When it comes to hosting guests at the cottage, a little planning, and discussion, goes a long way.
When you extend an invite to the cottage, consider addressing a few key points. By having an advance discussion about expectations, you make getting together more enjoyable for yourself and ultimately, your guests, as they get to spend more time with you since you aren’t busy catering to their every need.
A wise host is one who outlines the length of stay, suggests sharing meals and asks their guests to bring their own bedding, among other things.
While a weekend away at your cottage may seem like the ideal bed-and-breakfast getaway for your guests, if you don’t set some guidelines, you’ll run yourself ragged and find entertaining more of a chore than a pleasure.
Being specific about the length of stay helps to ensure your guests don’t over stay their welcome. While it may seem a little bold to issue a departure time with your invite, it does give you and your guests a time frame to work within. It also ensures you don’t end up staying longer at the cottage than you wanted in order to clean up.
By suggesting you share the meals, it also encourages sharing the clean-up. When we have another family visiting for the weekend, we divide the meals with each family being responsible for an equal amount...and bringing all the necessary ingredients.
Each family is also responsible for preparing and making the meals they bring as well as the clean-up, unless you switch it up and the family who isn’t cooking is responsible for the clean-up. Either way works.
Asking guests to bring their own bedding saves on putting fresh linens on the beds and doing extra laundry when they leave.
Outlining extra items your guests should bring is also wise. I’ve learned from experience just how quick you can go through cans of bug spray, bottles of sunscreen, and every beach and bath towel in the cottage.
Also mention cottage specific gear like lifejackets and good footwear as well as flashlights for guests leaving after dark.
Speaking of leaving after dark, a responsible host never sends impaired guests on their way. Typically when we invite guests to come for the day, we encourage them to arrive for either lunch or just after and stay for dinner. We make sure there is lots of food on hand as well as a generous supply of non-alcoholic beverages.
That said, we try to err on the side of caution and encourage intoxicated and/or tired guests to spend the night. We always have a tent, an inflatable mattress, extra sleeping bags, pillows and new toothbrushes on hand. In our case, most of our friends have a 1 1/2 hour drive back to Peterborough down a long and windy road, so we want to do what we can to ensure their safe return home.
Large scale entertaining is also made easier when you have a variety of simple menu ideas in mind. The following are some of my favorite meals when hosting at the cottage.
For a breakfast that is sure to impress, you can’t beat Eggs Benedict made in a muffin pan.
Line each section of the pan with a slice of ham, crack an egg in each and bake in a preheated 350 degrees Fahrenheit oven for 10 to 15 minutes (depending on the desired softness of your eggs).
When the eggs are just about ready, slice and toast (on broil/grill) six English muffins on a baking sheet. Move the muffin pan to the bottom rack while doing this to allow the eggs to finish cooking.
Make up a package of Hollandaise sauce (Knorr or McCormick) using a large measuring cup (two or four cups) and microwave.
Assemble and serve with slices of tomatoes and avocado, baked tomatoes and sautéed zucchini, asparagus and/or garnish the plate with fresh fruit.
Other quick and easy breakfast ideas for a crowd include pancakes and sausages or French toast and bacon cooked on a non-stick grill pan, or sausages/bacon cooked in a frying pan on a side burner if you have one.
Peameal bacon on a bun served with tomato and lettuce is another good breakfast idea that can easily be made on the barbecue.
If the morning weather isn’t forecast to be good, an overnight breakfast casserole is a great idea.
My favorite cottage lunch idea is to top mixed greens with seasonal fruit and one of the many fruit vinegars made by Kawartha Country Wines.
My favorite salads feature grilled chicken or lean deli chicken or turkey. I include combinations of berries, peaches, pears, or nectarines as well as dried fruits like cranberries or cherries that also lend themselves well to goat cheese, brie, camembert, blue cheese and feta.
In addition to a few slices of purple onion, I top my summer salads with either toasted walnuts or pecans, or a combination of roasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds.
The salads are dressed with my selected fruit vinegar to which I add a little olive oil to taste.
The wine vinegars crafted with fresh fruit and fresh fruit juice are also delicious on ice cream, strong cheese and baked brie to name but a few other uses.
Simple evening meal ideas include chicken/grilled veggie kabobs served alongside rice and barbecue chicken, ribs or pulled pork paired with sweet potato fries and chipotle mayo, and a side of homemade coleslaw.
Even when you plan ahead for weekend guests, things are bound to be forgotten or you simply go through supplies quicker than expected. You’re wise to make note of the operating hours of local grocery, drug and convenient stores in advance of entertaining.
There you have it. Some of my favorite cottage entertaining tips. I hope you find these suggestions helpful in planning your next weekend visit with family and/or friends.