Let me be honest about something. I’ve never met a dinner party I didn’t like. If you were to ask my grandmother (hi, Chanel!), she’d tell you that a dinner party—an elegant one—requires seating charts, white gloves, and the perfect lipstick. Oh, and have your florist on standby. Do you know Ricky? He’s the best. And while girl raises a few good points, dinner parties in my world are a bit more . . . slapdash.
I like a dinner party that’s as theatrical as it is organic, which is to say that the vodka may or may not have chunks of ice falling off the bottle and onto the floor, the flowers and outdated editions of “The New Yorker” are moving aside for a silver tray of deviled eggs, and the conversation is chancy. The people come, they go, they hang out drinking tequila in your kitchen, they end up putting their feet on each other on your couch.
A good dinner party, in my book, is filled with worlds colliding, good vibes, and a mismatched wine selection (let’s hope someone brings a bottle that cost more than $12.00, but we shan’t be greedy).
Pulling it together doesn’t need to take tons of planning or cash; ask your people to bring wine, beer, and a few bottles of Prosecco, hunks of their favorite cheese, and a cracker or two. Their contributions fill in your feast and add a little communal beauty to the experience. Your meal pulls from the best of the season (the fruits and veggies that are easily accessible in your neighborhood, within walking distance), and gives you an excuse to test drive the dishes you’ve been reading about or have a straight up hankering for.
Whip up a light ‘menu’ for the evening and put it in a frame on your dining room table, amidst the mismatched porcelain plates, lilies and baby’s breath you bought from your bodega guy, and squares of Manchego and sourdough.
And then do a quick Swiffer of your floors, put on a banging record, take a hot shower, and get ready for your guests to arrive.
These are the dishes I’ll be serving up at my next soirée.
1. Bichon Frise
My grandparents used to have one named Georgie, but putting that aside: this cocktail combines some delish ingredients. Make sure you freeze a few trays of phat ice cubes. Best served in a short, heavy weight glass. Ask your closest (and most reliable) friend to contribute a bottle of St. Germain. Get our Bichon Frise recipe.
A beloved cocktail that always adds a little chutzpah to a dinner party gathering. If the dudes at the party feel emasculated by the Bichon Frise, this is a happy fallback option. Get our Negroni recipe.
3. Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese, Arugula, and Pistachios
Beets. Tangy, healthy, and beyootiful (those colors though). Add an IG filter to your table spread with this beautifully rich salad. It’s also nice to have vegan/veggie options in your menu to make sure all guests are accommodated. Get our Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese, Arugula, and Pistachios recipe.
4. Warm Deviled Eggs
Old school and delectable. And though deviled eggs are low key, they’re also a real crowd-pleaser. Whipped, eggy heaven, they go down the gullet real easy. Get our Warm Deviled Eggs recipe.
5. Smoked Trout Crostini
I’m going through a smoked fish thing and I’m excited about these crostini. They add a little crunch, butter, and salt to your spread and it’s always nice to make something in the midst of your gathering, to keep the kitchen warm and to make the dinner party a living, breathing thing that everyone is participating in. Serve these bad boys up right after the bread bakes. Get our Smoked Trout Crostini recipe.
6. Potato Salad with Mint and Peas
Potato salad. Hot, cold; spring, summer, fall—any time, any way, so effin’ good. Whip up a big bowl and put in the center of your spread, with a beautiful wooden spoon. Your guests will eat a few heaping spoonfuls and you’ll be so happy to have these leftovers in your fridge. Get our Potato Salad with Mint and Peas recipe.
7. Basil Parsley Pesto
Celebrate spring’s goodness with a lil’ basil-parsley combo. This pasta is cheap in the “cucina povera” tradition and has a little kick to round out the rest of your menu. Molto buono. Get our Basil Parsley Pesto recipe.
And for dessert, ask your peeps to bring over chocolate, cheesecake, or some fresh fruit. Worst case scenario: you run out for some strawberries as your most competent culinary friends pour some Champagne and flip through a cookbook for a fresh cream recipe.
Dinner parties are all about adventure, after all.
— Head image by: Garlic My Soul.