A couple of weeks ago we hosted a dinner party for 8. It was a perfect evening, so we set up the table outside next to the garden, hung a string of white lights, and set the table for an evening of food and wine with friends. The event all came about thanks to Rodney Strong Vineyards 25th anniversary celebration. The celebration happened across the country and benefited the James Beard Foundation. Restaurants in Healdsburg, CA; New York, NY; Miami, FL; and Austin, TX (along with a group of food bloggers hosting dinners in their homes) participated on Saturday, September 20, 2014.
Here is an excerpt from the media release that sums up the spirit of the event perfectly:
“This is a once in a lifetime event that acknowledges our pride and passion of being in the wine business,” says Klein. “The shared dinner will be a fantastic celebration, bringing together partners, friends and fans we’ve come to know over 25 years of running RodneyStrong. Wine is what brings family and friends together at the table and there is no better way to show our appreciation than hosting these special dinners that will bring people from across the country together on one spectacular night.”
Admittedly, I have not thrown a proper dinner party in quite some time. So, I began by planning every detail, from the menu to my schedule the day before and the day of to make sure I had everything covered. The menu, as usual, changed a bit once I went to the grocery store and scoped out the highest quality, freshest food they had a available. In the end, this is what I ended up serving:
It was a perfect combination of late summer/early autumn dishes that were excellent for serving to a larger crowd but it did require some planning and the implementation of some of my best tips for throwing a dinner party. I shared these tips on Facebook as I prepped for the dinner but I thought some of you may have missed them or would find it useful to have them all in one place. So, here are my 10 Tips for Throwing a Dinner Party:
Tip #1: Before you begin cooking anything, completely clean your kitchen (yep, ALL the dishes!) and fill the sink with warm, soapy water.
Tip #2: Have a game plan! I find it so much easier to stay organized and calm during prep when I make a clear list of when/what I need to do.
Tip #3: Taste your food at various stages so you don't end up serving some with too much or too little seasoning.
Tip #4: Use recipes you trust. Whether it is a combination of your own recipes or selections from your favorite cookbooks, recipes that are sure to succeed are a must!
Tip #5: Make time to put your feet up for 5-10 minutes at least once every hour. Trust me. It helps.
Tip #6: Don't forget to chill the white wine! It's the little things that will make things less stressful upon your guests arrival.
Tip #7: Cooking a roast is an easy way to feed a large number of people (I've poached mine in cream, garlic and Parmesan before roasting). It makes plating (family style) easier and quicker!
Tip #8: Stay hydrated! Whether you do all your cooking before your party or continue the process during, make sure you always have a full glass of ice water nearby. And while we're at it, WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES.
Tip #9: Make drinks and some courses self-serve or family style so you don't have to constantly be pouring/plating. But remember, when serving alcohol, to remind guests to be careful and safe.
Tip #10: No matter what happens, remember to relax and enjoy. The reason we have people over is for fellowship around the table and to enjoy full bellies and full hearts.
Follow these 10 tips and you'll feel more organized and prepared than ever.
I used a mix of my own, original recipes in addition to a few gathered from my favorite cookbooks. The one that turned out the best was the cinnamon challah bread pudding with port soaked raisins, which I'll be sharing with you next week!