Fall is my favorite time for themed dinner parties such as apple and pumpkin parties. Gathering around a colorful table with your friends while the sun sets on a crisp evening is my definition of bliss.
Still, the planning and execution of a dinner party can easily get in the way of the bliss, especially if you want everything to be perfect. I promise you this: Your dinner party won’t be perfect, but it can still be a very lovely evening…even if your house isn’t sparkling clean or you don’t have time to put on makeup. 🙂
Planning an upcoming dinner party and hope to enjoy every second of it? Here are some of my favorite tips for hosting a stress-free dinner party…
Tip 1: Let the food be the centerpiece
Why stress over flowers and vase heights and burning your sleeves on candles? I’d rather pass bowls of food around and have somewhere in the center of the table to set them down.
Tip 2: Listen to Julia
Who has ever been to a party where the hostess kept apologizing? Who has ever been the hostess who kept apologizing?
Chances are your guests won’t even notice all the things you’re apologizing for, but they will feel pressured to console you. Listen to Julia:
On a side note, I couldn’t resist pointing out that there weren’t any apples in the Leek and Potato Gratin. Thankfully, the French call potatoes “pomme de terre” or “apples of the earth.” Saved by le bell!
Tip 3: Pick your battles
On the day of the dinner, I realized I had completely forgotten to buy ingredients for the delicious cheese and apple soup I’d planned for. I could have rushed to the store to get the ingredients, but Mr. Smith and I spent the morning with our ailing friend instead.
Instead, I added another layer of apple to the meal by whisking up some apple cider vinaigrette for my Gala-and-greens salad. To make, whisk together the following till smooth:
- 1/4 cup apple cider
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 heaping tablespoon Dijon
- Splash of apple cider vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
I also made sure not to apologize over the lack of a soup course. (Or the cute place cards I had also forgotten to make.) 😉
Tip 4: Let your guests help
Confession: I suck at supplying drinks. I need my own personal Phoebe to supply cups and ice because I never remember that stuff. I’m too busy thinking about the food.
Thankfully, 99% of guests will ask if they can bring something or help. To this, always answer yes! Not only does it take the pressure to think of everything off your shoulders, but the meal becomes even more special when your guests can contribute.
Tip 5: Always stock ingredients for a quick dessert
Uh-oh. The friend who was bringing dessert got the stomach bug. Now what?
Situations like these have taught me to always keep frozen fruit and pie crust ingredients on hand. Thankfully, I’d purchased a bag of apples that were just the right amount for this Apple Crostata. I love crostatas because all you have to do is fold pie crust over the edges of sugared fruit and you’re ready to bake!
Making the crostata didn’t leave me any apples for the cider-marinated pork tenderloin, but nobody seemed to miss them, including myself.
Tip 6: My Cloth Napkin Trick
Where I lack in centerpieces and drinks, I like to make up for in cloth napkins. They’re such an easy way to make a meal feel extra-special.
Unfortunately, no matter how much I iron a cloth napkin, it refuses to release its wrinkled edges! Even retrieving them fresh from the dryer is futile because the wrinkles still remain.
Recently, while reaching into the dryer 5 minutes into a cycle, I noticed that my napkins were the smoothest I’d ever seen them. Retrieving the napkins while they were still very damp, I smoothed them, folded them in half and let them air-dry on a hanger. Once they were dry, I removed them from the hanger and folded them again.
Wouldn’t you know it? My trick worked! Crisp, wrinkle-free napkins without ironing!
I was so thrilled that I emptied my cloth napkin drawer and did the same to the rest. Now I have an arsenal of napkins ready for my next party.
My list of tips could go on, but instead I’m going to follow Tip #4 and ask:
What’s your favorite dinner party tip?