October 28, 2013

Fall Dinner Party - Lessons And A Menu

It all started when I bought the Dinner Party Issue of Bon Appétit magazine about a month ago.  I was mesmerized by beautiful tablescapes and delicious recipes.  Plus, a whole how-to section for hosting a Friday night dinner party.  I immediately wanted to be the kind of person that hosted dinner parties.  I glanced over at my dining table, covered in cake stands, dishes, pantry items, and a slew of other things that just didn’t seem to fit anywhere else.  This was a problem.

So we cleaned.  We cleaned out shelves and drawers, purging unused or unwanted things to make space.  Slowly the table was cleared, though we still tend to eat dinner on the couch...

The week before the dinner party, I prepped a little bit every day to make the load manageable.  Sanagan’s Meat Locker provided me with 8 giant beef short ribs and WilBe Bloomin’ helped me pick out some flowers to go with the green and white colour scheme that I had envisioned.  I also bought some gourds from the grocery store to complete the tablescape.

Now I’ve never decorated a table like this before, but I loved doing it!  I used a mix of new things and things that I already had.   In case anyone is interested, I compiled a list of where I purchased the new items.


1. Distinctly Home Camille Table Runner - Hudson's Bay
2. Washed Linen Cocktail Napkins - Williams Sonoma 
3. Round Woven Coasters - Williams Sonoma 
4. Gluckenstein Home Candle Collection - Hudson's Bay 
5. Small Footed Cake Plate with Cover - Hudson's Bay (but I can't find it anymore!)
6. White Vase - Indigo (also doesn't seem to be available anymore)

And then the day finally came!  We started the festivities with some cocktails, the Kir Royale and Ginger Fizz, while snacking on roasted salted almonds and chili lime corn nuts.  Mismatched glasses make everything seem a bit less formal (I also don’t have 8 identical glasses of any kind...). 

The braised short ribs were a little slower heating up than anticipated, so we improvised by eating the salad first and kept everyone happy with some Rhône wine.  Finally we ate the braised short ribs with some garlic and herb roasted potatoes.  Dessert was a burnt caramel custard served with softly whipped cream and fleur de sel that was like “heaven in a cup” despite the fact that I managed to drop one all over someone’s lap.  Thankfully it landed right side up!

We sat talking late into the night nibbling on some rosewater marshmallows, fleur de sel caramels, and espresso dark chocolate pastilles.  Everyone left full and happy. Success!

Some things I learned during the course of planning and hosting a dinner party.  Definitely don’t make everything.  Choose some things to buy, like the snacks that I bought for cocktail hour.  I also cut down on prep by using broken up Ace Bakery Artisan crisps as croutons. 

Don’t sweat it if something is delayed or goes wrong.  Improvise and don’t make a fuss about it.  Chances are, your guests won’t even notice! 

Definitely prep everything you can beforehand.  Making cocktails and heating things up keeps you just busy enough to still enjoy your own party. 

Don’t worry about cleaning everything up that night.  We loaded up our tiny dishwasher and left the rest for the next morning. 

Fall Dinner Party Menu

Kir Royale – Pour half an ounce of Chambord into a cocktail glass.  Top with sparkling wine.  Garnish with fresh blackberries. 

Ginger Fizz

Roasted salted almonds

Chili lime corn nuts

Wilted escarole salad – I modified this by using escarole and Boston lettuce and, as mentioned above, Ace Bakery Artisan Crisps as croutons. 

Red wine braised short ribs with gremolata

Herb roasted potatoes

Burnt caramel custard

Rosewater marshmallows – I used my standard marshmallow recipe (no candy thermometer required!) but added 1 tsp rosewater and a couple drops of red food colouring to make them slightly pink.

Espresso dark chocolate pastilles

Fleur de sel caramels

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