Let’s Get Classy
I have this love hate thing with the idea of hosting a dinner party. I love the idea of having people over and setting the scene with cute little plates and decor, but what do I feed them? Should there be music on? What about candles? Is that overkill, or fun? At the end of the day, the details don’t really matter, and it’s all about coming together with friends and sharing a meal. BUT it is nice to know that we’re all capable of more than just throwing out a pre-made cheese tray from the grocery store. Which *cough* I totally haven’t done. This episode of adult(ed) made stepping up my dinner party game feel not too out of reach after all.
Let’s dive in, shall we?
One of the most important elements when having a dinner party is creating the ambiance. One way to set that is having the right music to fill the atmosphere throughout the night. I have found that a playlist that’s mostly instrumental easily fills the background in a nice way without getting in the way of conversation . I made a playlist for you to check out for your next dinner party and you can find that here. It’s filled with lo-fi to some modern, jazzy vibes.
The next thing you want to do is set the table. Candles are always an easy way to add some mood. Unscented are usually a good way to go for this, so it’s more about the look than a scent getting in the way of the yummy foods your guest will be smelling. Flowers are a personal favorite of mine to add some color to a table. I found MJ’S note about using smaller vases so you can see your guests across the table super helpful. I even applied this to my Thanksgiving dinner we hosted after filming this episode!
What’s on the Menu?
For Gatlin’s dinner party, we went with Italian cuisine along with a cheese tray appetizer. We got all the food for Gatlin’s dinner party for under $200. Keep in mind, this included flowers which were an extra as well as things for a bruschetta which we did not make in the end (we decided to go with one of Gatlin’s favorites to make - cucumber crostini). This is still a lot, but for three courses and a cheese tray this can be cheaper than going out. Some ways to cut the bill is to split the dishes between friends. Maybe have some of your friends bring a wine or dessert to bring down your part of the bill. However you decide to split that up, you just need to know what’s on the menu! In the mean time, we’ll help you out and share what we made for our dinner including a yummy Apple Crisp dessert.
Here is the grocery list of everything you will need:
3 types of cheeses: 2 semi-hard (Manchego, Edam), 1 soft (Brie, Gorgonzola, Camembert)
Coppa, salami- 1 package each
Garnishes (See what you have in the fridge/pantry, mustard, peppered jelly, almonds, dried apricots, sliced apple. You have options here and you don’t need them all!)
1 bulb garlic
7 pints colored cherry tomatoes
1 package unsalted butter
4 heads of romaine lettuce
1 med. Radicchio
1 small red onion
2 cans (15 oz) chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
6 oz. provolone cheese
Red wine vinaigrette (bottle dressing)
3 lbs orecchiette (or penne or fussili or spaghetti)
Grated parmesan cheese
8 boneless/skinless chicken breast
12 honey crisp apples
Old fashioned oats
Vanilla bean ice cream
Now Let’s Get Cooking
Let’s start with one of the easiest parts…the cheese tray! The best way to build your cheese tray is with 3 different types. MJ, our expert for this episode, suggested 2 semi-hard and 1 soft cheese. Then add some salami or prosciutto if you like. From there, she suggested some garnishes you may already have, like mustard. I personally love adding some honey, a fruit like apples, and some almonds to round things up. Finally, slice the baguette into 1/2 inch slices to go along with your cheese board! You may want to have this ready on a tray in the fridge until you are ready to serve it to your guests.
Mix it up
The chopped salad! This might be even easier than the cheese tray.
1. Add the chopped romaine, radicchio, ½ of red onion sliced, celery, tomatoes in bite size pieces to a large bowl.
2. Drain chickpeas then add to bowl
3. Cut provolone cheese into ¼ cubes then add to salad
4. Toss with dressing
The Main Course
Pasta with roasted cherry tomatoes and basil (chicken on the side)
18 cups of halved cherry tomatoes
12 cloves of garlic, smashed
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp oregano (roughly)
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 lbs orecchiette pasta
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees
2. Toss tomatoes in balsamic vinegar, oregano, garlic, olive oil then roast on a baking sheet for 15 minutes.
3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta. Cook pasta until tender, but firm.
4. Drain (do not rinse) and place pasta in a bowl. Add tomatoes and all pan juices. Toss to combine, season with salt and pepper
5. Garnish with fresh basil and parmesan cheese
1. Heat oven to 450 degrees
2. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle olive oil. Place on baking sheet, bake for 10 minutes. Make sure to cut the breast in the middle to check if it’s cooked all the way thru. Slice, place on platter. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and fresh basil.
For dessert (my personal favorite) we had a delicious apple crisp, which can be made a day in advance and take some of the stress off getting ready for your party!
12 apples, cored and sliced
6 tablespoons of white sugar
1 ½ teaspoons of ground cinnamon
3 cups brown sugar
1 ½ cups old fashioned oats
1 ½ cups AP flour
1 ½ cups cold butter
Sprig of mint
Heat oven 350 degrees (F)
Toss apples (peeled, cored and sliced thin) with white sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon in bowl and coast. Pour into a baking dish
Mix brown sugar, oats, flour and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon in separate bowl, then using a fork or pastry cutter, mash cold butter into the mixture. Should resemble coarse crumbs. Spread over apples.
Bake until golden brown and sides are bubbling (about 45 minutes). If your oven tends to get hot, cover with foil.
Serve with ice cream and sprig of mint.
Set The Table
For some reason, I had to learn how to do this in the 3rd grade and I made up a song that’s helped me to this day (and it helped me get an A on the quiz). From left to right - It goes napkin, then fork (I like to put this on top of the napkin), plate in the middle, knife and spoon on the right, then the cup in the right hand corner. But maybe your meal doesn’t require a spoon or knife? Another simple way to set the table is to lay the napkin on the plate with the fork on top. If you find yourself at a loss, pinterest is always a great place to seek inspiration.
Time to Party
Well, I hope you feel a little more confident in hosting your own dinner party! I definitely felt more equipped after this episode. At the end of the day, it’s just something fun to do! Especially as a house warming party or just an overdue get together with friends. Whatever you end up doing, let it reflect you! I would just suggest leaving out the paper plates and napkins and your good to go!
We came. We saw. We adulted.