Remember our July Bucket List? I promised to deliver some summery dinner party tips, and here they are. Summer is the best time to have people over, because you don’t have to worry about keeping dishes hot (no one wants to eat hot food, anyway!), summer drinks are better than any other season’s drinks (mojitos, margaritas, slushies), and the produce is so delicious that you can basically serve grilled veggies with olive oil and salt and everybody will go home happy.
Here are the first five steps to throwing a fantastic, stress-free party, from party prep to cocktail hour:
1. Get excited. Only throw a dinner party if you really want to. And if you really want to, remind yourself to be stoked about it! Everybody loves a dinner party, and nobody throws them anymore, so believe me when I tell you that you will be making everyone’s night. Don’t let minor stresses or social inconveniences make you forget that you’re doing this because you want to, and because it’s fun.
2. Prepare your space ahead of time. If you’re lucky enough to have a porch/patio/roof/backyard, by all means, take advantage of it. Drag your dining room table outside and string white Christmas lights all over the place. Put tea lights in old jars and glasses and place around the area. If you’re staying inside, clean the place in advance, prepare your mood lighting (again, Christmas lights and tea lights are your friends), and set the table the night before. You want to be calm, cool, and collected on the actual day of the dinner party, sipping a glass of chilled rosé as you leisurely toss a salad–not sweeping the floor.
3. Rely on the old standbys. Candles, good music, and fresh flowers will turn any place into a magical haven for the night. Feeling a little Midsummer Night’s Dream? Fill your apartment with jars of tree branches.
4. Make everything you can in advance. Plot your menu with an eye toward things that can be made the day before. There’s no reason to be whipping up a dessert the day of, or worse, during the party. Some desserts, like cheesecake and flourless chocolate cake, even taste better the day afterward. You can also make a batch of cookie dough the night before, freeze it into little balls on the cookie sheet, and stick them into the oven during dinner (just add about 2 minutes to the original recipe’s cooking time).
5. Start with an easy appetizer and a cool cocktail. Repeat after me: cheese plate. Cheese plate. Cheese plate. Vegan cheese and hummus plate. Don’t stress yourself out with a fancy appetizer that requires lots of preparation. Buy a few fun cheeses and a few boxes of crackers, lay them out in advance, and let your guests attack them. Everybody loves a cheese plate. Then, make like a bridezilla and pick a signature cocktail for your party–something simple, but with unexpected flavor combinations, like a cucumber-basil mojito or a grapefruit gin and tonic.
photo attribute: Roger Kirby