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Entertaining at home with Magnums

magnums as tabletop centerpiece

How to use Magnums as a centerpiece for your dinner table.

Entertaining at home presents a fun challenge for me because I’m always looking for a way to do something a bit more extraordinary than before. I find the small touches that make a big statement, something that adds sophistication and makes the event more memorable.

“Magnums” contain 1.5 liters of wine or champagne, or the equivalent of two regular 750ml bottles. Two bottles in one! When you use magnums of wine on the table you get to enjoy the party more because you don’t have to keep jumping up and opening wine bottles as often.  But, there’s more than just the convenience of having to open fewer bottles for your gathering.

No matter how you look at it, magnums create a great party atmosphere.  Whatever the size of your gathering – large or small – when you have magnums as part of your centerpiece, the extra-large bottles immediately become fabulous additions to the tabletop and great conversation starters.

I went to a party in San Diego where the host served a double magnum of Champagne, equivalent to two magnums or four standard 750ml bottles. Just to get the cork out was a tremendous feat but, it took two guys to tip the bottle carefully to serve all the guests. That was not only a constant topic of conversation, it was also so much fun and the source of a whole lot of laughter all night long!  It really added to the party atmosphere.

There’s also a practical perspective for magnums. Winemakers prefer larger bottle size because wine ages more slowly and gracefully in larger format bottles than in standard bottles. There are several reasons for this.  One reason is that even though there is a greater volume of wine in the bottle, the amount of oxygen or “ullage” between the cork and the wine is the same as in a regular sized bottle. Corks are porous so tiny amounts of oxygen are let in (very, very slowly!) and that oxygen modifies the wine over time – aging the wine.  Too much oxygen will eventually damage the wine but if there is a lot more wine in the bottle and still the same ullage and cork size then there is less risk of damage to the wine over the same amount of time.  And, the bigger the bottle the more your wine is protected from other things that can damage it (larger bottles have thicker glass) – light, heat, changes in temperature and vibration from travel.

This is particularly true for Champagne where experts note that magnums help the wine retain a more youthful taste than when served from standard bottles. Also, due to the increased content volume, magnums tend to have slightly higher pressure which enhances the bubbles a bit – always a good thing in my opinion!

Either way, imagine one or two magnums sitting on your tabletop at your next party. You’ll enjoy the party with fewer interruptions to open more bottles and your guests will have a lot of fun passing the large bottles around the table to refill glasses. And think of all conversations that will start. But, the biggest benefit? You will be serving and enjoying wine that is closer to what the winemaker intended.

Fran’s Party Etiquette Rules – The Host Gift (Part II)

guest gift

More guest rules – these will make you the Party Star!

I accept almost all invitations to parties that come my way. And I go to a lot of them – that’s just the way I roll. Over the years, I have witnessed some massive faux pas at parties – more than I care to remember – mistakes that both hosts and guests make. Some are bigger than others but nearly all are remembered.

I went through my top 6 Guest “rules” in my first post. This time, I want to give you a list of ideas that could make you the Party Star! Now, that’s a nice way to be remembered, don’t you think?

In the previous post, my NUMBER ONE rule, if you’re the Guest: don’t show up to a party empty handed.  In my book, it’s just rude. The host has gone to a whole lot of effort to throw this thing – show some appreciation.

Having said this, there are even a few things that you might want to reconsider.

  • Don’t bring flowers – I know it’s your “go to” but don’t do it.  The host has to stop everything, try to find an appropriate vase, cut the stems, arrange your lovely bouquet and find a place to put them in their carefully arranged party décor.  Just don’t.
  • Don’t bring wine/alcohol – Also probably one of your “go to” hostess gifts but don’t do that either.  UNLESS you know what your host/hostess likes to drink – maybe it’s a dry, full-bodied Napa Cabernet, or a 25-year-old single barrel scotch.  But, if you don’t know for a fact what it is that your host likes – don’t bring it.  I don’t drink Merlot (I don’t like my wine jammy or chewy) but that hasn’t stopped some very well meaning friends from bringing that bottle because they thought it might be a good one.  I have dozens in a closet that I will never drink. By the way, never re-gift.  Don’t do it.

Those are some big DON’Ts, but I have a few easy DO’s that’ll make perfect host/hostess gifts – stuff that will surprise and please.

  • Bring scented soap for the power room. As a hostess, I always make sure there is some, but sometimes I don’t remember to get a new one. Bring a cute dish with a small scented soap as a gift – it will be appreciated.
  • A half-pound of some great coffee. Coffee is always welcome for the host that loves their cup of “joe”.  They come in very cool bags/cans/containers now and that’s a fun gift to receive.  But, always bring GROUND coffee.  You don’t know if your host has a coffee grinder and even though those whole beans look cool if you bring them and your host can’t use them, they’re not so cool.  Always ground coffee.
  • Some fun wooden spoons! Especially if the host is a person who like to cook, but even one who isn’t. Either way, there never seems to be enough of them. Find ones that have colorful handles or are printed with words (eat, gather, etc.).
  • A jar of “Starter Sauces.” Some stores (I find mine at William Sonoma) have a great selection of starter sauces.  You can get them for all kinds of proteins and they have the instructions for usage on the jar label.  It’s very convenient and easy to use for the host/hostess.  And the best part?  They’re delicious!  William Sonoma has all kinds of things like this, dipping oils (for bread) in cool tall bottles, dry spice rubs for all kinds of things – some great stuff for the host/hostess whether they are a cook or not.
  • If they love to travel – find cool luggage tags. I found some fun ones at a fun stationary store.  Everyone needs them and if they are unique (read colorful) they are the perfect way for your black luggage to stand out on the carousel while you are searching for your bags.
  • During the holidays, bring mulling spices.  I find mine at my local William Sonoma. If you bring those and an infuser ball (like something you use for loose tea) and some basic apple cider, your host has the perfect ingredients to make their house smell wonderful at a moment’s notice.