There is a time and a place for everything. And Summer is no time for stuffiness. Summer parties, in our opinion, are all about fun in the sun, as the sun sets, and/or ’til the sun rises. So, a great Summer party requires not just great food, tunes, and tablescapes, but also, perhaps even more importantly, they need the right vibe. In contemplating the parties that we’ll have this Summer, we thought of who we could ask for guidance in achieving this perfect mixed of laid-back but never lazy, special-feeling but never stressed-out vibe. And then we thought, DUH! Katie Lee, co-host of The Kitchen, author of the cookbook Endless Summer, and host of the new show Beach Bites on The Cooking Channel, who basically embodies the chill hostess we want to be. We chatted with Katie Lee about underrated Southern food, fave foods to binge on, and what to serve at a Summer soirée.
You grew up in West Virginia. Has your Southern heritage influenced the way you host?
Make your guests feel comfortable. The host sets the tone for the party, so relax and your guests will too. My grandma always made dishes that were “tried and true” — if you cook a menu that’s easily manageable and that you’ve made in the past, you won’t be stressed. I do as much ahead of time as possible and I set my table the night before.
Endless Summer is one of our favorite cookbooks. Any recipe you always end up putting on your own menu?
In the summer, I almost always make the quinoa taboulleh salad. It’s a crowd pleaser and tastes so bright and fresh, plus it can be made the day before. I keep the main course simple, like my grilled hoisin pork chops.
Just like us, you love to party. What’s a cocktail you’ll serve at your next party?
How would you describe your entertaining style?
I’m very laid back. I don’t try to make everything perfect and I make simple food.
Any favorite places to buy serveware, flowers, or other table décor?
5 Essentials to a perfect Summer party?
Any great party hacks you can share?
Always buy extra ice and keep it in a cooler. You’ll definitely need more than you think.
Grill a flank steak earlier in the afternoon, slice it and refrigerate until an hour before dinner, serve it with a chimmichurri you’ve made the day before.
What’s your go-to binge food?
French fries with a crazy amount of ketchup.
What’s a food you think is totally overrated?
Anything with wasabi.
What’s a Southern dish that doesn’t get enough credit?
Pimento cheese spread!
What are your favorite sources for food or décor inspiration?
Is there one item you find you can’t stop collecting no matter how many you accrue?
What’s the best hostess gift you’ve ever given or received?
My friends know I love ice cream and a few houseguests have sent me Graeters ice cream. If you’ve never tried it, I recommend you get on their website and order it immediately.
We love your laid back style. What do you wear when you host at home in NYC? What about when you’re in the Hamptons?
My gatherings in the city are smaller and usually spontaneous. I like to invite friends over after work and we’ll hang on my terrace with a glass of wine then have a simple dinner that I cook or order takeout from our favorite local Indian restaurant. Everybody likes to be comfortable after work, so I like a James Perse dress and cashmere sweater. Sometimes I’ll tell my friends to come over in their sweatpants! In the Hamptons, I like to wear long, flowy dresses or wide leg trousers and an off the shoulder top.
What are three things that are always in your fridge?
Champagne, half and half, and lemons.
If you could party with one person – living or dead – who would it be?