One of my favorite extra-curricular activities in my adulthood is entertaining. I absolutely love having friends over for dinner throughout the year.
If I had to say when I was bitten by the bug it would have to be Superbowl freshman year of college. My roommate and I shared a room that was probably 10’x10’ sq. ft. So not a lot of room. But I somehow managed to make my mother’s Beef BBQ which I served with Lebanese Bread (that’s how we always eat it). It was a total hit. We had so many people knocking on our door to catch a glimpse of the game on my portable mini TV/VHS combo screen and be apart of our Superbowl Party. I consider that my first dinner party and after that I was hooked.
There’s something about inviting friends and family over to not only share a meal but also share conversation and enjoy the setting you’ve provided. I have to admit I’m good at it. I think that comes from my grandmother. She was one of those women who, when my grandfather would call from the office at 4 PM and say, “Mary, I’m bringing some people home for dinner,” she would reply without hesitation that it was not a problem. And without ever leaving her house she could prepare a meal that would be worthy of any Instagram feed today. That’s a talent that not everyone possesses. I mean, there are some people who don’t even care about food!
So what are the most important things to consider when entertaining? In addition to the overall goal of your guest’s comfort and enjoyment,
- Menu. Try to have a mix of
mostlythings you can make ahead with just a few items that you need to make a la minute. Otherwise, your guests will be without you for most of the evening.
- Music. I cannot stress how important this is, both in terms of the playlist and volume. It’s the worst when there’s no music or the wrong music. And if it’s too loud the conversation will suffer. I recommend starting on Spotify and doing a search. They have some great playlists already made up or you can browse and make your own.
- Lighting. Make sure the lights are not too bright that there’s no atmosphere but not too dim that you need a miner’s light to see what you are eating.
- Table setting. Tend towards low flower arrangements and votive candles. They don’t get in the way or block your view of the person or people across from you. Remember to avoid anything too strong in this area, as well. Lilies are not good for dinner parties. And never light scented candles around food. They distract and annoy. Save these for the powder room.
- Format. For brunch, I lean towards a lovely buffet set out on the kitchen island. My go-to for dinner is plated. The Barefoot Contessa recommends family-style platters. Honestly, it’s up to you with what you are most comfortable with and what you do best.
- Linens. When you are entertaining, unless it’s really casual, always opt for cloth. It’s better for the environment and just classier. I myself am not a big fan of folding napkins so I’ve amassed a collection of flour sack towels that I just pull through a napkin holder and am good to go. Even better, they don’t need to be ironed.
- Welcome. Always, always, always have something for guests to nosh on when they arrive. There’s nothing worse than arriving
toa party and not having anything available to eat when you get there.
- Drinks. If you know your guest well, make sure you have available what they like. Martini drinkers – have the vodka and the lemons. Wine – have a selection available. Water – imperative. The first thing to do when guests arrive
is taketheir coat and offer them a drink. Once they have one in their hands explain what noshes you have and encourage them to take part. There’s no need to wait until anyone else arrives, just dig in.
- Bathroom. Make sure your bathroom is clean, well-stocked with soap, towels and toilet tissue and even a plunger for any emergencies. Think about what you would want if you were somewhere. I also recommend lighting a candle and also having a fresh cut flower or herbs in a vase, if possible.
- Clean. This goes without saying but make sure your house is spit-spot from the entrance to the bathroom. Sweep the stoop, mop the floors, vacuum the carpet, wipe the counters and dust whatever needs dusting. No one wants to eat in a questionably clean environment.
I can probably come up with 10 more tips if I keep going. Maybe for next time. I’m just one of those people who pretty much always has some kind of dinner party on the calendar. In fact, as I write this, I have one next Saturday with 6 dear friends. Spring is a difficult menu time in this area. ButI settled on a personal favorite – Chilean Sea Bass with Mango Salsa, Sautéed Zucchini and Quinoa Risotto. I can’t wait! And I’m sure my guests can’t either.
- 2 cups Mango, diced
- 1 cup Red Bell Pepper, diced
- 1/2 cup Olive Oil
- 1/4 cup Red Onion, diced
- 1/4 cup Fresh Cilantro, chopped
- 1/4 cup Fresh Lime Juice
- Salt and Pepper tt
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss to combine. Season to taste.
- Allow to marinate at room temperature for an hour before serving.