Traditional Superbowl food — wings and ribs — is saucy and eaten with your hands. It’s messy food. A thoughtful host will provide a means of cleaning up beyond lots of napkins. When I was a busboy at La Panetiere in 1972, I relished preparing our finger bowls and presenting them to guests who may have just consumed a luscious Mustard-and-Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb. It was my responsibility to keep our silver bowls brightly shined. If I had anemones left over from my flower arranging, I would float several brightly colored petals and squeeze a bit of fresh lemon juice into the pleasingly warm water. Otherwise, one perfectly fluted lemon slice, seeds carefully removed, floating in the water. Details mattered — especially at those prices. But, mostly it was a matter of aesthetics and pride.
I love the presentation of moist, warm towels in Japanese restaurants — a tradition that sadly seems to be slipping away — including my dinner at Sagami last night. Well, your Superbowl Party is a long way from flower petal enhanced silver finger bowls or refined Japanese restaurants, but your guests’ messy fingers await your thoughtful response. Below is an Entertaining margin note about Refreshing Towels from At Home along with how-to make and hold warm or cold towels. I love to welcome guests to a summer’s backyard party with ice cold towels, but for Superbowl fingers, warm towels are best.
At our restaurant City Bites, when guests arrived at their tables they were quickly presented with small, warm, rolled towels. We wanted our guests to begin their time with us refreshed. We borrowed this custom from Japanese restaurants. It’s something simple you can do at home. Inexpensive white cotton washcloths are available at discount stores and they can be washed and reused. It’s particularly nice to infuse the towels with the scent of lemon or rosemary. Once towels are well moistened, fold in half and roll. To present rolled towels, place them on a plate or small rectangular platter and pass. Make the empty platter available for guests to drop their used towels.
Preparing Hot Towels
To make warm towels, preheat oven— you can use the toaster oven—to 225°. Run tap water until hot and moisten towels until wet. Squeeze until just damp, fold in half, and roll. Wrap towels in foil and hold in oven until ready to present. Depending on how hot your tap water, it will take 10-20 minutes in the oven. Towels should be nearly hot without being so hot as to be painful to the touch.
Preparing Cold Towels
To make cold towels, run tap water until it’s as cold as possible and moisten towels until wet. You can squeeze some fresh lemon juice or a touch of rosewater into the water for added fragrance. (Rosewater is available in Middle Eastern and Indian markets.) Squeeze until just damp. Wrap in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for at least one hour before you’re ready to present them to your guests. If you’re in a hurry, you can make an ice bath and get the towels cold immediately
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Your Home Entertaining Coach