I have so many friends that are intimidated by the thought of entertaining.
Maybe they think this:
Maybe they didn’t grow up in a family that did it regularly and easily (thank you Mom!) Maybe they over think it all and get paralyzed. It really can be fun and easy! I’d love to walk you through a lovely grown up fun dinner party and break it down for you without it being formal & scary
End Goal: fun for you and your guests!
A few basic tips first
- Start small try asking only 4 or 5 people -maybe 2 other couples if you are with a partner or maybe 5 people if you’re single. Don’t stress a lot about the mix – if they are your friends they must be fairly congenial people!
- Don’t obsess about cleaning and decorating -tidy up and turn the lights down.
- Do as much as you can ahead and pick some easy tried and true recipes.
- When people ask what they can bring – a grown up dinner party isn’t a potluck -ask them to just bring themselves ready for a fun evening or at most suggest a bottle of wine.
- If you work full time (& I do) schedule for a non-work night so you have time to have fun with the whole thing from preparing right through to thanking your guests for coming.
Breaking it down
- Figure out a menu that you feel comfortable with and can prep ahead as much as possible.
- Start with a protein and pair it with a couple of sides -keep it to three things to simplify.
- Next consider a store bought appetizer and dessert that you can plate up but don’t have to make yourself -or work to your own strengths! Make dessert and buy a main course…
- Think seasonally – heartier in the winter/lighter in the summer and write out a menu list and let that drive the grocery list.
- While you are grocery shopping buy some fresh flowers for the table.
- Get out your good china (why not use it?) and put out some candles too.
- Make your guests feel special with nice touches that you can manage -don’t let this become drudgery and a tiring ordeal. Please yourself too. Making your dinner party a bit dressed up doesn’t mean drop dead formal.
Here’s a recent dinner party we did
I picked up some pretty flowers at the grocery store -I love flowers and arranging them. I decided to make a centerpiece for the table.
Pro Tip: they can look just as nice plopped in a mason jar or cluster of little glass bottles.
The bowl I wanted to use was too wide so I used a drinking glass inside of it to hold the flowers in shape more easily. I added some greenery first to give a little structure that would support the flowers. I picked a monochromatic palette this time -but color is fun too. Just pick some flowers that will look nice with your table cloth and dishes. I arranged mine into a loose round shape and tucked a little reindeer moss into the bowl around the drinking glass. Pro Tip: put a couple of flowers in the powder room too.
To set the table I wanted to use my colorful pretty plates. Since they have a such strong pattern I went with white linens and softly colored flowers. This part of making your table lovely and welcoming should be fun. I never worry about the “correct” silverware and what order it’s in -I just put down whatever I think we’ll actually need for the meal.
This time our table just has knives and forks & a dessert fork at the top of the plate. You can also tell I didn’t bother to iron the table cloth – it didn’t bother me and I figured the flowers and plates were pretty enough to distract. Trying to iron a tablecloth would have stressed me out -not one of my skills. Remember -work to your own strengths!
Pro Tip: Check in advance if your guests are vegetarian or have allergies or dietary restrictions and plan accordingly.
On to the food ~ on our dinner menu for six:
Spreads & Crackers / Wine & Cocktails
Grilled Filet Mignon steaks
Buttery Oven Roasted Potatoes with Parsley
Roasted Asparagus & Cherry Tomatoes
Lemon Cake (store bought slipped on to a cake plate)
For the “befores” as we like to call them I bought two kinds of cheese spreads and two kinds of hummus and put them out with some crackers & crisps. I made it look nice by arranging it all in little bowls on a platter -bowls all prepared ahead & refrigerated with plastic wrap and crackers added just before serving. We chilled some wine and put out cocktail makings & had plenty of non-alcoholic choices too (or as we say at our house “we fired up The Poodle Bar”). Casual, good and easy!
Pro Tip: make a time line and work in reverse to plan out when you need to do stuff. Start with what time you want to sit down to dinner and plug in how long to cook things, preheat oven etc prior.
My husband grilled the steaks on the patio, it was a cold day but he’s brave. We took them out of the fridge a few hours before dinner to come to room temperature and seasoned them with salt and pepper. I put a piece of parchment paper over the platter I wanted to serve them on and put the raw meat on the parchment. Put the meat on the grill, throw out the parchment -then put finished meat back on the still clean platter. Steaks should rest about 10 minutes after cooking and this gives you time to pull out all of the sides you have pre-done!
The sides were prepped well in advance of the party and only had to go in the oven. For the Buttery Potatoes I made them that morning but you could even do the day prior. They always get rave reviews when I serve them. Start with Russet Potatoes. Peel and dice them. Cook in salted water until just done and drain. Return them immediately to the still hot pot you just cooked them in and gently toss them to dry them and slightly rough up their surface.
Place them in a casserole/baking dish you can serve them in. Season them with some salt and white pepper. Then pour over a stick of melted butter and mix to coat all of the potatoes. At this point you can cover them and refrigerate them. They need to bake at 375 for about an hour -I pull out of fridge about half hour ahead so I am not putting them into the oven ice cold. Bake them until they are golden and starting to brown on the tips. Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley or dill. No real recipe -but I used about 8 medium russets and one stick of butter. There were some left over after serving 6 for dinner but we were OK with that!
For the other side dish I did oven roasted asparagus and cherry tomatoes. I had it all prepped and ready to go in the oven on a baking tray in advance.
Wash the veggies well and place on a parchment covered baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and toss gently to coat. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast at 375 for about 25 minutes. Place on a pretty serving platter and it’s ready to go.
The dessert was all made -I just pulled it out and served it.
Since this was a real dinner party -I failed to take photos of the finished food & serving. I was enjoying the evening and my guests! With an easy menu you can spend most of your time with your guests and not slaving away in the kitchen.
Pro Tip: if you feel unsure of yourself practice on your family -they’ll enjoy it!
Let me know if I can help you! I love giving dinner parties and entertaining -so I’m happy to answer any questions or help you plan a menu. Just leave me any questions in the comments.