10 steps to the perfect dinner party

my table last night, actually set up the night before
last night we had the perfect dinner party, it occurred to me that not everyone knows how to throw the perfect dinner party {with ease} I decided to write a post about how I throw one, and manage to enjoy every aspect as much as the actual party. the key to making everything easy is organization. it starts with organizing your entertaining pantry, and kitchen in a way that you can put your hands on everything.

so with this said...
number 1. Organize your kitchen and kitchen pantry +

this is my pantry:

an entertaining pantry like this is a fantasy space, but you get the picture:)

create an entertaining pantry, this should have:
napkins, linen and paper, place mats a table cloths, and table runners
plates from starters to dinner to dessert
wine rack with a nice selection of wine
wine glasses
collection of vases, small medium and large
candles + votives
bar area with highballs, martini glasses and shakers + alcohol and all the fixings like olives
mixers and sparkling waters

2. Invite guests and begin to formulate a menu, if the guest list is more than 8 people, keeping the menu simply and combining things you prepare with store bought items makes things less stressful. I like making things like Coq Co Vin, anything in a pot, or in the oven that can last and even get better as it stays warm is a great choice.

keep it simple and repeat this makes an impact and easy to see guests over this arrangement.
3. Once you have shopped for the party the day before, put everything away and set your table.
I buy flowers a couple days before and put them in my garage in a bucket of water, if it's hot outside find a place in the house where it's cooler. I like to set the table in a relaxed fashion the night before and do all the flowers then , it makes it so much more enjoyable, and certainly less stressful the day of the party, you can concentrate on your cooking and plating.

if your entertaining pantry is stocked you can create a wonderful table scape like this.
  4. Day of the party, make a time line, write it down! I like to look at all the prep time and make a plan according to that. I have to say I have learned a ton from all the chefs and food stylists I have worked with over the years, about prep and timing. The main thing that I have learned is the preparing food early is fine, and having a few things at room temp is fine, in fact it takes the pressure off. So structure your menu with this in mind. In other words if you roast several chickens, they should sit out to rest, and can actually rest for awhile {about an hour}. Your dessert can be prepped and set out {like baked goods, such as tarts} or trifle can hang in the fridge. Set out deconstructed parts of your dessert and assemble it right before guests arrive, in the case of a pavlova. Make ice cream and cookies the day before.
In other words think like a chef or caterer and they always prep ahead, they have to. Believe me this will relieve alot of stress. You should be finished with everything {but the salad} at least 1 1/2 hour before your guests arrive, time to spruce yourself up you will be relaxed when guests arrive. I usually put together the appetizer tray just before everyone gets here, nibbles, not to heavy enough to enjoy with drinks, nuts, cheese and balsamic jelly, and crackers, olives or pate.

something as simple as bread sticks and flavor oil makes a great starter with drinks

simple bruschetta with ricotta cheese and arugula and blueberries to start your party.
 5. Greet guest with a drink, wine or a cocktail, offer nibbles, and have a nice conversation with guests. Your entree should be finished, and warm. Make your salad and plate it while guests chat, and have guests help put the first course salad on the table, it breaks the ice and lets guest feel more comfortable about where they should sit.

signature drinks are always a great touch, this rosemary lime gin drink would be great paired with truffle popcorn!
 6. Buffet or plated. I tell people that buffet style is an easy an casual way to entertain. Make sure all your food is on beautiful serving plates, no pots the buffet table, unless it's a gorgeous pot, like a paella pan, or cool wok. Encourage guests to get up and serve themselves. It's your job as a host to tell guests what to do next, believe me they will appreciate your direction.
Plated is great, just make sure you have an assistant, someone running plates to the table. WIPE YOUR PLATES, all chefs wipe the plate, the plate should be clean around the edges, make it clean and artistic.

7. Allow people to linger, let people enjoy the food, put wine and water on the table , pretty bottles of water like Pellegrino placed on the table, not only look great but encourage people to help themselves and pour for other guests { something this simple will make guests mingle and chat especially if this is the first time they have met}. Wine on each end of the table is a must. Relax and enjoy the conversation. You should be visiting and not jumping up and down at the table.

8. Clear plates and don't wash the dishes. Rinse and put dishes in the sink. NOTHING WORSE THAN PEOPLE CLEANING UP DURING A DINNER PARTY. DON'T DO IT!

9. Coffee and dessert and after dinner drinks. This is the best time to just chill with your guests. Serve dessert and hang out.

10. Clean up most of the dinner party after guests have left, save some things for the next day, put away left overs, and pat yourself on the back, you have thrown the perfect dinner party!

The Art of a Perfect Dinner Party, is a skill set that takes time, but the more you do it the more you will get good at it. You will get your rhythm and hone your timing.

Here are some easy menus that make it easy to entertain a crowd.

Starter~ Mixed Olives { buy these} Truffle Pate, French bread, and sliced salami. Wine
Salad~   Arugula, roasted beets, and apple, with walnuts feta and lemon balsamic vinaigrette
Dinner~ Coq Co Vin, boiled potato fingerlings with butter salt and parsley
Dessert~Tarte Tatin and vanilla whip cream, and espresso, lemoncello

Starter~ Almonds, flat bread {buy these} and hummus {make this day before}, olives and grape leaves {buy these}
Salad~   Greek salad
Dinner~ Sun dried Tomato grilled flank steak, grilled veggies {veggies can be done ahead and left at room temp} Taztziki
Dessert~ Baklava {made a day in advance} coffee

Starter~ Truffle popcorn
Salad~   Caprese Salad
Dinner~ Fish in individual parchment bags with Mediterranean vegetables, and foccacia { made in the morning}
Dessert~ Meyer lemon pudding, with biscotti {made a few days ahead} coffee

Meyer Lemon puddings are a great finish and can be made ahead of time.

thanks pinterest for some the cool images*

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