Plan the Perfect Dinner Party

Plan the Perfect Alfresco Dinner Party

Check out these tips and advice to help plan the perfect alfresco dinner.


Managing Your Menu

When considering your entrée, keep your guests and their diets in mind: Do they prefer traditional dishes, grilled entrées or international cuisines? Are they vegetarian or do they have other dietary considerations you should plan for? Part of successful entertaining involves making your guests feel not just welcome, but really pampered, so plan to serve an entrée that will delight your guests.

Some simple, single-dish entrées include rosemary pork roast tenderloin (which also cooks well on the grill), a pepper-crusted London broil with crumbled bleu cheese or an Asian stir-fry over rice. Keep your sides simple as well; prepare a mixed green salad and maybe have a small buffet of toppings and a few dressings to choose from.

Next, plan an appetizer that's quick to whip up. A selection of chips and raw vegetables is delicious with this dip recipe:

Creamy Herb Dip

Ingredients:

3/4 cup sour cream

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup water chestnuts, chopped

1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves

2 scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces (reserve half for garnish)

Preparation:

Place sour cream, mayonnaise and salt in blender or food processor. Add remaining ingredients. Cover and blend on high speed for about 30 seconds, stopping occasionally to scrape sides, until finely chopped. Cover and refrigerate for one hour or until chilled. When serving, garnish with remaining chopped scallions.

Or, try this quick fix, delicious appetizer that's just a little bit indulgent:

Stuffed Mushrooms

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Ingredients: 

1 8-oz package of cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons spreadable herbed cheese

8 strips of bacon, fried and crumbled

1 small onion, finely chopped

20 to 25 large mushrooms, stems removed

Kale for garnish

Preparation:

Sauté onion until tender. Mix crumbled bacon and onion with softened cream cheese and spreadable herb cheese. Stuff each mushroom and bake at 350° F for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve on a platter garnished with kale.

Set the Stage

A few simple touches can make any room the perfect setting for a dinner party.

For understated elegance, go with a monochromatic color scheme, such as all white linens. For a splash of color, you might want to consider adding flowers to the tables. 

The warm glow of candlelight is perfect for dining, so stock up on tapers, pillar candles and, if you like, floating votives. Clustered with the centerpiece and on occasional tables, candles will make an intimate circle of light around your guests. Stringing white lights is also a charming way to illuminate your setting.

Use your china, cutlery and stemware to set the table. Pair them with pretty cloth place mats or a patterned tablecloth to complete the look.

Buffet serving is easiest for you and your guests, so if you have a table for that purpose, use it! And if you don't, check your garage or basement for an old card table or desk that could be transformed for the purpose. Drape it with a pretty cloth, add candles and you have a beautiful buffet station.

Remember to Relax

More than anything, guests react to their host and hostess's moods, so don't forget to enjoy yourself! Leave the dishes until after your guests have gone. Linger over coffee and dessert, and experience the pleasure of good company at your dinner party.

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