It’s no secret: I love to entertain. I love everything from choosing a platter for serving snacks to crafting clever invitations.
When a friend of mine contacted me for some cooking and entertaining advice.
The conversation went more or less something like this:
“Rebecca, I had some drinks last night*. And I think I told him** that I could cook. And that I’d invite him over for dinner. And I can’t really cook. Actually, wait — I definitely did invite him over for dinner. This Thursday. Now what?”
I told her to relax and that I’d help and step in as her Dater Cater.
I first crafted three sample menus for her to choose from. After she made her selection, I sent her on her way to the grocery store with a list.
She fared surprisingly well seeing as I only received one emergency text asking me what basil looked like.
Pretty soon, Thursday night arrived. And so did I, at her apartment.
I set out to do what I do best, get ready to entertain, even if I wasn’t invited to the party.
So I figured I would offer you my 5* tips that I always go by when entertaining — whether it’s for an intimate dinner for two, a holiday gathering or a casual girls night in. Keep these tips in mind the next time you entertain, and it’s bound to be a memorable success.
No. 1: Clean!
This is the most basic one. And it’s not because it’s coming from a girl who vacuums her 300-square foot apartment daily, but from a girl who knows that even a stray magazine or leftover coffee mug in a small space can make it look cluttered. So what does cleaning entail? Clean and organize your space so it’s not distracting. Focus should be on friends, food and drink — not clutter. So make room on tabletops, refresh that roll of toilet paper in the bathroom, take out the trash and clean glasses that may not have been used in awhile. It’s basic housekeeping that goes a long way: if your place looks inviting, people will feel more invited.
No. 2: Small Bites
I’m a huge fan of hor d’oeuvres. The irony is, while they sound fancy, they can be made simple. In fact, I rarely ever exceed the three-ingredient mark with them. But I choose three really standout ingredients and don’t skimp on quality. Don’t make something complicated that requires people to use utensils, or even a plate. Give them something to eat that requires only a cocktail napkin. Some ideas for easy apps? Proscuitto wrapped asparagus with a drizzle of lemon, Smoked Salmon Cucumber Canapes, my Maple Roasted Bar Nuts, and I most always have a 3-cheese plate with green grapes.
No. 3: Tea Lights
My friend laughed when I showed up at her place with a bag of tea lights. But emphasis on lighting is key. And I don’t mean to say that you’ll be turning your place into a candle room a la cathedral shrine, or even hosting a seance. But pay attention to lighting. Table lamps offer warmer lighting than abrasive overhead lights. And tea lights always add a warm sparkle (think: your favorite dark wooden bar with all those shelves of bottles delicately lit up with candles behind them). And as much as I love candle sticks, they look overly formal in small spaces, no matter how high your ceilings are. So ditch them and stick to tea lights. You can plunk them in mason jars, on overturned sea shells, or in empty vases. Just don’t light more than you can keep your eye on.
No. 4: Music
This is such an obvious one, but you’d be surprised how many people forget about it. My advice: your favorite Pandora playlist playing in the background, loud enough for people to hear but mellow enough for people not to be distracted from their conversations.
No. 5: Be Your Party
It’s your place. You cleaned it. You set the lighting. You prepped the food. You turned on the music. Now get out there and enjoy it. You deserve it. Get a little rowdy.
And if you’re wary about running up the bill on the soiree, I recommend buying one bottle of hard alcohol that can be mixed easily and go a long way, like gin or vodka. Ask your guests to BYOB, and you’ll supply the snacks. It’s an easy tradeoff and they’ll likely be happy to contribute to any party that you throw.
As for my friend’s date? You’re wondering by now how it turned out, aren’t you? Because you noticed there was no dessert made. Well done, you. So how didthe meal end?
I don’t kiss and tell, not even on my friends.