I get asked all the time by friends and former lovers, "why the hell haven't I been invited to one of your fancy dinner parties?" The answer is, probably because I don't like you that much and the idea of entertaining you in my house for an indefinite amount of time seems like torture. If I am fond of you, be patient - I'm probably just waiting for the right mix of people in which to include you and your spouse or mistress. Sure, it's easy to throw a dinner party together, but the nuances are what will set your soiree apart from one of those awful evenings of diminishing returns and uncomfortable racial tension. A logical guest list is imperative. You also have to consider significant others and plus-ones. There's nothing worse than a lopsided couple - you know, when you really like one member of a duo but the other one is the absolute worst....Unfortunately you have to extend the invitation to both in order to maintain healthy relationships. If you know your pal's plus-one is a total drip...balance out the guest list with one of your more out-of-control friends, so the undesirable guest(s) fade into the background. And keep everyone's cup full of booze. Except your own - drink like a pregnant woman: seltzer and lime wedges, at least until the food is served.
My friends who have had the pleasure of dining chez Toulouse, are always saying, "is this going to be on the blog?!" Usually no. I've only got two hands and one of them is holding a martini while the other is trying not to get burned on a hot dish. I'm trying a new thing where I force my guests to take pictures and post them to their social media of choice. That way, my parties always look like lots of fun and people look forward to invites rather than dread them. This time around, I did a little documentation and luckily all these recipes have been previously featured on The Little Dinner Party.
Step 1: The Appz
So you've finally lured people to your place and now you've got to keep them there. If you're like me, you starve yourself all day. Don't keep people waiting to stuff their faces. If you promised them food you better make good on it. I set out the appetizers in the living room because I hate when people congregate in the kitchen. Have a drink ready to give someone as soon as they walk in, because people are always more comfortable if they're drunk. Apps can be very simple. I always do a hearty dip like guac or queso and chips. Cheese and crackers are always good too. Soft cheeses are more sophisticated. Side apps are a nice way to introduce variety - for this party I set out homemade popcorn, black olives and the last of my beloved pickled green beans. This establishes a good base of stomach lining for absorbing booze. I usually try to do a special cocktail for the appetizer hour too. Switch to wine with dinner. Let guests know the status of the meal too...people hate waiting and feel like a-holes asking.
Step 2: The Dinner
Sometimes I do individualized portions like this, but usually I just serve something like a casserole or lasagna. It's easier to accommodate last minute add-ons. When you have a definite set number and refuse entry to uninvited guests, things like chicken breasts and lobster tails make sense. I prefer to serve my guests from the kitchen too. Buffet style is great for a big party but less impressive for an intimate gathering.
The menu for this party was as follows:
Summer Salad with a homemade red wine garlic vinaigrette
Twelve Oaks BBQ Chicken Breasts
Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Crispy Rosemary
Corn on the Cob
Step 3: Coffee and Post-Dinner Entertainment
This is where you're going to lose people. While we'd all love parties to go on forever, by midnight your host is worn out. It's perfectly acceptable to GTFO around then. My plus-one serves coffee with dinner so that nobody falls asleep. A game is usually a good way to digest and ride out your wine buzz. I've come to the conclusion that Cards Against Humanity is the fucking worst. It's a party ruiner. It was fun and cool back in 2012 but now it's too overdone and people are sick of it. It's not funny anymore. Taboo also turns people off. I think the more inventive you can get with this the better...so far this is my weakness so I'll let you know when there's an improvement.