Why Not . . . Have A Dinner Party? Part Deux
Wednesday November 24, 2010

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The guests have arrived, the house is primed and polished and you are looking absolutely fabulous, now is the time to let your attention to detail rise to the occasion. Last week, the series began with ideas on how to prepare, this week we’ll share those little details that ensure a fantastic evening is had by each of your guests as well as yourself.

Winning Recipes

When planning your menu, stick to recipes that you have tried in the past and have had great success with.  Also, be sure to have included a few recipes that can be made in advance, so you aren’t stuck in the kitchen cooking away while your guests are enjoying themselves.  After all, they really do want your company, so make sure you are able to enjoy the gathering as well. Another thing to think about are the bookends of the food dishes – the appetizers and the dessert. Here are my thoughts on both.

The first thing your guests will taste is your carefully planned hors de hourves, so make sure it is a show stopper that leaves them in awe (here are a few that my guests have loved warm bruschetta, fontina cheese tartlet, and panko crusted shrimp with mustard & herb mayonnaise) ultimately, whetting their appetites for the dinner itself.

Secondly, just as you began on a very high note, be sure to end on an unforgettable one as well. Serve a dessert that eliminates instantaneously any so-so dish memories that you might have been served during your dinner.  As far as making a dessert, there are two thoughts, make it the day before, or, if you’ve made everything else yourself for the evening, reward yourself and your guests with a decadent treat from your favorite bakery, delicatessen or patisserie. There should be absolutely no guilt involved, and you’ve also eliminated a bit of stress due to the time you’ve saved.

A Stunning Powder Room

I will admit that when I step into someone’s powder room and shut the door, I take everything in. I notice the decor, the lighting (especially the lighting) and the overall aesthetic of the room. Keeping this in mind, it is imperative that as a hostess, you pay attention to the details in your powder room: make sure the lighting is flattering, the towels are plush and soft, beautiful hand soaps and/or lotions are readily available for your guests to use and add some fresh flowers if there is room.  The key is to make it an inviting and quiet sanctuary that will quietly impress your guests. They may not say it, but they will appreciate it.

A Flattering Light

There are many ways to create the best lighting for your dinner party. If you have dimmers, you are good to go, but if you don’t, consider switching out your bright 100 watts bulbs for 25 or 40 watts (you can switch them back the next day), or use only lamps and sconces instead of any overhead lighting (if a dimmer isn’t available).  Another idea is to use candles – real or battery powered. Whatever you do, the idea is make sure your guests are comfortable. Nobody likes bright, fluorescent light, so do everyone a favor and set an inviting mood by dimming the lights.

White Dishes

There are many ways to dress a table for a dinner party, but I tend to follow the thinking of a lady who continually inspires me with her cooking and approach to entertaining – Ina Garten – less is more and stick with the classics, letting the food and the conversation do the talking (pun not intended).  Simple white dishes or fancifully textured white dishes can all be used, mix and matched, it really is up to you, but the fact that they are all white in and of itself creates a strikingly simple theme. Add white votives in clear glass holders, a beautiful monochromatic bouquet of flowers that is low so that people can see above them easily, and viola, you have a very inviting, simple and luxurious tablescape.

A Winsome Combination

The question always remains, to assign or not to assign, and I  have to say, there is no hard and fast rule that must be followed each time.  I believe the situation and the people you’ve invited determine if assigned seats are necessary.  If however, you would like to take a bit of control, here are a few things I would try to do: separate couples, try to seat each person next to one person they are comfortable with and one person they’d enjoy meeting, seat the big talkers, the life-of-the-party people towards the center of the table (not at the ends) because most likely they will be able to keep the topics flowing all night and try to seat yourself some place other than the head so you can help create conversation.

Now let the dinner party begin! Bring on the food, the friends and the unforgettable conversations filling your home with laughter and tales.  I know some people shy away from dinner parties, as they can be exhausting, but if you can create a system that works for you, you will create memories that your guests will remember for years to come.  All of the ten tips I have shared this week and last are things that I have found work best for me, but it has been a process.  I have had tremendous failures that I look back and ask why did I do that?, but I’ve also had great successes, and it is in the throwing out what doesn’t work and continuing to do what has that will ultimately continually make for better dinner parties in the future. In other words, don’t feel guilty about buying dessert – that was a HUGE revelation for me. 🙂

Have a wonderful Wednesday and thank you so much for your support and continued readership of The Simply Luxurious Life.


3 thoughts on “Why Not . . . Have A Dinner Party? Part Deux

  1. Wonderful thoughts! I am a big believer in white plates and plenty of table accessories!

    Thank you for stopping by Splendid Market! We have snow too — it was so hard to leave it all yesterday! I can’t complain, we’re in NY for Thanksgiving. I agree – the snow makes it feel like the holidays (that’s my thanksgiving post I wrote on the plane!)

    We are off to baltazar for lunch, the last time we were there we sat near Ana Wintour!! I’ll let you know if anything exciting happens!!

    Happy Thanksgiving Shannon!

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