Husband and I are on vaca this week, soaking up each other and the California sun before school craziness begins, but I’m hoping my readers are planning dinner parties while I’m away and are wanting some inspiration.
I’ve been obsessed with this article lately and even though it describes iconic dinner parties of the wealthy, I believe hosting in the home is an attainable ideal, even for more moderate income families. Armed with a pile of cookbooks and shelves of new wedding gifts, I’ve been caught up in flurry of entertaining in an attempt to “bring back” the dinner party.
I quickly discovered, however, after scheduling with guests and planning the meal and shopping for the ingredients and cleaning the house and setting the table and timing the preparations and making pleasant conversation, that there is a reason why the dinner party has gone out of style: It’s hard work! I haven’t given up, though. I’m still hoping the warmth of my home and integrity of the food is worth the trade off of making a dinner reservation. We’ll see if my ideals hold up after a couple more gatherings…
Anyway…a casual gathering is nice because it can be small, relaxed, and loosely organized. A simple phone call can suffice for the invitation and no fuss is needed over place settings. Here are a couple tips that have helped me over the last couple of weeks:
1. I spend way more time preparing my house than I do preparing the food. People might forget a sour bite, but the memory of a dirty bathroom lasts forever.
2. I’ve learned the hard way to ask in advance about any food allergies or strong dislikes.
3. I work to create a seasonal menu that I can perfect and repeat with different guests (i.e. cold salads and fruit desserts in the summer).
4. I want to serve simple foods full of natural, flavorful ingredients, with just a taste of something different that my guests may not take the time to do at home (i.e. green salads with berries, feta, and granola or a baked meringue). It’s impressive enough that you invited someone over-no need to go overboard with attempts at an impossible Pinterest creation!
5. I want to be able to pour drinks and start chatting with my guests as soon as they arrive, so I aim for 90% of food work to be completed and ready before start time. Guests don’t want to see you sweat over their food!
6. Give yourself more time than you think you’ll need. There’s always something that comes up last minute like spots on glasses or empty tanks of propane or squishy vegetables and you’ll want it to be calmly handled before impressing guests. No need to ruin the illusion of your perfect hosing capabilities.
That should do it! Host away! Send me pictures!
P.S. Here are a few photos from a recent gathering: