No one goes hungry at Joan and George Cathey's parties, even though their home ― a 100-acre ranch, farm, and vineyard in southwest Washington ― is named Starvation Peak. Every summer, with their friends Mike and Judy Williams, the Catheys host a down-home bash, dubbed Taste of the Hill, for about 120 friends. Guests wander among appetizer, salad, soup, main-dish, and dessert stations, sampling the bounty, then head over to the bar to fill their glasses with the house wine.
The party is packed with the flavors of the season and the region, from succulent cured salmon to sweet, dead-ripe blackberries. To pull their lavish spread together, the Catheys and their crew of relatives and friends start cooking weeks in advance. We adapted a smaller menu that serves eight and figured out some do-ahead possibilities (below). Call it a taste of the Taste of the Hill or just a relaxed get-together for a few good friends: Either way, it's a delicious meal for a warm summer evening.
Up to 1 day ahead: Prepare brie appetizer. Bake meringues.
Up to 4 hours ahead: Cure salmon. Make shrimp mixture for salad. Make berry mixture.
1 hour ahead: Rinse salmon and place on foil. Bake appetizer.
50 minutes ahead: Prepare sugar mixture for fish. Soak wood chips. Ignite charcoal or turn on gas grill.
40 minutes ahead: Make soup.
35 minutes ahead: Set wood chips on gas grill. Cook rice.
25 minutes ahead: Cook salmon.
10 minutes ahead: Cook green beans.
Just before serving: Assemble salad.
Just before serving dessert: Whip cream and assemble meringues.