Secrets of a Successful Dinner Party, Part I

Individual desserts are beautiful and easy to make.

It usually works like this: I try to make plans with friends for dinner, we all look at our calendars, and dinner is scheduled for a month or two out. Well, since it is so far out, I should invite some other people, right? Might as well make it a full on dinner party. 

Friends come over, we eat, drink and enjoy ourselves, and each time there is someone in the group that announces that  they could never host a gathering like this. Either they are not such a good cook, or they just can’t wrap their heads around a whole dinner. I am here to tell you YOU CAN DO IT. And I am going to help. (But it will take more than one blog post, so this is the first in a four – possibly five – part series.)

The reason I am always having people over for dinner is that it is much more relaxed than going out, especially with a group. When you have eight or ten people at a restaurant, everyone sits in the same seats and only talks to two or three others. In a home, it is much easier to move around and talk to everybody. You can take your shoes off and relax, and sometimes you even get to bring your dog. (Ask Babka – she loves going to our friends homes for dinner, and does so frequently.)

The first step in throwing a successful dinner party is to be organized. Regardless of if you are serving burgers from the grill or an eight course menu, it doesn’t generally “just happen”, especially if you are not used to entertaining. Once you decide to host the dinner, you need to start several lists. This can be done on a notepad, or an app, but it cannot be done in your head, because you will forget things.

Look around your house and see how many people you can seat comfortably, and where. Are you going to set up a table or two outside? Can your never-used dining room seat 14 or 6? Where are you going to put people?

Once that is settled, it is time to start inviting. Remember the number of people you can seat. Do not invite more than that number of people. Trust me, I have done it, and it can get uncomfortable when people are squeezing in every which way. Pick a date and time for your soiree, and send out invitations. This can be as formal, or informal, as you like. Send a text, if you want, or send evites. Whatever works for you.

Back to that pesky list-making. Make a list of everyone you invited, so that you can keep track of RSVPs. It is important. You don’t want to set the table for eight, and have twelve people show up. If several people have conflicts and decline, you can either add others, or keep it intimate. It’s your party. You choose.

Once the guest list is squared away, you will want to note any food issues – like vegetarians or allergies. Now, you are ready to plan the rest of the party. Of course, you’re probably exhausted from all that editing of your evite,  so I’ll save the welcome drink, and appetizers for the next installment.