Just about every weekend, I’m in the kitchen…cooking for myself or sometimes for my clients. And, when I’m in the kitchen, I like to listen to music. Quiet makes me too ADD. The tunes are either on my iPhone on the sound dock or on Spotify on my laptop (I tend to use my laptop for web recipes, so it’s usually out.) Everything from Lyle Lovett and Bruce Springsteen to Regina Spektor and Alabama Shakes…it just depends on my mood. But there is always music. 

When I started writing this post two weeks ago, I saw a piece on Ina Garten’s blog about music for parties. One of the things she mentioned was how awkward it is to walk into someone’s house for a dinner party or any other fun occasion and the house is SILENT. Agreed. Music helps everyone feel comfortable. Whether it’s the Buena Vista Social Club greeting guests for a Cuban-themed evening or Rosemary Clooney for a classic cocktail party, music helps set the tone, too. When you are having people over, it is essential. An ice breaker, if you will.

If you’re not sure what to play, think about the occasion, the guests, etc, to figure out the overall vibe you want. You might consider loosely pairing genres of food and music…ie: Mexican, Italian, cocktails, etc, but don’t make it too matchy-match…it should just flow. Check out music sites like Spotify, Pandora, MOG, etc. You can play around with the genre and find a starting point or get ideas, then put together a playlist that’s about three hours in length. And as Ina suggests, don’t make the music at the end of the party too mellow – you want to keep the fun going, not put people to sleep.

I have a great friends, Amy and Chip, who entertain casually often and I’m usually lucky enough to be included on the fun. They are the consummate hosts…always filling your glass, offering delicious hors d’oeuvres and making everyone feel at home. Chip is a huge music guy – he even blogs about it. When you arrive, there’s always good music playing and you feel like it’s party. Good stuff. Don’t get me wrong, great food and cocktails are nice, but for me, the music kinda pulls it all together. (A great group of friends helps, too!)

Many years ago, I was a babysitter for a family that lived way out in the country. I vividly remember when I arrived at the farm house to meet with them, Lyle Lovett’s “Here I Am” was BLARING from the house. I immediately knew that these were cool people! (They also introduced me to the French press…that’s a story for another time…) It’s not that your music defines you completely…but it certainly helps figure out what you’re like…and your cooking and entertaining style does that, too.

When I have guests at my house, I keep things simple, by doing cocktail “snackage”, very rarely a full-on dinner. Opening jars of things like really good olives, nuts, tapanade, etc, and preparing a few things from scratch, putting together a gorgeous cheese and fruit platter, creating one signature cocktail (loosens everyone up!), making sure there is beer and wine everyone will love…and getting all of this done while listening to fun music to get myself in the party spirit. Man, I love a good party…don’t you?

Do you listen to music when you cook? How about music for a cocktail or dinner party? What’s your style?