I have to admit that I'm not really a bar/club scene kind of girl - I mean, in the 20's I did hang out with my friends and go to various bar/lounge like places, but it was never really my 'thing' - I always prefered a smaller,more intimate gathering - I love talking to people, cooking together, simply hanging out and enjoying my time with people and things that truly matter to me. I remeber one of the first times I went to Europe to visit my family in Ukraine - I was a young teenager and the culture there was so different than what I was used to back home - but one thing that Europeans really have a grasp on is the concept of a dinner party. If its someone's birthday or if a family event is coming up, the plan is always to go to someone's house, make a lot of food for guests to enjoy, break open a few bottles of wine (or vodka - lol) and simply 'enjoy' the company of the person you are honouring that night. Lately, I've been really thinking about the whole notion of a dinner party and one of my 'Dreams' is to rent a villa in Tuscany or a small French country house, invite a small handful of my friends and family and throw the best dinner party ever - here is a little tribute to my 'Vision' of the perfect dinner party:
I think renting out a villa or cottage would be the perfect place to host an intimate dinner party - I love the feeling of anything 'rustic' and I love the country - French country decor has always inspired me and there is something so wamring to the soul about being in the country with people you care about the most - add a great meal to this and you have the perfect 'evening'!!!
The thing that I love about dinner parties is that you can make or create them to be as casual or elegant as you want. You can create a warm, rustic atmophere and give your guests a theme or simply tell them to come casual and comfortable. I have to say that throwing themed dinner parties is one of my favourite things to do. Some of my most memorable nights have been 'Morrocan Night' - where I made a medly of morrocan and middle eastern food, had belly dancing music playing in the background and used spicy 'colours' to add some extra pizzaz to my table. 'Italian Nights' are always a bit hit too - I really enjoy making various pasta dishes and I made a pesto-cheese garlic bread that was out of this world. I put together an olive and cheese tray and I know this bakery where they make the most velvety tiramisu ever for dessert. In the background I had some soft italian music playing or sometimes I get out some Italian opera classics for a more elegant Italian night in!
They key to a successfull dinner party is the 'Mood' you set - I like to take inspiration from movies, books I've read, pictures I've seen etc - Garden parties are great because they feel very so 'regal' for some reason - I love watching foreign films because you get a ton of fashion/dinner ideas - I remeber watching one Italian foreign film where everyone was outside having this amazing dinner under the stars, candles were lit, pasta and bread were served, wine was being poured - I remember wanting to jump into the tv and be a part of that entire experience. Perhaps, that's the word I'm really looking for - Experience!!! Your guests should leave satisfied, saying to you "that was one of the best experiences I've ever had"!!!
I like to really think about my dinner parties - I put a lot of thought into what food I'm going to make, the mood and atmosphere, how I'm going to set the table, what wine I'm going to serve my guests, what dinner plates I'm going to use etc etc etc - If you really take the time to think about the small details, it will come through in the end result - your guests will be really impressed!
The menu is essential in throwing a great dinner party - its important with various food allergies and sensitivities now-a-days to ask your guests if there is any ingredient you should avoid in planning and making your meals. It doesn't look good is one of your guests hates broccoli and you serve a broccoli soup and steamed broccoli with your steak - always ask your guests if there are any food intollerances or dislikes you should know about. From my experience with dinner parties, just like restaurant dinning, food should always be simple yet tasty. I don't experiment with new herbs and spices the day I'm preparing for a dinner party and I like to stick with a balanced menu - something hearty combined with something light. Unless, all your friends are vegetarians, I think some tender, fall off the bone meat is the way to go, with a side of roast potatoes or potato gatin - I once went to a dinner party where the host made lamb shanks with a rich side of mashed potatoes and asparagus and to this day, its one of my most memorable dinner menu experiences.
There are a ton of great cook books out there - if you need some dinner party ideas, head over to your local book store and just browse through the various cook books (sometimes I take a note pad with me and simply jot down some ideas) - its a fantastic way to plan a menu when you're lost or unsure what to make!
I hope you enjoyed my post about dinner parties - they can be a lot of fun and hosting them is a fantastic experience. The next time your friends all want to get together, suggest a dinner party and ejnoy the 'experience'!!!