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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Here's the menu from our last party:
Mixed Greens with Roasted Red Pepper Viniagrette
Turkey Sausage Lasagna
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.