Spring arrived at the Museum of Fine Art in St. Petersburg with its annual Art in Bloom exhibit and fundraisers. The show premiered at Flowers After Hours, where guests mingled in the museum after it closed to the public to see the many floral installations arranged to mimic and complement works of art.
The guest speaker that evening at the museum and the following day at a luncheon at the Vinoy Renaissance Resort and Golf Club was cookbook author and Today show contributor Elizabeth Heiskell. The Mississippi Delta caterer's most recent book is What Can I Bring?: Southern Food For Any Occasion Life Serves Up.
"We bring something because that's how we show our host how much we appreciate the time and effort they've given us," she said. "They've swept up the dust bunnies. They've put out the good towels and the nice soap."
I asked a few guests at both events to tell me the standby they take when invited to dinner and came up with a wide variety of options.
Candy Scherer takes a skillet apple pie from a Southern Living cookbook.
"You start with brown sugar and butter first and that caramelizes under the pie crust. You use three kinds of apples," she said. "It's a winner every time."
"I like to take stuffed grape leaves," said Cleo Ekladyous, a native of Cairo. She buys leaves from Mazzaro's Italian Market and stuffs them with her own lamb or beef, rice, dill, mint, cumin, onions and a lot of lemon juice.
"I bring a pecan pie," said Sue Knipe, adding "and good vanilla ice cream."
Terry Llewellyn brings a vegetable, often squash. "I cook it with bacon grease 'til it caramelizes and add a little salt and pepper. That's all," she said.
Mary Anna Murphy makes spicy pimento cheese with aleppo peppers. She can't give away the recipe because it's a family secret.
"My go-to is a charcuterie board with cheese and fruit and maybe some meat. They are so in style now but I've been making them a long time," said Stephanie Dyer.
Caryn Rightmyer had the least complicated recipe by far.
"I brink an orchid," she said. "It's easy. They sell them everywhere. It can last. They look very elegant. Someone did that for me and I started doing it.''
Judy Holland said she always brings a good red wine and the host seems to appreciate that.
"I hate to be redundant but we take wine, too," said Elise Minkoff, who was sitting next to Holland.
"Sometimes we take a case with white and red. That guarantees an invite back," she added with a laugh.