How-To: Spring Dinner Party, Part 1

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springparty6 Ever since Dario and I settled into our little apartment (almost 3 years ago!!) I’ve wanted to host tons of dinner parties.  I really love cooking for other people, decorating the house and sitting down to good food and great friends.  Totally my ideal weekend of fun.  Last weekend we decided to invite 2 fairly new couple-friends over for dinner.  Once the date and time were set I couldn’t wait to get started on planning the menu, grocery shopping, decorating and most importantly, cooking!

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I decided to go with a Spring themed menu – focusing on fresh veggies, bright colors and light dinner fare.  Here’s my menu:

Appetizers:  Whipped Goat Cheese BrushettaEggplant Caponata and Fried Crab Balls with Spicy Remoulade Sauce
Salad:  Shaved Asparagus and Ricotta Salata Salad
Main Course:  Fresh Cherry Tomato Pasta, Green Vegetable Medley (recipe to come), and Roasted Garlic and Herb Butter with italian bread (recipe to come)
Dessert:  Lemon and Strawberry Cheesecake (recipe to come)

Although it may look like a lot of semi-intensive cooking and preparation, my dinner came together quite easily and without much stress.  Even a new cook can pull off this menu very easily!  How?  Well, when it comes to hosting a dinner party, there are several helpful tips I like to keep in mind.

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springparty5 These are things I’ve learned from my Mom (chef and expert table scaper) and others I’ve learned from making a few mistakes here and there.  OK…lots of mistakes with lots of phone calls to Mom!  I really wanted to share them because those times when I was frantic, rushed, overwhelmed and frustrated I was not having fun.  Not at all.  So hopefully I can save you some time and frustration with my prep list.   You can just skip the mistakes and the unorganized cooking frenzy and have the perfect dinner party!

Dinner Party 101 – Tips and Hints:

  1. Plan and set the date of your dinner party.  Aim for at least 1 week notice, that way you can effectively plan out and organize your menu with plenty of spare time.
  2. Decide what type of dinner party you’re having – fancy, casual, outdoors, themed, appetizers only, etc.  This will help you decide the food, preparation timing, decorations and how to serve.
  3. The week before your dinner party create and finalize your menu.  Make sure to take your cooking/kitchen comfort level into consideration.  Pick out recipes you feel at ease making – nothing too hard or complicated is necessary.  Most people are just happy to eat, chat and have a good time.
  4. Write out the menu and make your grocery list.  Once you’ve finalized your menu, print or write out the recipes and make up a grocery list with every ingredient you’ll need.  Make sure you check your pantry and fridge so you’re not forgetting anything.  There’s nothing worse than cooking multiple dishes and realizing you forgot something at the store.  Trust me…it’s not fun going back for one item.
  5. Decide which items you can make in advance – soups, roasted vegetables, sauces, desserts, fried foods and much more can be made in advance.  Take advantage of this!!!  Star recipes that you can make the day before and the morning of your party.  You want to be at ease, semi relaxed and able to enjoy your company’s time while there at your house.

You tell me!  Do you like to host dinner parties?  What’s your favorite recipe to serve to company?  Do you enjoy simple dinner parties or fancier parties?

Hey, thanks for reading! Share your thoughts!