Entertaining With :: Aida Mollenkamp

By Camille Styles

I’ve been a fan of Aida Mollenkamp’s ever since spotting her approachable and totally delicious cooking style a few years ago on the Food Network show, Ask Aida. However, my fan-girl status turned into total girl crush-dom when we shared lunch and a glass of pinot grigio on her recent visit to Austin, and I was totally blown away by her quick wit, obvious intelligence and even-more-stunning-in-person beauty. I begged her to give us a peek into her laid-back style as our next “Entertaining With” subject, then thanked my lucky stars when she said yes and invited us to come along for a “girls’ night in” at her sister Amy’s place. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Aida’s site, Pairs Well With Food, for a constant flow of amazing recipes — it’s always one of my first stops in the what-to-make-for-dinner-tonight search. Take it away, Aida!

*photography by Denise Crew

My must-have entertaining tool:
A solid playlist and good lighting because they not only set tone but can also make up for a lack of ambiance or decor.

The entertaining rule I rarely break:
Have a signature drink to make the party memorable (not only is it functional, but it also works as a conversation starter).
Click here for Aida’s White Wine Fall Sangria.

What (if anything) scares you about entertaining?
Timing because it’s such a variable from one party to the next and entertaining can be a lot of moving parts. I prep as much as possible in advance so I can worry less during the party and enjoy my time and my guests.

My dream dinner guests:
I love dinner guests who bring something to the evening so I try to invite people with various skills (such as cocktail making, DJing, story telling, etc) so they can add their own personality (and skills) to the party.
Aida’s sister, Amy, wears a long necklace by Good Art Hollywood, an Ari Soffer ring, and vintage bracelet.

The perfect dinner party playlist includes:
A few old r&b tracks (Bill Withers always works), some updated jazz standards (almost anything from Verve Remixed), something chill and electronic (like Air or Sebastien Tellier), and something upbeat without being distracting (like Sam Sparro’s Black and Gold).

How to slide sage off the stem: Pinch the top of the stem with one hand, and with your other hand, run the thumb and index finger down the length of the stem against the direction of leaf growth.

Always in my refrigerator:
A bottle of bubbly, some cured meat, some Castelvetrano olives, and high-end chocolate — that way I can entertain at a moment’s notice.
This wood cutting board is by Jennifer Homcy of Foundwood Working out of North Shore Oahu, Hawaii.

The taste I’m always craving:
Anything with a sweet-salty pickled flavor (even if it’s not pickled) like these sweet-tart roasted grapes — I love how it allows for multiple flavors in one simple dish.

My standard hostess outfit:
Jeans, wedges, a blouse, and a statement necklace–it’s an outfit that allows me to flit all around and get down and dirty in the kitchen yet still looks put together once dinner is served.

My entertaining style in 5 words or less:
California eclectic with laid-back elegance.

Current favorite color palette for parties: 
I’m all for subtle palettes with a pop of color because that allows me to then mix up patterns and textures. Currently, that means a lot of neutrals and slate grey to which I add seasonally-appropriate colors — such as mustard, cranberry, or eggplant.

My signature entertaining dish:
It really depends on the season but during the fall, it’s no-brainer dishes like this persimmon and burrata appetizer, these bresaola hand rolls, or this flank steak with fig salsa.

Roasted Squash and Pepita Pesto Spread

The restaurant meal I’ll never forget: 
My recent trip to Mugaritz in Basque Country was so elegant, well-orchestrated, yet creative, I’ll be thinking about it for years to come.

My favorite holiday tradition:
I love how our family uses leftover mashed potatoes from Thanksgiving to make mashed potato pancakes for breakfast the morning after — we always try to one-up each other with the toppings such as crisp prosciutto, Sriracha mayo, smashed avocado, or fried eggs.

photography by Denise Crew