Monday, August 23, 2010

The Makings of a Fabulous Evening

Throwing a large dinner party takes a lot of thought and organization. And a lot of shopping. But for me, the planning and organizing is the fun part. I am no saint, however; I complain, I whine, I get a little stressed out. But I love every second of it.

First thing I had to do was buy more dishes. I have been wanting to do this for a while. I still have dishes that my mom gave me when I moved out of the house 18 years ago. And I am not talking about fine china here, just old, chipped junk. I briefly fantasized about buying nice, fancy dishes, but knew this was just ridiculous. I don't want to own anything so precious I will be afraid to use it in case it breaks.

So I took a deep breath, and went to IKEA. And found wonderful, functional dish sets for unbelievably cheap prices. I was able to buy 18 dinner plates, 18 salad plates, and 18 soup bowls for $45. Now that is just crazy talk. I splurged a little more on the water tumblers. (Those were about $1.20 each.) The stemless wine glasses are from World Market. ($1.99 each) I was at a loss for extra silverware and then found out my friend Ann was downsizing and scored all of her old family silver.
I made these paper flowers a couple of years ago and they were very appropriate for decorations. I strewed them along the path from the front yard to the back yard to lead the guests into the party.
The morning of the party we went to the local farmers' market to buy heirloom tomatoes, a half flat of blueberries, and these gorgeous flowers.

It was an amazing feat of spatial relationships to fit everything in the fridge.
Buckwheat cheese straws.

Spinach-edamame soup.
Slicing up the grilled flank steak for the steak salads. It was hard not to eat a lot of this while prepping. My friend Danny can't eat wheat, so I used Tamari for the steak marinade.

Mini goat cheese cheesecakes. I made a few of these wheat free as well.

The arranged flowers.
Our friend Greg brought fixin's for Manhattans. Now that was just what a party hostess needed.

The appetizer table with beet hummus and bacon wrapped dates and jalapenos.
Greg and Trevor setting up the tables. The weekend before, the weather had been in the 90's. That morning we woke up to overcast skies, but by the time the guests started arriving at 4pm, it was sunny again. Phew!

My sister gave me all of the napkins. She knows my style.

I admit, I prefer the look of the wood table to the tablecloths. But we needed the tablecloths to mask the truth that those other tables are my messy art studio tables.

Everyone had a different fruit or vegetable as their place card.

More blogging to come about flower arranging and the dinner party itself, but I first need to share three things I have learned on throwing the perfect dinner party.

1. Cook from your repertoire. Or if you must cook something new, try the recipe out at least once before the day of the party.

2. Make a giant checklist of things to do for the party. I kept this near me at all times. It keeps you on track.

3. Ask your guests to bring the booze. Most of your friends want to help in some way, but usually when too many people start invading the kitchen, it becomes a disaster. So having the guests bring wine lets them participate and cuts down on your grocery bill!

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