Wednesday, November 28, 2007

How to Throw a Dinner Party and Keep Your Sanity

Oh, the fun of arriving at a house and feeling the spark that tells you that you are going to have a good time.
-Mark Hampton

Let's talk about dinner parties. The Food Network makes it look so easy! Paula Deen, Rachel Ray and Michael Chiarello effortlessly pull together a several course meal that is beautifully plated and ready to go before guests even arrive! This, my friends, is not possible in the real world. I do love my Food Network shows, but they are not reality TV. When it comes to entertaining, the dinner party is the hardest event to pull off. Almost once a month I throw a dinner party, either family dinners, dinners for friends, or dinners with work colleagues. Every single time, about one hour before people arrive, I ask myself, "What was I thinking?!!" Then, as the minutes tick away, I realize yet again, that I am not and never will be Martha Stewart. There will not be lemon slices in the water, nor individual place cards at each setting and perfectly pressed linen napkins. In fact, on at least two occasions there was not even time to take a shower, but guests didn't seem to notice. I find that candle light and lots of good wine hide a multitude of sins. And yes, the enormous effort involved in throwing a dinner party, is worth it. Just make sure to give yourself a few days to recover after it is all over.

Let's look at the basics of a good dinner party:

The Purpose of a Dinner Party
. Dinner parties are all about great conversation and good food. Celebrating a special occasion or accomplishment only adds to the fun.

The Guest List
. Guests are the ‘Rock Stars’ at a dinner party. To create a memorable event, bring the right players to the table.

· How many to invite? Decide how many people can sit comfortably at your dinner table. I can seat eight with plenty of leg room, or a very cozy ten.

· Who to invite? The success of any dinner party hinges on the invitation list. The food can be spectacular, but if guests feel like they can’t, or won’t talk to each other, the party might as well be a wake. The key is to invite a mix of people who will naturally talk and laugh when brought together. How do you do this? Make sure connections between your guests already exist or will easily arise. Guests who don’t expect to see each other again, will not make an effort to mingle.

Food and Drink
. A dinner party menu should not be complicated. Good simple food made with quality ingredients is always the best choice. Choose an entrée that always tastes delicious, and build the meal around it. If you don’t cook, find something you love from at a caterer. I like to build my dinner party menu around a marinated rosemary beef tenderloin. Let’s look at a sample menu.



Assorted cheeses, a crusty baguette and smoked salmon

Cocktails – Gin & Tonics, Martinis, Scotch & Water, Wine

First Course

Baby salad greens, red, orange and yellow peppers with balsamic vinagarette

White Wine – Chardonnay


Marinated rosemary beef tenderloin, twice-baked potatoes and grilled asparagus

Red Wine – Cabernet Sauvignon


Grapes, strawberries, lemon bars and fudgy brownies

Espresso coffee and After Dinner Drinks – Port, Sambucca, Limoncello, Cognac

. Conversation and food are the entertainment/activities at a dinner party. To keep conversation lively, I like to bring up a few topics of interest for all guests. Its good to have a mix of subjects, some humorous and some involving current issues. It’s also nice to focus the conversation with a toast during the entrée. This can be a toast to the guests or a celebratory toast recognizing the accomplishment of one individual.

Staging and Flow.
When throwing a dinner party, plan on using three rooms: the living room, dining room and the kitchen. The beauty of a dinner party in a Jewel Box Home is that all these rooms are close together, so guests never feel neglected and you are able to be part of the action.

Good luck with your next dinner party and let me know how it goes!


1 comment:

  1. Young woman,
    I love your concept and hope this is wildly successful. If anyone knows how to make this work it is you.......Meg and I wish you the best in your new endeavor. We are out of the US now and back next week and would love to talk with you about this business.

    Best wishes to you.

    Dick and Meg Cagney