Entertaining? Athena's Must-Know Tips

It's a fact: Athena Calderone is a curator of all things gorgeous. Her breathtaking home decor, delicious recipes, and eye for style inspired her to create EyeSwoon, a hub for home and food inspiration. Now, It Girl Calderone will be taking us to New York's need-to-know spots and introducing us to the coolest people around.
I love design, and I love food — for me they go hand in hand. I never quite realized how I approach both in exactly the same way. Adding layers and textures and unexpected contrasting elements can work in both a room and on a great plate of food. EyeSwoon is the truest representation of all the various bits of myself…at my core, I just like to make things beautiful, and I LOVE food!
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I also swoon over the magical quality of togetherness that springs up around a bountiful table. Food changes people — there is a commonality, a sharing, laughter, a relaxed environment. It’s around a table that conversation is shared and ideas are born. Food is certainly an essential greatest common denominator!
A beautifully set table, moody lighting, seasonal local food, your senses heightened — nothing is more elegant and intriguing than being invited to an intimate dinner party with friends. As a host, first and foremost, you want to keep a casual and fun atmosphere for your guests!
I would never call myself an expert on the matter. On the contrary, I often get overwhelmed when things aren’t organized and prepared. Timing is absolutely everything when you're cooking and serving food. Getting everything on the table at once and looking beautiful is essential, and often those last moments and finishing touches can get stressful. These are my humble tips and tricks, plus my favorite halibut recipe to create an effortless summer soirée with friends! I guess you can say I’ve been swooned.
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Photo: Chloe Crespi/Courtesy of EyeSwoon.
My standard host/hostess gift:
"Really nice-quality olive oil or local coffee. A bottle of rosé in summer, along with a beautiful and classic wooden wine opener."

My dream dinner guest:
"Diana Vreeland...she absolutely fascinates me! Funny enough, Chloe Crespi's (who photographed this story!) grandmother worked side by side with Diana at Vogue for years and was a dear friend of hers!"

My entertaining style:
Mediterranean, seasonal, fresh, rustic, elegant, fun, casual."
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Photo: Chloe Crespi/Courtesy of EyeSwoon.
"I swoon a mix of vintage glasses — these dainty purple-hue glasses were my mom's."
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Photo: Chloe Crespi/Courtesy of EyeSwoon.
"I love using water pitchers, mason jars, or found bottles as flower vessels — it just feels more casual and unique than a standard vase."

RELATED: NYC's Flower Girl Will Make You Swoon
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Photo: Chloe Crespi/Courtesy of EyeSwoon.
Always in my fridge:
"Lemons, herb pesto, berries, peaches, sparkling water, organic half-and-half for morning coffee, Fage Greek yogurt, arugula."

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Photo: Chloe Crespi/Courtesy of EyeSwoon.
"I like to create a sensory experience — most people always comment on the scent of the fresh herbs when entering my house."
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Photo: Chloe Crespi/Courtesy of EyeSwoon.
"Have simple finger nibbles out for when guests arrive. I am currently swooning these Canvas Shell Bisque bowls."
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Photo: Chloe Crespi/Courtesy of EyeSwoon.
"This salad of summer's most abundant veggies, to serve alongside your fish, can be prepared in advanced. Dress just prior to serving."
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Photo: Chloe Crespi/Courtesy of EyeSwoon.
The taste I'm always craving:
"In summer, fresh baby heirloom tomatoes with shallots, olive oil, lemon, and summer-abundant torn basil from the garden."
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Photo: Chloe Crespi/Courtesy of EyeSwoon.
Ingredients:
2 lbs halibut

For the Pesto:
1 bunch of basil (about 1 packed cup)
2 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp pine nuts
Zest and juice from one lemon
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the Salad:
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
Fresh snap pea or sweet peas, blanched
4 ears of corn, blanched and shucked
1 bunch frisée, washed
1 small red onion, thinly sliced

Preparation
For the herb pesto (can be basil, Italian parsley, or a combo of many herbs), put the basil, garlic, salt, nuts, pepper, and oil in a blender or food processor, and pulse until the mixture is chopped to your liking. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, and add the lemon zest and juice. Add extra EVOO if necessary, and adjust with salt and pepper.

Set a third of the pesto aside to drizzle over the fish after cooked. The remaining two-thirds is used for the salad dressing. I usually add more lemon to the pesto for the dressing. Set aside.

Be sure to soak the cedar plants in water for 1 hour before placing on the grill. Cut halibut into single serve pieces (about 1/2 lb. per person). Coat fish with olive oil, salt and pepper; then set aside.

In a bowl, combine the frisée, corn kernels, tomatoes, peas, and red onion. I sometimes tear some fresh-basil leaves into the salad as well. Set salad aside.

The best thing about grilling on a cedar plank is that you do not have to flip the fish over. Simply place the soaked-cedar plank on a hot grill for 1-2 minutes. Flip plank over, and then put fish on the cedar plank. Close the grill and cook the fish for 8-10 minutes, depending on thickness.

While fish is cooking, toss your salad with the pesto. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place the salad on a shallow dish.

Put the grilled fish on top of the salad and drizzle the remaining 1/3 basil pesto over the fish.
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