She always had the matching plates and napkins set out at themed-style parties with everyone always "oooo, and ahhing" over her best kept recipes. I can tell you what made them so delicious: all the local ingredients. If my mom taught me one thing, it was to always search out local products from local people.
I grew up going to the farmers market every Sunday morning; we would gather up local fruit, vegetables and flowers. Out of the many reasons I love Grand Rapids, local is first. Localharvest.org is one of my favorite sites for farmers markets and joining co-op programs for fresh produce. You can find gems like the Fulton Street Farmers Market, one of my favorite spots to find inspiration for new recipes and the urge to entertain.
Here are a few tips for entertaining locally.
1. Don't be afraid to ask questions.
Sound familiar? The people who bring their produce to the farmers market are extremely educated on local products: They are the ones who grow it! Ask them what's in season, what would go good with what, et cetera. (You get my drift.) Become friends with the farmers. Trust me.
2. Have your protein picked before you head to the market.
Now, this isn't a must, but I always find this helps me determine my sides and appetizers. When you cook with seafood, I suggest a few hearty sides since seafood is light. If you have decide on a heavier meat, grab some veggies to roast or a nice tossed kale salad.
3. If it's a great price and has a short season, buy it in bulk.
I love some deals on berries, and I know you're right there with me. Smoothies with frozen fruit. Done.
4. Flowers are always cheaper than at your local grocery store.
Grab some sunflowers for your party centerpiece and a few extras for your party guests.
5. Relax! Simplistic is key.
Find some DIY options online for decorative items and spice up the place with some music and fun icebreaker games. Suggest your party guests bring their own beer or wine. Don't forget to make clean-up easy—foil, parchment paper, skewers and one pan meals—they're your best friends.
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Written by Marie Catallo, media consultant for West Michigan Woman.
Photo courtesy of Fulton Street Farmers Market.