Effortless Entertaining: Tips for a Stress-Free Dinner Party

It’s Erin from Fig + Cotton with some more Effortless Entertaining tips!  Today, we are tackling the dinner party.  I love a good dinner party, but preparing food and fun for more than my little family can sometimes be daunting.  Over the years, I have come up with some pretty good go-tos on throwing a good gathering.

Here are my tips for a stress-free dinner party.

How To Host a Magazine-Worthy Dinner Party

Make a plan

  1. Be prepared and organized.  I go a bit overboard on this front, but just jotting down your menu, making of list of what needs to be done on what day and time (think “Friday PM: set table, grocery shop”), and making a grocery list well in advance will make your party prep go much smoother.
  2. Don’t try to do everything in one day. Set your table the night before, and make sure your grocery run is done the day before the party.  Nothing is worse than running around to the butcher, Whole Foods, and the flower market hours before your guests arrive.
  3. Plan to have the kids out of the house, if you can.  I know this may sound extreme, but you will thank me once your parents come get the kiddos for a sleep over.  You will be so much more relaxed.
  4. Ask your guests about any allergies or food aversions.  Most hosts forget this step, but it will make things much easier if you know in advance.
  5. Send out an invitation.  I love a good paper invitation, but a digital invitation (Paperless Post and Evite are great resources) can just as good in a pinch!  Sending something a bit more than a regular email makes your guest feel special.
  6. Less is more.  Less food choices, less fuss on the table, less stress for the you.  But, where wine is concerned, more is more.  That is important to remember while shopping.
  7. Hostess closet.  Like I have said before, a well-stocked “hostess closet” can cut down on all of your entertaining planning.  Keep pretty linens and dishware at an arm’s length, so you aren’t stressing about each place setting. See this post here where I outline what I keep in mine!
Plan the menu
  1. Keep it simple.  Simple, beautiful food is always a hit.  You don’t need to create a super fancy, four course meal for people to enjoy themselves.  Keep it classic and simple, and they will be happy and comfortable.
  2. Do what you know.  Don’t use a dinner party as an excuse to try something new.  Cook what you love to cook.  Use that knock out recipe your husband requests every year for his birthday.  If you are at ease cooking it, you will be at ease while people are eating it!
  3. Don’t try to do it all.  Pick up sides from your specialty store, a cheese plate for a quick appetizer, or dessert from your local bakery.  You don’t have to make each and every piece of your dinner party meal.  No one will know…or if you invited the right people, they won’t care.
  4. Pick at least one item that you can throw in the oven.  Whether it be a roasted tenderloin, baked mashed potatoes or roasted vegetables, pick at least one dish where you are hands off.
  5. Make ahead moments.  Run through your recipes a few days ahead and see if you can find any “make ahead moments” where you can cut down your day-of time in the kitchen.  For example, you can chop veggies or brown bacon (just keep the fat!) the day before for easy dish assembly.
  6. Here’s a good idea of a winning dinner party meal:
salad  –  chicken  –  brussels sprouts  –  gratin  –  pie (store-bought!)
Remember that friends are the focus, not the food
  1. A relaxed host is the best host.  Don’t stress over dinner.  Your guests are the stars of your dinner party.
  2. Jump out of the kitchen. Make sure you are pretty much out of the kitchen when they arrive, so you can meet them at the door with a glass of bubbly.
  3. Set the party mood.  Light your favorite candle, turn down the lights, and put on some great music.
The Dos and Don'ts of Hosting a Dinner Party

I hope these tips help you create a lovely stress-free dinner party soon!  For more recipes and entertaining inspiration, visit Fig + Cotton or Fig + Cotton on Pinterest.

Effortless Entertaining: Cocktail Party in a Pinch

Hello, La Dolce Vita readers!  Thanks so much for having me, Erin with Fig + Cotton, again today with some tips on Effortless Entertaining.

As someone who loves to entertain — and does it frequently — I have some items that I keep handy at all times in case of an impromptu get together at my home.  Here are 12 items that every hostess should have on hand to throw a cocktail party in a pinch!

1 // A cocktail party is obviously not a cocktail party without the cocktail.  Try saying that five times fast!  First, I would always suggest always keeping a few reasonably-priced bottles of cava (Spanish sparkling wine) in your fridge.  You can get some wonderful bottles for under $15, and nothing says party like the pop of a champagne cork!

2 // Always try to keep the ingredients to your go-to cocktail on hand.  Also, make sure you can make that go-to cocktail without too much trouble.  One of my favorite cocktails is the French 75.  Almost all the ingredients can be stored for a long time, and it is just plain delicious.  You can find my version of this cocktail here.

3 // A can of salted mixed nuts is the perfect — and easiest — bar snack to have on hand when your surprise guest(s) arrive.  Keep some good nuts in your pantry.

4 // Keep a few frozen apps in your freezer.  You can find delicious ones (here, here, and here) at Williams Sonoma, Whole Foods, and even at your local grocer.  You will look like you had this all planned out as you are passing your treats on a platter to your guests.  No one will know.

5 // Olive Oil.  Yep.  Olive oil, sea salt and freshly cracked pepper make the easiest and elegant dip.  Serve it in a simple, shallow white bowl.

6 // Bread.  See #5 above.

7 // Next time you are grabbing groceries, throw a bag of frozen shelled edamame in your cart.  This can be the perfect appetizer to throw together.  See this recipe for ideas.  I use this one all the time with a variety a toppings.

8 // Make sure you have a good selection — and I don’t mean expensive — of cocktail glasses on hand.  It would be ideal to have 8 champagne flutes, 8 wine glasses, and 8 old fashioned at arms’ length.

9 //  Pretty patterned disposable cocktail napkins can spruce up any old get together.  Next time you are in the HomeGoods check out line, grab a good variety of fun and pretty ones.

10 //  A fabulous serving tray instantly elevates a cocktail, in my opinion.  Place your cocktails on the tray for serving for a polished look.  You can purchase beautiful and unique trays at so many places.  The one I used here is from Target, and it usually sits on my coffee table.  Think outside the box!

11 //  Candles are a no-brainer, and they can definitely set the mood for your party.  Keep a few on hand in your “hostess closet,” so you don’t need to scramble at the last minute.

12 // And finally, music.  Be prepared with your favorite iTunes playlist or Pandora station.  Nothing is worse than a party with no music.  Nothing.

Well, there you have it!  I hope this helps you have a great time at your next Cocktail Party in a Pinch!

Until next time!