“Neely loves people, and so do I,” Kathy said. “We both have always enjoyed people, which makes entertaining easy.”
Neely has always worked in the newspaper business, requiring the couple to live all over Georgia. Married 45 years, the Youngs returned to Marietta in 1990 where they continue to entertain.
Beyond the basic dinner party, their entertaining has included a variety of events such as fundraisers, club socials, birthdays, holidays, neighborhood events, graduations, luncheons, bridge, house parties and church events.
“We enjoy conversation. We enjoy ideas, and we enjoy talking about what’s happening,” Kathy said. “We’ve always enjoyed getting people together for good conversation.”
These veteran entertainers consider several factors when hosting a party. Preparation and working ahead is their key to successful entertaining.
* Guest List: People are most important. Kathy said, “It’s more about the people than the food.”
The Youngs always give special consideration to their invitation list. They invite friends who they know get along but often invite people who do not know each other but have something in common.
“I like to put together a group of interesting people,” Kathy said.
* Menu and table setting: Kathy relies on five trusted menus and chooses her table setting ahead of time. Experimenting on guests is a “no-no.”
“I don’t try new things when I entertain because I want to have fun and be in there with the party,” she said. “It is always more about the people than the food, so I try to keep the food simple leaning toward tried-and-true menus.”
* Wine pairing: Kathy joked that Neely would say entertaining is all about the people, but then it’s all about the wine.
“Good wine contributes to a good gathering. While I am working out the menu, (Neely) is working out the wines to serve. I think it is fun to offer a special cocktail for the evening, although most people prefer wine now, I think,” Kathy said.
Their favorite white wines are Cakebread, Rombauer and Conundrum. Their favorite reds include Frank Family Vineyards and Heitz.
* Theme: If there is an occasion for entertaining, Kathy incorporates the theme through flowers and linens.
* Cocktails: Cocktails are a great way to start a party, but the Youngs keep it simple and stress free. During cocktail hour, Kathy serves bite-size appetizers such as shrimp or pimento cheese on triangles toasts that are not complicated or too filling.
“I have found that people don’t eat very much anymore before dinner,” she said.
* Preparation: Prepare before guests arrive. For a Friday dinner, Kathy sets her table on Wednesday and prepares flowers and other thematic pieces ready on Thursday. During the week, she makes food that will freeze or keep.
“Then on Friday all I have to do is fluff up and make sure I look presentable and tend to the rest of the menu,” she said. “Because I want to enjoy my party, I don’t want to be doing everything at the last minute. I want to relax and visit with everybody. It’s important to me to get those things done early. I don’t want to be stressed.”
Summer special: Poached salmon served on bed or couscous with sides of asparagus, Caprese salad and rolls
Fall casual: Chili with all the trimmings, or Brunswick stew; hearty tossed salad with strawberry, pecans and blue cheese; served with broccoli cornbread or toasted garlic cheese bread
Fall special: Wild rice seafood casserole, asparagus, Caprese salad, bread
Winter: Sliced tenderloin, twice baked potatoes, asparagus, rolls
Tip: For dessert, try ice cream topped with liqueur and special cookie or a cheese plate with port.