Autumn Dinner Party – the first in a series
Let’s throw a dinner party!
Not a BBQ. Not a potluck. Not a buffet. An official, grown-up, sit-down dinner party!
The gift of a dinner party . . .
When you give a gift you put thought, time and energy into picking out something your chosen recipient will enjoy. Am I right?
A dinner party is essentially the gift of an evening out with atmosphere, entertainment and food chosen specifically for your guests. Attention to detail, organization, and taking the time to think things through to ensure the comfort of your guests will help to make an enjoyable event.
Hosting a party can be intimidating and stressful, but it’s mostly the fear of the unknown
My friend, Carrie, recently reminded me of all the things I used to worry about (and sometimes still do!) when throwing a party:
Will they accept the invitation? Will they stay long enough/too long? Will people have fun or bring up politics and get irritated?
All valid concerns.
With a dinner party, though, you have a bit more control.
But what a great topic for it’s own separate post! (Thanks, Carrie!)
Check out my constantly evolving “Party Basics – The Good. The Bad. And the Ugly.”
Everyone at a party has a job
Your job – whether you are a host or a guest – is to participate! Converse, smile, mingle, compliment, help, appreciate, etc.
To be a great guest, it’s helpful to have experience as a host.
To be a great host, it’s helpful to have experience as a guest.
Everyone at a party has a role to fill and there are responsibilities that go along with that role. Just tuck that into your back pocket.
Ah, yes, dinner parties take practice.
So let’s get started with an October dinner party!
I like to determine a theme because it gives me a starting point. I develop the rest of the party from there.
How far you want to take the theme is up to you. Do you want to encourage your guests to dress in a certain color or style (e.g., luau, fiesta, etc.)?
The theme can be as general or specific as you want. It can be a big, in-your-face-theme (e.g., Halloween) or it can be more subtle, like the theme we’ve chosen for October.
Whatever theme you choose, it should compliment the food and vice-versa. For example, serving Italian food at a luau-themed party doesn’t make sense. But you already knew that . . .
My point here is to encourage you to spend a few minutes to think of a theme.
Our theme for October will be fall (of course) . . . and apples (of course)!
This is the fun part!
Apple Whiskey Cocktail • Sparkling Apple Mocktail • Champagne • Roasted Red Pepper and Artichoke Appetizer • Creamy Vegetable Soup • Herb Stuffed Pork Chops • Vegetable Medley • Rosemary Garlic Roasted Potatoes • Apple Pie with Cinnamon and Cheese Sauces
We’re starting the festivities off with a welcome cocktail selection of Champagne, Apple Whiskey Cocktail and a Sparkling Apple Mocktail. I always make sure I have red and white wine, as well as a selection of sodas and juices available.
For the “designated drivers” or for those who just don’t feel like imbibing, it’s nice to have something festive to drink instead of the usual /read: boring!/ soda choices.
Pleasantly surprise your guests by offering at least one unexpected option!
The Sparkling Apple Mocktail I’m serving is inspired by Sober Julie’s Red Apple Delight and can be made by the pitcher.
When we were first married, we served tortilla chips and salsa at every gathering we hosted. Although delicious, tortilla chips and salsa don’t fit the theme of every party. 🙁
For our October dinner party, we will be serving the Roasted Red Pepper and Artichoke Dip with Pita Bread Appetizer.
It’s a light, vegetable-based appetizer which will work well to balance the hearty main course.
I’m serving only one appetizer because there’s a lot of food following this, and I want my guests to be ready!
We’re serving a super simple creamy vegetable soup that I will make the day before.
All I have to do is reheat and serve. I can even warm it up before the party and keep it in a crock pot. Easy.
Our main course is hearty Herb Stuffed Pork Chops — a perfect choice for a cool fall evening. These can be prepped in advance. I just need to pop them in the oven about 45 minutes before we want to eat. They are beautiful.
The potatoes go in the oven a few minutes before the pork chops. The finished dish makes a beautiful presentation at the table.
The Vegetable Medley is simple, takes moments to saute, and the color it brings to the plate is delightful — well worth the 5-10 minutes I need to sneak away to the kitchen. Eh! Chances are some of my guests will join me as I finish these up.
Apple pie — the theme is fall, after all! I’ve got a Cinnamon and a Cheddar Cheese Sauce for my guests to drizzle over the pie slices. The sweet apples and cinnamon are enhanced by the tangy cheddar. You have to try this taste sensation!
A la mode is the way to go here — warm apple pie, warm sauces and cold ice cream. Ahhhh!
After settling on the menu, I turn my attention to the dinner table.
I’m starting with an inexpensive fall garland and adding candles in warm fall colors, gourds and apples.
Then, I supplement the garland by tucking in grape leaves from our landlord’s grapevines. If I had an oak tree, olive tree, or even a silver dollar eucalyptus, I’d cut off a few leaves and tuck them into the garland here and there to give it a more natural look.
And did I mention candles??? I can’t say it enough — I’m a big fan of candles at the dinner table. I love the flicker and warm glow of candlelight. Dinner parties and candles. You can’t separate the two.
Do I need to explain??? The aroma of apple pie, cinnamon, pumpkin pie candles is wonderful, of course, but not at a dinner table — or anywhere in the vicinity of where people are eating.
I don’t want anything to interfere with the delicious meal I’ll be serving!
I made a few variations of this table setting as I was preparing this post.
I used whatever I could find around the house/yard/grocery store that reminded me of a fall harvest. I even made a version of the centerpiece with a small wooden crate our landlords used to bring apples to us.
Get creative. Think outside the norm.
My dinner plates and glasses are not anything special . . . and some don’t even match.
I think the mismatched plates — along with candlelight — add character and interest to a table setting. (Unless Jeff wants to buy new plates for me . . .)
I had matching cloth napkins and looked online for an easy way to fold them — just to add a little detail.
Paper napkins are great too. Roll the flatware up in the napkin and tie it up in a bow with twine.
The Ever-Important Timeline
Most important lesson I’ve learned: everything always takes longer than I think it will. Always.
Keeping a list is so helpful — especially when someone offers to help. I can show them the list of things to be done and let them go wild!
I’ve got the full timeline for you right here: Autumn Dinner Party Timeline
Let’s do this again in November!
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