Secrets of a Successful Dinner Party, Part II

Tuna, guacamole, cucumbers. Yum.
Tuna, guacamole, cucumbers. Yum.

This is part 2, in a multi-part series. If you missed part 1, you can find it here. By now you have figured out how many people you can seat, and therefore, how many people you can invite to your super awesome successful dinner party. You are ready to send invitations, when panic strikes: Now that these people are coming over, what am I going to serve?

Here we will talk about drinks and appetizers. Imagine this scenario: twelve people show up at your house, within about fifteen minutes of each other. Being a good host, you want to make sure people have a beverage and can relax. You ask what they would like to drink. “I’d love a vodka tonic.”, “Red wine for me” “Do you have any chardonnay?” “Are you blending? Can we do margaritas?” Does that sound like a nightmare? There would be no way for you to actually talk to your guests, or even serve any type of food, since you would be making drinks all night.

Instead, picture this: the same twelve people arrive, and as they come in you offer them a glass of champagne. “May I offer you a glass of champagne to start the evening?” The glasses are already out, the cork has been popped, so all you need to do is pour. So much easier, right?

My suggestion is to have one welcome drink at the ready. This can be anything you like. Love margaritas? Go for it. Serve up some chips and salsa in a nice bowl, alongside. Do you have a huge mint plant in your backyard? (If you do, I seriously envy you. Anyway…) Why not mix up a pitcher of mojitos? All it takes is mint, lime, rum, sugar syrup and seltzer. And you can make it a little while before your guests show up, so you can be relaxed – or at least appear that way – when they arrive.

What if you run out? That is okay. Having a “welcome drink” on hand to serve first does not mean you need enough for all eternity. After one or two per person, move on to wine, beer, or whatever else you like.

Meanwhile, as your guests are settling in, chatting, and drinking your amazing mojito, it is probably a good idea to have a little nosh on hand. Here are three easy suggestions for quick, yet impressive appetizers:

  • Baked Brie. I love this one because people rave and rave about it, yet it takes all of 1 minute to prepare and 15 minutes to bake. Get a round of brie from your local store and place in an oven proof dish, preferably not too much larger than the cheese. Drizzle some honey over the top, and sprinkle with either dried cranberries or cherries, or chopped mixed nuts. Stick in oven at 375 for 15-20 minutes. Serve with a baguette, and enjoy the compliments as they come rolling in.
  • Seared tuna. I know, I know… searing fish doesn’t sound easy. It is. And it is quick. Let your piece of tuna sit out for a few minutes so it is not refrigerator cold (maybe 10 minutes). Dust with salt, pepper, garlic and cumin. Place into super hot frying pan for about 1-2 minutes on each side. Take out, let rest, and refrigerate (it will make it easier to slice). Slice tuna and place on top of cucumber rounds with a sliver of avocado.
  • Chips and dips. You can buy these. Get some pita chips and tortilla chips, a good salsa, a nice hummus and an onion dip (you can make that one with a container of sour cream and a packet of onion soup mix). Serve in pretty bowls.

So far it seems doable, right? Invite friends, make a pitcher of drinks and buy some chips. So far, so good. We are well on our way. Stay tuned next time for the “dinner” part of “dinner party.”