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This Week's Question

What are your favorite hostess gifts?

From Molly - St. Louis, MO

For a hostess gift, I prefer not to bring something that the host feels obliged to serve for dinner, but instead I bring something they can serve after dinner, like a box of Fran's Chocolate's caramels, or for breakfast the next day, like my favorite coffee and granola. 

What would be a good dish to make out of Cooking for Jeffrey on our anniversary as dessert?

From Trey - Okmulgee, OK

I would make Vanilla Rum Panna Cotta with Salted Caramel. It's easy because you can make the Panna Cotta the day before, and all you need to do is drizzle the warm caramel on top before serving. 

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Do you serve salad at the beginning of a meal or the end? As I understand it is a European/American difference?

From Andrea - Venice, Fl

Both are perfectly fine. It's definitely a french custom to serve salad after the main course, but I prefer to serve it first. 

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What charcoal grill do you recommend?

From Julie Mangum - Georgia

I use a 22.5" Weber grill.

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When you have guests...How do you get the food to the table warm if not indeed hot...without cooking in front of them? You certainly must have the figured out.

From Cathy Henning - Petaluma, CA

make a game plan for the dinner before I finalize the menu, and I tend to make one thing in the oven, one thing on top of the stove, and one thing at room temp that I can make in advance. I either make the main course earlier in the day and reheat it, or I have the dish assembled and it goes into the oven before guests arrive. I try not to do any cooking while the guests are there. It takes a lot of planning, but I am so much more relaxed when everyone arrives. I hope that helps! 

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There are so many kinds of vinegar. Which ones do you suggest for a well stocked pantry?

From Nancy Weed - Wilmington, DE

I think the basic vinegars to have on hand are white wine and/or champagne, red wine and balsamic. I also use raspberry, apple cider, and sherry vinegars occasionally. 

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