Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Dinner Parties

Oh how I love a good dinner party... never been to a bad one actually. 
Great dinner party at my house this Spring, our awesome friend and photographer genius Gerardo Luna of "Tampa Daily Photo" took this great shot of us and our guests!

I love hosting them, I love co-hosting them, I love being just a guest.  There is so much camaraderie about mingling with old friends and meeting new ones, clinking of glasses, trying delicious food favorites and all in the comfort of someone's home.  These pictures were all taken at my home during various parties along with some advice, recipes & helpful tips for you.

Setting up a mini-bar is always a great way to minimize what you have to buy - providing a specialty cocktail along with wine is always a great idea. 

Ice down a chiller bowl and always provide water bottles or a glass bottle of chilled H20.

Set out freshly cleaned glasses for your guests, plus if it is a daytime BBQue event plastic is certainly ok to use.......
Memorial Day 2013, we set out pretty plastic wine and champagne "glasses" that were a bit safer for a daytime gathering and especially since it was outdoors.  It also made cleanup easy.

A variety of finger foods is great if it is a casual party.... try not to make too many hot dishes so you are spending time with your guests and not at the oven.

You can extend how many your table can seat by finding open space that include two rooms instead of one, bring in patio or knock-down tables and cover all with the same table cloth for a seamless table (seating for 17 is show here for a festive Thanksgiving).

Make fun of your food..... pinterest has some great ideas that don't require any recipes - just creativity.!  Veggies and a couple peppercorns  = a turkey

Cheese, herbs & tomatoes = a Christmas tree

Guests will really appreciate you putting out a menu or labeling the foods
 on a buffet or appetizer area.

MY first try at a homemade port cheese ball turned out to be a hit.  Click here for the recipe!

You don't have to be an amazing chef to make some homemade specialties.  My favorite recipe for homemade pickles is located here and my homemade ranch dressing & dip is located here.  These are easy to make once every 6 months and you will be set for the season!  By the way here is a GREAT very short video about how to can& pickle.....
You can get adorable mini glassware from pier one imports and other retailers.  These are also great to fill with individual desserts, shrimp cocktails, or fruit. My secret to a great fruit salad is local fresh fruit and mix in 2 tablespoons of instant vanilla pudding for a sweet treat!  The juices from the strawberries & blueberries and grapes mix with the sugars delightfully!   Click here for my recipe for a quick and easy salsa! 

Unique serving bowls that are discard-able are always fun and easy for cleanup.  You can get them at most restaurant warehouse and chef warehouse locations.
A festive outdoor dinner party on your lawn is great in the right temperatures.  Great picture taken by Elizabeth Sniegocki who writes an amazing blog -check it out here: 

 If dining al fresco though, be sure to keep your appetizers, cheese, etc in a nearby indoor setting.
Pretty flowers can be picked right from your yard- talk about local!!!  Another great picture by Elizabeth Sniegocki.

An easy pre-dinner appetizer is some crusty bread, quality olive oil and a good balsamic for dipping!

A few tips on this one.... pretty paper lanterns and Italian lights for when the sun goes down, and use a side table for storing food and drink overflow when dining far from the kitchen!

If it is warm out, consider a chilled soup along with a salad before the meal..... a great corn chowder recipe can be found here.

Homemade fondue for dipping is an easy treat for after the dinner.  You can find my recipe for homemade chocolate fondues here.  It is good to note that instead of pouring this "homemade magic shell" over something cold and letting it harden that if you heat it in the bowl you will serve it in it will stay liquid at room temperature.  You can do this recipe with white or chocolate chips - plus coconut oil!  Isn't this ying-yang serving bowl I have adorable! 

Have a toast for your guests and ask one person to be in charge of ensuring no one's glass goes empty.... it takes the pressure off of the host.

Easy dessert to make ahead is frozen bananas dipped in chocolate and then drizzled with caramel, or strawberry juice.

Pre-set your salads on the table but don't put the dressing on them first to avoid sogginess.
Memorial Day Festivities 2013

You can use your whole dining table outdoors for a festive gathering as long as you have some shade and fans.  Setting up appetizers on the table and then clearing for the meal is perfectly fine.

Consider grilling if you have a large crowd... sometimes it is nice to put the hubby in charge of the main course. 
And the BEST secret to a successful dinner party is........ always wearing a smile (and carrying a glass of bubbly doesn't hurt!)
What are some of your favorite tips about being a great dinner party hostess???  I would love to hear from some of you.....