Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulet

Let the good times roll!

I can think of no better phrase to describe a “Girlfriends’ Dinner Party.”  Honestly, that’s the phrase that should describe EVERY dinner party we host.  Rather it be a fancy cocktail party or a more casual barbecue, YOU and your guests should have a great time.

One of the keys to that joy is the planning that goes into it.  It makes the host feel good and your guests feel special.   I know simplicity has its place and some of the best tasting food is simple fare, but I fear that if we completely eschew real plates, linens, glasses, and planning all together, we will be guilty of allowing an important part of civilized living to die.  (A few years ago, the New York Times had a fantastic article on saving the endangered dinner party.)

~from Vanity Fair. Ronald Reagan cuts in on Frank Sinatra in 1981, during the last era of proper dinner party in DC.

~from Vanity Fair. Ronald Reagan cuts in on Frank Sinatra in 1981, during the last era of proper dinner parties in DC.

Don’t let the fear of “doing something wrong” keep you from hosting a dinner party. If we give in completely to the temptation of fast-food, styrofoam, and e-vites, we will lose what can be a very powerful art.

Many even point to the demise of the dinner party as the biggest, singular contributor to the collapse of Washington’s reputation as a progressive hub of dazzling AND productive social events. With the departure of the Reagans, so left a sense of elegance and fun.

We may not be a part of the famous Georgetown set (yet), and our dinner parties may not call for the passing of finger bowls, but those are no excuse for letting these experiences die.

No matter how small or large your party, a special invitation always helps to set the tone. So, make sure you have planned a “style” or “feel” for your party.

Two pheasants are featured on the invitation, giving guests a preview of the party's style.

Two pheasants are featured on the invitation, giving guests a preview of the party’s style.

This holiday dinner party’s style is inspired by my current favorite author & journalist Julia Reed. A famed hostess, she knows that Southern cuisine featuring pimento cheese sandwiches, ham biscuits, and spinach & artichoke dip is hard to top. She even got a job as a food critic for the NYT by serving those exact things to a crowd of stuffy Manhattanites!

The southern elegant pose of the pheasant fits the feel of the event. I carried the touch of the pheasant feathers into the decor, including the table’s flower arrangements.

Cedar, succulents, a hydrangea, and pheasant feathers fill small silver vases that line the dining room table.

Cedar, succulents, a hydrangea, and pheasant feathers fill small silver vases that line the dining room table.

I greeted guests with a tray of pimento cheese sandwiches and their choice of 2 champagne cocktails or sweet tea.  I love the idea of making a guest’s entrance special. Use a card table or your entryway table and set up something special for them. Popping a few blooms into champagne compote glasses  is a simple way of giving your table an elegant touch. You definitely DO NOT need to be a master florist to have fresh flowers at your party.

Set up a "greeting table" for your guests laden with drinks and appetizers. It instantly puts people at ease.

Set up a “greeting table” for your guests laden with drinks and appetizers. It instantly puts people at ease.

A champagne cocktail is pretty and easy to prepare. A head of time, freeze small skewers of cranberries; not only is it a pretty garnish, but it keeps the drink chilled.  Add half ounce of Chambord and a half ounce of gin in your garnished flute, top with champagne, and serve. It’s festive and delicious.

Add .5 oz of Chambord to a  .5 oz of Death's Door Gin and then top with champagne.

Add .5 oz of Chambord to a .5 oz of Death’s Door Gin and then top with champagne.

buffetDinner does not have to be all made from scratch. Choose one or two things to make and purchase the rest! I served a Honeybaked ham and Popeyes fried chicken, with homemade macaroni and cheese, asparagus, and biscuits. Serve what you know tastes good!

Then set your table using SOMETHING real if you have access to it, or borrow your parents’ or grandparents’ dinnerware.  Setting the table can set the tone for the evening and shows your guests how much you care for them.

The final touch is fresh flowers. If you don’t have access to a flower market, your local Fresh Market or Whole Foods has beautiful flowers to choose from.

I love using champagne buckets as vases for fresh flowers.

I love using champagne buckets as vases for fresh flowers.

Dinner Table

A wide swath of Ralph Lauren fabric serves as a runner and can be used for many other things. Linen napkins are a great investment as you can use them over and over again.

A wide swath of Ralph Lauren fabric serves as a runner and can be used for many other things. Linen napkins are a great investment as you can use them over and over again.

Entertaining should be personal… it IS personal. We are inviting people we care for into our homes, feeding them, and communing with them.

We need more “personal” in this world, we need more conversation, and we need to show people we value them.  I know dinner parties may not be the cure all for all of our ills, but I can tell you how restorative they can be. A girlfriends’ dinner’s memories can keep me smiling, and laughing to myself, for weeks.

So, get inspiried! Host a dinner party!

Let the good times roll.

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Items used:
Cocktail Table:
Alexa Pulitzer Cocktail Napkins
Death’s Door Gin
Chambord Blackberry Liqueur
Fee Brothers’ Grapefruit Bitters on sugar cubes
Cupcake Prosecco
Homeade Pomanders using oranges

Dinner Table:
Ralph Lauren Ainsworth Fabric in Blue
Kate Spade Larabee Road Platinum China Collection
Magnolia garland, fresh flowers, pheasant feathers, & champagne buckets and mint julep cups for vases

Menu:
Appetizers- Pimento Cheese Finger Sandwiches and Julia Reed’s Spinach and Artichoke Dip
Dinner- Sweet Kale Salad, Honeybaked Ham, Biscuits, Mustard sauce, Popeyes Fried Chicken, Baked Asparagus, Homemade Macaroni & Cheese
Dessert: Homemade Coconut Cake & Homemade Divinity

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