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Entertaining books

Tis’ the season for entertaining! From the simple to the extravagant, these ultra-talented authors will inspire you to plan events that impress.

Selections by Denise Doucette Friday

Bon Appétit, Y’all: Recipes and Stories from Three Generations of Southern Cooking

Georgia-born Virginia Willis combines recipes from her mother and grandmother with her formal chef training in France. The result is Southern dishes that are born from tradition but are modern and fresh. Among her more than 200 recipes, you will not find Velveeta and pretzels, or what she refers to as ‘trashy’ elements of Southern cooking. Instead, fresh ingredients, careful instructions and smart caterer’s tricks deliver delicious results for any event. From Mama’s Sausage-Pecan Balls to Coq au Vin, Willis blends native Georgia dishes with classical French technique in what she calls “refined Southern cuisine.” Virginia Willis splits her time between her homes in Atlanta and Western Massachusetts.

The Turquoise Table: Finding Community and Connection in Your Own Front Yard

In an effort to get to know her neighbors, Kristin Schell created a movement by placing a picnic table in her front yard. She observed neighbors walking their dogs, driving by, exercising, etc., and slowly encouraged them to sit for a moment at her turquoise-painted table and have casual conversations. Soon informal coffees, homework groups and Front-Yard Fridays ensued. The concept was simple; connecting face-to-face without the worry of catering, a spotless house or perfect party-planning.

Barefoot Contessa PARTIES! Ideas and Recipes for Easy Parties that Are Really Fun

Ina Garten seems to have been born to entertain. A self-taught cook who used to work for the Office of Management and Budget in Washington, D.C., she took a leap of faith and bought a tiny food store in New York called the Barefoot Contessa and never looked back. This book shares her tried-and-true secrets and recipes for easy entertaining. Whether it is fireside dining for two (vegetable pot pie and double chocolate pudding) an outdoor grill for 6 (her favorite number of guests for dinner) or an afternoon tea for 25, her theme is prepare ahead, make it fresh, simple and fun.

Martha’s Entertaining: A Year of Celebrations

Martha Stewart is the gold standard of entertaining. She needs no introduction. In this book, Photographer Frédéric Lagrange captures beautiful images of parties that have transpired largely at her three stunning homes. Her main residence, ‘Cantitoe Corners’ in Bedford, NY, ‘Skylands’ on Mount Desert Island, Maine, and ‘Lily Pond’ in East Hampton, NY. In this intimate view of her homes and guests, no detail is too small and no task too large to host perfect parties every time. The recipes follow at the end of the book, along with several step-by-step how-to’s on more difficult techniques and advice for special gatherings.

What’s a Hostess to Do?

Susan Spungen has created a handbook for effortless entertaining. With each recipe, instructions are added on presentation, short-cut tips and best tools to use for the task. The book is divided into sections for setting the scene, the cocktail hour, the buffet, the dinner party, holidays and other celebrations, outdoor parties and when the party’s over. She offers sage advice such as a place-setting cheat sheet, presenting a charcuterie, knowing when meat is cooked, shopping for champagne, cooking fruit on a grill and easy uses for leftovers. Even if you never plan on throwing a party, the recipes are worth trying for yourself or your next potluck. 

Must Read

Daughter of the Dawn: A Child of Hilton Head Island, 1950-1956

“What in the world were they thinking?” Looking back on the early 1950s on Hilton Head Island, author Avary Hack Doubleday has asked herself this question. Fred and Billie Hack loaded their belongings — and two young children — onto a boat and moved to this South Carolina barrier island in June of 1950. Amenities on the Island did not include electricity, telephones, a doctor, or regularly scheduled ferry service to the mainland. There was only one paved road and children attended a one-room school — with an outhouse.

Daughter of the Dawn takes you to a remote island — not so long ago — where, as barefoot children, Avary and her brothers played in the creek, searched for deer and alligator eyes reflected in the dark, collected shells on deserted beaches, and watched loggerhead sea turtles as they deposited their rubbery eggs in the dunes. Through a child’s eyes, she describes private hunting clubs on the Island, evacuating for a hurricane, and lessons learned in a one-room school. As Avary paints her memories she reveals the characters of her parents which led them to this adventure and which molded her own character as she grew up at the dawn of modern Island development. Find more at

Local Roots

Avary Hack Doubleday is the daughter of Fred and Billie Hack, two pillars of modern-day Hilton Head Island. She and her husband, Gerry, now split their time living in Highlands and Greenwood.