Thursday, March 25, 2010

Entertaining At Home

I'm very fortunate.  I love to cook and bake and I married a man who loves to entertain.  We don't have a big, fancy home.  We don't even have a dining room, but we love inviting our good friends over for a good meal. 

We've squeezed 50 people into our modest townhome for a Christmas party.  We've had 35 people spill out onto the deck for a summer barbecue.  Considering that we have only 1300 square feet of living space and two off-street parking spaces, we've really been able to pull off some fun events.

Most of our friends live out-of-state.  Now, that's really not saying much, since we reside in the second smallest state in the nation and we can drive into three other states within 15 minutes.  Nonetheless, when people visit us, they are usually coming from a distance.  There was a (pre-recession) time when we'd meet our friends at a restaurant in Philadelphia and spend a small fortune on a gourmet meal, parking, drinks, and entertainment.  Recently we've decided that sometimes it's better to entertain at home. 

I'm realizing there are many advantages of making reservations at home instead of a restaurant:
  1. It's cheaper.  I can buy two week's worth of groceries for the cost of a fancy restaurant meal with drinks.  I can entertain my friends and look like a high roller for less than it would cost us to pay our share of dinner at a decent restaurant.
  2. It's more relaxed.  There's no feeling obligated to order several drinks and appetizers while you wait for your always-late dining companions.  There's no one pushing you to order dessert quickly or giving you the evil eye when you don't vacate your table immediately after paying the tab.
  3. You can stay out longer.  I'm a morning person.  When I'm out, I always worry about the drive home, what time I need to get up in the morning, or running home to walk the dogs.  When I invite people to my home, I can take off my shoes and enjoy the night.
I suggest finding some low-maintenance, crowd-pleasing recipes and relying on those for dinner parties.  I've recently discovered that it's much easier to cope with small groups (6 or less) than huge groups (25+).  It's super easy to prepare dinner for 6, because I always cook too much for two.  All the dishes fit in the dishwasher, all the coats fit in the closet, and you can afford to purchase the good stuff for a small group.

Here's the menu from our last party:

Mixed Greens with Roasted Red Pepper Viniagrette
Turkey Sausage Lasagna
French Bread
Tres Leches Cake

I assembled the lasagna in the morning and slid it into the oven two hours before dinnertime.  I was able to relax and enjoy crackers and wine with my guests while the lasagna cooled.  I assembled the salad, heated the bread, and we all enjoyed dinner together.  We popped a few bottles of wine (one sweet, two dry) and enjoyed the evening.  Having a hands-off meal is especially important when you are serving a meal in your eat-in kitchen in your small home.  I didn't want my friends to feel like I was sweating it out over dinner.  I filled a pretty pitcher with filtered water, lemon slices and ice and I kept the drinks flowing. 

I think everyone had a great time.  The best part is that the next gathering will be at the home of one of the attendees of our last dinner party.  It's like visiting a new restaurant every month!  If you don't feel comfortable taking on the entire menu, try a potluck.  I prefer to have control of the entire menu, but a potluck could work for a casual gathering.

Dinner parties are a fun way to indulge without breaking the bank in these tough economic times.  I'm looking forward to the warmer months and serving dinner hot off the grill.


  1. i heart dinner parties. that turkey, but turkey lasagna sounds really good.
    i swear the only reason i want to own a home is for a big kitchen and dinner parties.

  2. Nadette, don't feel like you have to have to own a home to have a dinner party. All you need is a table, some dishes, and some food. We used to eat and entertain at a folding table in our 1 BR apartment. Those were the good old days.

  3. I love casual dinner parties but I never get invited to any!

  4. I love summer entertaining. Its more casual and I think because of that everyone relaxes more and has a better time! Turkey lasagna sounds delish!

  5. Happy Birthday Keeley! Hope you had a wonderful weekend!

  6. I just read Monica's comment....Happy Birthday! Hope you're having a GREAT one!

    This was a great post. I'll have to look at entertaining the way you do. I've always been leery with anyone other than family. So, where's my dinner invite? :)

    Hope you had a happy and delicious Easter!


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