Entertaining with :: Erin of Apartment 34

By Camille Styles
Entertaining with Erin, Apartment 34 | Camille Styles

You guys probably know lifestyle blogger Erin Hiemstra as a fashion expert and interiors maven from her fab blog Apartment 34…but I happen to know her as one of the sweetest and smartest gals around, and I’m thankful that she’s become one of my dearest friends over the last couple of years. I’ve been dying to feature her brand new San Francisco loft and inimitable entertaining style here on the blog, and today’s the day! Erin invited us into her home to celebrate a new ritual that she and her husband Chris have instituted, and it couldn’t be more perfect for this month since it involves (a) cooking at home (so much healthier!) and (b) spending quality time connecting with the people you love. Click through the gorgeous images shot by Michelle Drewes to read all about it.

From Erin: One of our New Year’s resolutions was to cook at home more, so we’ve instituted a new Friday-night date night at home (when we’re too tired to go out anyway!). While I’m usually the cook, we actually took a risotto-making class together so this is one dish that’s a team project. And since it takes a little over an hour to make, it lends itself to lots of good conversation time!

Date nights start with a trip to the grocery store, grabbing the ingredients for the evening’s menu. Then the music gets turned on, the wine is opened and we’re finally able to relax and reconnect at the end of another hectic week. I’m really excited to turn this into our 2013 ritual!

My must-have entertaining tool:

Good wine and good lighting. For date night, candlelight immediately sets a romantic mood.

The perfect dinner party playlist includes:

Spotify and Pandora are my entertaining best friends. Lately I’ve been loving the Carla Bruni station {of all things!}. It serves tons of french jazz. It’s light, playful and leaves you feeling festive.

My standard hostess outfit:

You can never go wrong with a look that’s classic and sophisticated. I usually start with basics: black skinny pants and a crisp button down or cute sweater. It’s so easy to toss on killer heels, a statement necklace and red lipstick just before your guests are arrive, and it’s a look that doesn’t make them feel over or underdressed. (You’re casual, but a tad fancy all at the same time!) While I start with the same intentions for our at-home date nights, the heels usually get kicked off when I come home from work and they never go back on.

Lemon & Eggplant Risotto

serves 4
*adapted from Plenty
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 1/2 cup + 1T olive oil
  • course sea salt
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves crushed
  • 7 oz good-quality risotto rice
  • 3 1/4 C of hot vegetable stock
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 T butter
  • 1/2 C grated Parmesan
  • black pepper
  • 1/2 C torn kale
  1. Start by burning the eggplant over a burner, by turning it over an open flame. We use tongs – it proves the most expedient. Once ready, remove from the heat and make a long cut through the eggplant. Scoop out the soft flesh while avoiding the skin. Discard the skin. Chop the flesh roughly and set aside.
  2. Put the onion and remaining oil in a heavy pan and fry slowly until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a further 3 minutes. Turn up the heat and add the rice, stirring to coat it in the oil. Fry for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the wine and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until nearly evaporated. Turn the heat down to medium.
  3. Now start adding the hot stock to the rice, a ladelful at a time, waiting until each addition has been fully absorbed before adding the next and stirring all the time. When all the stock has been added, toss in some torn kale and remove the pan from the heat. Add half the lemon zest, the lemon juice, eggplant, butter, most of the Parmesan and the 3/4 t salt. Stir well, then cover and set aside for 5 minutes. Taste and add more salt if you like, plus some black pepper.
  4. Serve by spooning risotto into shallow bowls and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan, and the rest of the lemon zest.

My signature entertaining dish:

I recently tried my hand at the classic roast chicken, alla Thomas Keller of French Laundry fame. While intimidating at first it turned out spectacularly and will now be my dinner party go to. It’s always so impressive coming out of the oven. Otherwise, I stick to the basics: cheese, prosciutto, marcona almonds and fruit set on lovely cheese platters. They’re the perfect appetizers to have on hand while cooking, and when hosting parties I sprinkle them around the house. It’s always a good idea to have food in multiple locations to keep guests circulating.

What scares you about entertaining?

My number one priority is always making my guests feel comfortable. I tend to fuss and fret over them until the night’s over.

The entertaining rule I rarely break:

Always overfeed.

The taste I’m always craving:

There’s nothing better than an exceptional glass of red wine after a long week!

Always in my refrigerator:

Bubbly, good cheese and that one left over onion. (Why do I always seem to have an onion?)

The restaurant meal I’ll never forget:

While I’ve had many amazing meals (I have a bit of an elephants memory for them), I’d have to say the night Chris and I got married in a Seattle courthouse and then went out for the best pasta at Cascina Spinasse with our closest friends. I can still taste the caramelle pasta we had that night!

My dream dinner guests:

Katherine Hepburn, Hilary Clinton, Rosemary Clooney, Nora Ephron, Tina Fey, Kate Winslet and Joan Didion. Now that would be the ultimate girls night!

My entertaining style in 5 words or less:

Always have wine in abundance.

photos by Michelle Drewes Photography