Hosting a sit down, elegant dinner party seems to be getting tossed aside for more casual affairs these days.
Don’t get me wrong. I love block parties where you bring your own main course to grill, plus a side dish to share. And I’m certainly no stranger to the pot luck, group effort. They’re fun and remove major stress from the hostess.
But what I really love to give are lingering dinner parties, proceeded by cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. Then followed by Cognac, dessert and espresso.
Guests usually ask what they can bring and my answer is “a smile”. If I’m orchestrating a dinner party, and that’s what I’m doing, I want control over the food, presentation and atmosphere.
I buy my flowers 2 days in advance, so they are open and full for the dinner.
I plan the menu several days in advance and always try to choose items that will allow me to spend time with my guests, not slaving in the kitchen.
With everything ready in advance, I have plenty of time to dress and be relaxed when guests start arriving.
I make sure my napkins and tablecloths are clean and ironed.
If the silverware is tarnished, it get a good polishing.
I set the table the day before the party.
It’s not a good idea to put highly fragrant flowers on the dinner table. They compete with the smell of your food and affect the taste.
My husband must have missed the only white flower memo so the pink Tulips he bought ended up in the powder room.
I put new candles in our candelabras and fresh, 8-hour votives scattered on mantle, window ledges and tables.
I’m quirky about new candles. I always light them for a quick moment, then blow out, before placing them about. I dislike the barren look of unburmed candle wick, which just looks sad to me. It reminds me of people who have good things they save for later, then later never comes.
Have you noticed how many times you’ve sat at a dinner table with brand new, unlit candles and they remain that way for the entire meal? Why have them if you’re not going to use them?
We started with cocktails and appetizers in the living room.
Then we moved into the dining room after I’d put the salads on the table.
Salad and dressing were prepared and waiting, in the refrigerator, to toss. I also had the fish, vegetables and other dishes read to go in the oven before they arrived. Dessert and its required plates were on the side table, ready to be served.
I looked over my shoulder during dinner to make sure I wasn’t dripping wax down the wall and spotted this reflection in my mirror.
We had dessert in the living room, as the candles burned low.
Music is crucial. I prefer instrumental over words. For these type of dinners I keep the volume medium-low as people arrive. Later I turn it quite low as the evening progresses. It’s strictly for atmosphere, not karaoke! I hate having to shout over music to be heard.
FOOTNOTE: An hour before the guests were due, my husband decided to go buy an outdoor fireplace. It came in a box in a million parts which he proceeded to spread all over the patio and start to assemble. If I hadn’t had everything organized, I probably would have flipped out. But I did, so calmly went upstairs to dress, leaving him to the gazillion bolts and parts, pliers and screw drivers.
Do you give dinner parties?