02 September 2015

3 Steps to a Great Dinner Party

We enjoy going out with the people we love and shaing good times. However, we tend to draw a line at our front door. We are not the having-people-over-type of DINK couple. Parties are a lot of work and tend to add to my cleaning duties—which I’m completely against.

That said, upon buying our little house Hubby and I made a pact to have one party per year. This way we make up for all of the negative RSVP responses we’ve made throughout the year, we have a truly special night with friends, and we get to have a fancy meal at home (sans foil take away tins). Our annual dinner party is a win-win-win (sorry no pics from the housewarming, aka the first diner party).

This year’s installment took place in the colder months—just before Thanksgiving. From the overall fabulouslness of the evening I’ve extracted the three steps needed to throw a great dinner party.

Step 1: Invite Characters and Conversationalists

On the invite list, we chose people who make us laugh and smile, fearless conversationalists, and accomplished professionals. Many of these folks may not have crossed paths before meeting at our table. As a party game (mind you we are not party game people) we made place cards with labels that were descriptive to us. Our invited guests then had to locate their seat by finding the title that they most closely identified with. For instance, Lezlie the photographer, tells stories through her expressive photography.

Around our table we were joined by:
  • The Photo Griot, a Jurist, a Polymath, a Poly Math, the Teacher of the Year, a Nature Artist, and a Libertarian.
We seated the Polymath close to the  maths /physics teacher at the Polytechnic Institute, get it.

Step 2: A Well-Planned Menu is only the Start

For the menu we decided to start with a cream soup made from a pumpkin and herbs from my mother’s garden. This was prepared on our famous slow cooker and finished off on the stove. Since I’m totally in love with our regional renaissance festival, I opted to serve soup in miniature bread bowls (yay, no dishes).

The second course was a spicy mixed green salad, marinated in our secret balsamic vinaigrette. The bitterness of most mixed greens are great for digestion.

The third course was to be a slow-cooked Saged lamb, on  a bed of barley. The day before our event I had hubby pick up several cuts of lamb from the market. For my part I grabbed two additional crock pots from the thrift store and tested them for a few hours. They seemed to work when I cooked brown rice overnight.

However, they did NOT actually work. On party day I awoke at 5:30 am and began prepping for the evening.

Once all the mise en place was done and meats were in the used slow cookers I began setting my party table. By 2pm, there was little change to the look and smell of my once-beautiful lamb. By 3pm,there was still little change and I was getting worried.

By 4pm, I realized that my meat would never reach a miraculous level of done-ness in the hour remaining before our party. I could either broil the meat or make other arrangements. I frantically texted both an experienced chef and my husband.

  • The chef said that cooking the meat after having it stew in luke warmth for nearly 10 hours would sicken all my guest and maybe kill a few.
  • Hubby said, “I’ll grab a couple rotisserie chickens and frozen Brussels sprouts… we can nuke them. And nuke them we did. Delicious!
The last course was a homemade sliver of pecan pie served with a tablespoon of creamy vanilla gelato. Everyone enjoyed the meal.

Step 3: Keep Quality Beverages Flowing

With each course we offered a glass of my favorite grapes—even though our Polymath stuck to drinking Heineken.

Everyone enjoyed the first three courses, and then they fell over themselves to compliment the sliver of perfectly baked Pecan pie, served with a heaping tablespoon of the creamiest handmade vanilla gelato. I prefer simple finishes to anything else. Out final tasty treat topped off the night.

From the beginning to the end of the evening we offered modest sized servings of wine. Then we also poured a bitter black tea to round out the night (At least I drank tea).

Three easy steps, the most important being number 1. We continue to be thankful for all those who joined us on this night.

Note: it also helps to invite someone fluent in American Sign language, so that they can teach the assembled how to say 'Happy Thanksgiving'