fancy champagne flutes next to it.

Just Chill Out Bro! - Chilling Champagne Properly

When pairing sparkling wine and food, always remember to chill your bubbly to the proper service temperature before serving it. The wine will never show its full potential if it is served too warm. Wine pairings with food are all about a harmonious balance of flavor notes. If your guests are due to arrive shortly and you forgot to chill the bubbles, no worry. You can learn to easily chill the champagne rapidly here. Never serve warm or room temperature bubbly, always take the time to chill it down before enjoying it.

Selecting The Perfect Champagne To Pair with Food

No matter if you're new to drinking bubbles, or you're an old seasoned professional, selecting the right style of bubbly to pair with your food is essential for success. Sparkling wines commonly come in a wide range of sweetness styles from the driest of the dry known as Brut Nature, to Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Dry, Demi-Sec, Sec, and finally the sweetest of the sweet known as Doux.

During the last 100 years when it comes to food and champagne pairings, palate styles have swung towards the more drier end of the sparkling wine spectrum. During the hay day of the 18th and 19 centuries, people used to drink Demi-Sec and Doux champagne as a status symbol.

When choosing a bottle of sparkling wine to pair with food, first address the degree of complexity of the dish, such as spice load, bold flavors & phenolic compounds that are naturally occurring in food. As a good rule of thumb, the spicier the dish, the sweeter the wine you should be pairing with it.

close up image of elbow macaroni noodles

 Pairing Macaroni & Cheese with Champagne 

We've all experienced the traditional "wine and cheese pairings", yawn... Zzzz! If you want to elevate your wine and cheese pairing game, look to homemade gourmet macaroni and cheese to crank things up a notch.

When you're creating the best champagne and mac & cheese pairing, the thing to remember is the quality of the cheese is super important. This isn't the time to be using that brightly colored box of shelf-stable "processed cheese food" that has some hideous best by date sometime near the next millennium. You do want to utilize the highest quality cheeses for pairing with champagne. The champagne you select should be Brut or Extra Brut in style, you want a solid acidity in the wine to stand up to the richness and fattiness of the cheese in the dish.

When selecting the cheeses to go into your gourmet mac and cheese recipe, try and steer clear of sharp or extra sharp cheeses. Look to more of a softer, creamier more luxurious style blend of cheeses such as smoked gouda, brie, and taleggio. For extra bonus and tang, try using some cream cheese or goat cheese. If you're a fan of more of the pungent cheeses, add in a tablespoon or two of gorgonzola, Point Reyes blue, or even a Humbolt Fog or Saint Andre.

pot of spicy yellow thai curry is a delicious food and champagne pairings.

Pairing Really Spicy Thai Food with Champagne 

Go ahead, dial the spice volume way up! One of the things I absolutely love about Thai food is it comes in all different ranges of spice heat levels. From timidly mildly spicy with just a nuance of heat to "we're going to need you to sign this double notarized and witnessed release of liability and you best have your life insurance updated and prepaid prior to serving you this dish." hot.

Most of us already know our favorite desired heat level that we enjoy our Thai food. I prefer mine at about a 6 or 7 out of 10 on hotness the scale. Try and challenge yourself to take your heat level standard and bump it up by one or two notches when pairing Thai with sparkling wines. Whenever you're ordering Thai look to dishes like curries, tofus, meats or noodles containing chilies, spicy sauces. On the Thai appetizer front, fresh wrapped rice paper spring rolls with spicy dipping sauces. Avoid the fattier deep-fried Thai foods so you'll not need as much acid in the wine to cut through the fat in the dish. The sweetness of the sparkling wine will counterbalance the spice, so don't be scared to go ahead and dial it up! The wine will do its job to rebalance everything beautifully for you!

Reach for a sweeter Demi-Sec style sparkling wine to pair with spicy Thai food. Take your normal heat level and dial it up a notch or two when pairing with a sweet bubbly!

assorted display of wild mushrooms to pair with champagne

 

Pairing Deep Fried Mushrooms and Champagne 

Probably one of my most favorite comfort food pairings with champagne has to be deep-fried mushrooms. It's no secret that sparkling wines that are higher in acidity will do miracles to cut through the richness of the oil in deep-fried foods to produce a harmonious balance of flavors on your palate.

Mushrooms have an inherent earthy umami flavor to them that pairs beautifully with the Pinot Noir grape that is blended into most champagne or sparkling wines worldwide. Pinot Noir has a distinct earthiness to it that makes richer foods pop.

Look to a Rose Champagne or a Blanc de Noir style bubblies where Pinot Noir is the predominant grape in the blend for pairing with deep-fried or stuffed mushrooms.

Mushrooms and predominately Pinot Noir based sparkling wines are a match made in heaven. Rose or Blanc de Blancs are especially great for pairing with deep-fried or stuffed mushrooms.

deep fried chicken wings drizzled with sauce.

Pairing BBQ Chicken Wings and Champagne 

Add a bit of panache to your big game party by pairing Champagne right next to the BBQ chicken wings! Sweet, slightly spicy, and tangy barbeque sauces do best when pairing with sparkling wines. A BBQ sauce that is less spicy, a touch sweeter, and smokey will make your chicken wings take flight. (See what I did there? #FoodIsPunny)

Consider making a meal simply out of chicken wings and bubbly! Imagine a large plate of smokey, sweet, spicy, and sticky tossed in your favorite sauce. Then add in some additional toppings like crumbled feta, shredded English cheddar, or a dollop of creamy blue cheese, crispy onion strings, or even chopped candied pecans for some added crunch.

Reach for a bottle of Spanish Cava for the pairing with BBQ chicken wings. One great benefit is most Spanish Cava's are more rustic in style, very inexpensive, and have the bubbles and acidity you're looking for to make the pairing work together.

Sweeter honey-based BBQ sauces pair best with champagne. For an affordable bottle of bubbles without the complexity, try some Spanish Cava!

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Pairing Salad and Champagne  

Salads can be both an entree main dish, a starter, or a mid or end meal course. One of my favorite pairings is salad and Prosecco. Bubbly has the gusto to stand up to both rich creamy dressings such as Green Goddess, as well as you're more complex vinaigrettes. When you're pairing salad and champagne, you need to have a few basic flavor components in the salad to make the pairing work. Utilize dry roasted or dry pan-toasted nuts such as walnuts, pine nuts, pecans, or hazelnuts. The nuts pairing with prosecco will help bring forth the toasty flavors and a bit of tannin for mouthfeel and structure. Peppery greens such as rocket (arugula), cress, and even mustard greens or tender baby kales work best when intermixed with more tender lettuces such as butter lettuce, or spring mixes.

Prosecco and fruit always go hand in hand for pairings. Make sure that you're using fruit that is higher in acid, or even a bit underripe. This isn't the time to reach for those berries that are in the back of the fridge that is about to turn to mush. Apples, Pears, Pluots, Oranges, are always a great choice. For a unique twist on the pairing as well, try a creamy basil pesto dressing that's made from a tablespoon of basil pesto and ranch.

Reach for a drier style of Prosecco when pairing with salads for best flavor results. Add some fruit & dried nuts to your salad for balance of sweet & savory. Dry or Brut style Proseccos are the best for pairing with salads, especially with creamier dressings.

Conclusion: 

Food and wine are what bring people together. When you are pairing food and champagne together, remember that you never need a special occasion in order to celebrate the food you're about to enjoy with some great sparkling wine. Toast to the sun in the sky, the air in your lungs, and the nourishment in your belly!

What are some of your favorite bizarre food and champagne pairings? Leave me a comment below! I'd love to hear all about it!


Check out other great recipes, and tips and tricks for Easy, Effortless Entertaining from AWG Private Chefs

About the Author: Certified Master Chef, Sommelier & Wine Educator, Sean Andrade is the Executive Chef Owner of AWG Private Chefs headquartered in Northern California. Voted best personal chefs and best caterers in San Francisco, and #1 Private Chef company in California. Chef Sean has worked in the restaurant and hospitality industries worldwide for more than 25 years. AWG Private Chefs offers highly custom-tailored, bespoke private chef dining experiences, personal chef service, and private event catering in over 30 countries around the globe.

 

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