Friendsgiving with Betsy Simon
Soaking up the last days of Fall
With the holidays drawing closer, we’re taking a moment to truly appreciate these crisp, long November evenings. There’s something extra cozy about getting together with friends to celebrate meaningful connections full of laughter, good food, great conversations, and of course, lots of clean, delicious wine. We got together with our dear friend, Betsy Simon, to throw a small Friendsgiving dinner so we could all soak up the last slow nights of Fall. Betsy puts together the most beautiful gatherings, so we asked her if she would share her favorite Friendsgiving entertaining tips with the Avaline community.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and where your love for entertaining stems from.
Betsy Simon. 37. Aries. Loves Avaline Grenache Blanc and morning walks at sunrise. Allergic to garlic and penicillin. Founder of Marshell, a strategic marketing company elevating brands that positively impact humans and the environment, with an emphasis on community, transparency, and sustainability.
I would say “eating” is my favorite hobby, specifically long dinners with friends that seemingly never end. Restaurants don’t typically love guests staying for four plus hours so I started gathering people in my home years ago. I’m not a terribly great cook now, but I was even worse then! So it was a lot of assembling cheese boards, ordering pizzas, properly setting the table with handmade ceramics (not by moi) and cute linens - and, of course, loads of wine.
What are some entertaining staples you always have on hand for easy, impromptu gatherings?
I like mixing homemade dishes with some of my favorites from a local market - building out the table without creating more work, especially when pulling something together without much notice.
If it’s a quick pop in, we keep it casual. Castelvetrano olives and Midnight Moon goat cheese in a Lucy Michel snack bowl.
For last minute dinners, it depends on the season - citrus chicken, a cheat’s tomato confit with pasta, or a kabocha squash soup. For brunch it’s almost always shakshuka, fresh fruit and a good loaf of sourdough. No matter what the meal is, there will always be an herby salad on the table.
What’s your favorite part of planning a gathering?
Planning the menu! We have a little nook in the kitchen with a stool - I’ll sit there early in the morning reading cookbooks with a mug of tea and a stack of sticky notes.
What are your top five tips for hosting a dinner party?
1. Curate your guestlist. Make sure personalities will mesh.
2. Keep your home 30 minutes from “company ready.” You’ll thank yourself the day of - just quickly tidy up, light some candles, pull out snacks, and open the wine!
3. If you’re not a great cook, like me, just cook what you know. I generally follow Ottolenghi’s tips for hosting and never try a new recipe for guests. Chances are, if you’re coming over, we’re eating the same few things every time.
4. Have plenty of snacks! Inevitably someone will be running late or something will take longer to cook than expected. I usually pop by Sightglass in the morning - a little one stop shop - grab a cortado (to make it through the day LOL), some good cheese, Bub & Grandma’s bread (but any local bakery’s sourdough will do), and fresh produce to have on hand. Bonus - there’s a Sprouts right around the corner to stock up on Avaline! Running out of wine is the worst.
5. Clean up the same night! No matter how tired you are, throw on a podcast or an audiobook. Have another glass of wine or some tea. You’ll thank yourself the next morning.
Do you prefer serving plated, family-style, or buffet style for your holiday gatherings?
What would be on your holiday party playlist?
We have some old holiday records, like Bing Crosby, that are a little scratched and very loved. But records aren’t always ideal for dinner parties. For the holidays, I like everything She & Him and other covers of classic holiday songs like “Last Christmas” by Florence & the Machine, “Jingle Bells” by Earl Scruggs, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” by Dolly Parton (of course) or Tift Merritt.
And if the night’s going really long, the karaoke mic will come out and so will all the cliché hits! Cue Mariah Carey!
How can someone new to entertaining find confidence in hosting a gathering?
Keep it simple, have plenty to eat, and mind the conversation. Don’t worry about a perfectly set table or cooking an amazing meal. Your job is to make sure everyone is having a good time. You don’t have to carry the conversation, but you need to make sure it’s still alive. This is why a curated guest list is so important. Ideally you can slip away and no one will notice.
We hope this inspired you to host your own dinner party filled with loved ones and clean, delicious sips! Don’t forget to stock up on all your Avaline favorites. ✨