This article is part of an interview series called Tools of the Trade, a column featuring expert-approved tips, tricks, and product recommendations. Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.
Sophia Roe has a knack for making people feel at home. She’s warm, easy to chat with, and doesn’t ask you how you’re doing just because it’s polite or expected—she really wants to know. She’s the kind of person you hope to get a dinner party invitation from because you know it’ll be an event (and menu) to remember.
Like many culinary greats, Sophia’s first job in food was in a small restaurant kitchen. She had just dropped out of college, needed money, and didn’t expect it to turn into her career. Now, over a decade later, she’s a James Beard Award-winning chef, writer, founder, and Emmy-nominated TV host known for her passion for not only celebrating the different facets of the culinary world, but also creating resources to help balance the inequalities and systemic flaws that are ever-present in our food systems.
Counter Space, her Emmy-nominated show on Tastemade, discusses food for what it is: news. In each episode, she works to strike the balance between viewing the foods, cuisines, and cultures she’s discussing through a chef’s lens and examining the global stories and bigger questions—what we eat, why we eat it, where that food comes from, and how it’s impacted by factors like climate change, global politics, and the economy—through a critical, journalistic lens.
While seeking to answer these deeper questions surrounding the foods we eat, Sophia dug into the idea of regional eating. Regional eating essentially means cooking things that naturally exist within a set mile radius of where you come from or where you live. For example, if you live in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, you wouldn’t be eating an abundance of avocados, açaí bowls, or plantains. “I think we don’t hear a lot about regional cooking,” she says. “But I’m really, really, really mindful about that. I eat what’s in season in my region and like to eat things that come from where I live. It’s very, very important to me.”
This mindset, of course, is evident in the recipes she develops in her culinary studio and test kitchen, Apartment Miso, but also in how she cooks for herself and others. If she invites you over for dinner in the winter, you’re not going to see a tomato-centric dish on the table. “I think food always tastes best when it’s in season,” Sophia says. “There’s nothing worse than asparagus in December. If it’s April, there better be artichokes, asparagus, leafy greens, lots of green peas, you know? If it’s summer, [I’m using] tomatoes and corn constantly. Seasonal food is just a must no matter what.”
Now that the last bit of spring chill has passed and we’re officially at the start of summer, we’ve been thinking a lot about warm-weather hosting here at Food52. We’ve been dreaming up the different dishes, drinks, accessories, and other goods we love to have on hand during the spring and summer months, especially when hosting. Anyone who loves to host knows it can be done year-round, but also understands it’s no secret that the summer is its peak. Barbecues, picnics, backyard brunches, garden cocktail hours—the options are endless when the sun stays out longer and the temperatures don’t drop low enough to make you wish you’d brought a jacket.
No stranger to hosting an unforgettable event (she hosted Edible Brooklyn’s winter-issue launch dinner back in December and a three-city tasting series with Perrier-Jouët earlier this year), we knew she’d be the perfect person to ask for tips and tricks around hosting. “I feel like there’s this expectation about throwing a party that you need to have your shit together, that everything needs to be perfect [and] tight,” Sophia says. “I think people need to remember like the art of gathering is that everyone who’s there wants to be there. They already like you. They already showed up. They accepted the RSVP. Just chill out and have fun.”
Below you’ll find the eight items Sophia loves and recommends for anyone wanting to host this summer.
Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Brut 2014 is Sophia’s favorite Champagne to enjoy during any event she hosts. “The Belle Epoque bottle and flutes hone the emblematic anemone flowers that are iconic to the brand and absolutely complete any tablescape by adding a floral touch to the look,” she says.
Editor’s note: Sophia has a partnership with Perrier-Jouët.
2. Minimalist White Ceramic Vases, $36+
“These minimalist vases are a must in my living room with some fresh and bright flowers lighting up the room,” Sophia says. “I think buying flowers for your house even when you’re not hosting because you deserve the joy of pretty flowers!”
3. Dansk Købenstyle Water Pitcher,
“I like to drink lots of water and I love this water pitcher because it is as aesthetic as it is useful,” Sophia says. “Decor doesn’t always have to be art hanging on the wall, sometimes it can be a pop of color in mundane objects that end up adding to your space.”
4. Recycled Tierra Picnic Caddy, $48
This picnic caddy is one of Sophia’s favorites thanks to its versatility and eco-conscious design. “The picnic caddy is a great item to have on hand because it can double as a decor element to spruce up the table!,” she says. “Also, I love that it is made from recycled products.”
Anyone who knows Sophia and her work knows her love for baked goods. “Pastries and desserts are one of my favorite items to make and a key part in hosting,” she says. “What better way to display a delish cake than with this recycled, hand-blown stand?!”
6. Hasegawa Lucano Step Ladder,
When you’re hosting, you don’t want to be left unable to reach that stack of extra serving dishes, the string lights that need to be adjusted, or anything else you on a taller shelf. “[This stool is] perfect for hanging lights, flowers, stacking plates on high shelves in tiny Brooklyn apartments, etc!,” Sophia says.
“I love using cocktail glassware in unconventional ways,” says Sophia. “I would use these for pass-around dishes, desserts, and even crudités!” These vintage-inspired glasses are available in sets of four (goblets, martinis, and coupes), a mixed set of six, or a mixed set of 12.
8. Handcrafted Walnut Wood Bowl, $110+
These handcrafted bowls come in small, medium, and large and feature a woodgrain pattern unique to each individual piece. Sophia’s reasoning for loving them as a hosting staple is simple: “If your spring gathering doesn’t have mounds of yummy, crisp, vibrant salads…what are you even doing?”
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