Entertaining Notes - featuring Fran Berger

Fran Berger is a restaurateur and entrepreneur. More than two decades ago she opened The Farm, a quaint dining establishment in the heart of Beverly Hills, and quickly turned her restaurant into a local landmark. Fran is a fresh face on daytime TV and an expert in home entertaining and sophisticated living. Her credits include appearances on Hallmark’s Emmy-nominated lifestyle program, Home & Family, as well as publications including Beverly Hills Magazine, Inspirations & Celebrations, and many more.

When I opened The Farm I had been entertaining my whole life and I felt that it was time to bring my love for entertaining and passion for sophisticated living to many more people. The Farm gave me an opportunity to entertain groups of all sizes. The work launched a new chapter in my life, leading me to become more organized than I ever thought possible and enabling me to entertain with more ease and frequency.

My mother was the greatest influence on my entertaining style - she always knew how to bring together a great group of people. She showed me how some of the easiest things to make can also be the most impressive. Her parties were always a hit – made rich with her natural grace, fascinating conversations and an abundance of delicious dishes.

The most interesting cocktail party that I’ve thrown happened after I launched my brand earlier this year. I absolutely love caviar, and nothing goes better with caviar than champagne and vodka – right? I decided to throw a caviar-tasting party, with each guest bringing their favorite bottle of bubbles as their price for admission. I set the table with silver and crystal, had four different types of caviar with all the fixings, and added some smoked fish and potatoes. With all of the bubbles and chilled vodka, it was a massive hit! Now, everyone wants to know when the next caviar party will be!

One of my signature recipes is Bloody Mary Soup. A very dear girlfriend of mine shared her mother’s recipe as I had been looking for something new to serve to my party guests. When I tried it, I was a believer! I add Chopin Vodka at the beginning of the cooking process so that the alcohol will burn off by the time the soup is finished; this way, guests who don’t want to drink alcohol will still get some vodka flavor. For the rest of us, I top off the soup with a shot of Chopin. I add my pickled French green beans as a garnish instead of celery sticks. It’s spectacular!

The most important tip for any party is to never run out of food or ice. Party food doesn’t need to be fancy, it just needs to taste good. Also, nobody wants to run out to buy ice in the middle of a party. The bar doesn’t need to be complicated, it just needs to have good vodka, tequila, gin and whisky; with good quality bottles of those four spirits and a few mixers you have the beginnings of a great evening.

With music, it’s important to keep two things in mind: the activities that you have planned and the guests that you’ve invited. I’ve found that classic R&B suits most occasions, however, I prefer to keep the volume soft as the music is meant to create atmosphere, not to create an obstacle to shout over.

When it comes to drinking Chopin Vodka, I’m a purist. My favorite drink is Chopin in a highball glass with a very large ice cube and a twist of lemon. I want to be able to taste the vodka, as flavor profiles have always been important for me. I decided many years ago that I preferred potato vodka to the grain-based vodkas that I had been drinking. I once asked a bartender for the smoothest potato vodka that he had and he gave me Chopin. Since then, it’s the only vodka that I drink.