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Luxury Dinner Party part 2

March 6, 2011


~ Katy ~
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Foodo recently received a request from a journalism major who asked for some help with her Senior Project.  The topic: Luxe-For-Less: How to plan a quality dinner party without breaking the bank.  Katy was kind enough to respond and wrote: I love the idea of your senior project and would be happy to help you out. First off, I think that one of the reasons people throw dinner parties is so that they can have a luxury dinner for less.  Going out is tremendously expensive when it comes to luxury foods and drinks.  Secondly, it is very easy to throw a beautiful dinner party for 8-12 people with a budget of $200 or less, if you know what you’re doing. Here are some tips I can give you: . .

You want to be sure you have some great place-settings for all of your dinner parties.  I happen to have an amazingly beautiful set of artistic pottery dishes that my sister made for me.  Not everyone is so lucky to have a generous and artistic sister, but that shouldn’t stop you from your goal.  You can pick up some fine sets of china at estate sales, along with getting some great deals on silverware.  Mixing and matching old/antique silverware is also tres chic, so there’s no need to have a perfectly matched set.  Also, if you’d rather go with a set of simple, inexpensive white dishes, you are good to go for any season.  After all, it’s the food that’s the show, and nothing shows it off better than plain, white dishes.  You can pick up inexpensive wine glasses at many discount stores (TJMaxx, Marshall’s, etc.) or at Macy’s when they’re on clearance.  Using a tablecloth is a nice touch, too.  Be sure it’s pressed, or it’ll look cheap and tacky instead of helping you dress up your table.  Again, you can find these on the cheap at many discount stores.  You can also get great glassware and dishware in bulk. I don’t include these items in the overall price of a dinner party, because I use them over and over again.  These are simply tips to help give your dinner party a luxurious look and feel without designer costs.

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When throwing a dinner party, it’s a labor of love.  Truly, it’s all in your preparations, planning and execution.  Since you don’t have to pay for labor, you’re saving lots of money.  Create a menu that you can prep by yourself starting the week before the party begins.  Dessert is a great place to start.  Desserts say “Luxury” without much cost, if you make them yourself.  You can check out a lot of cakes that can be baked and frozen before frosting and then frosted and refrigerated until the day of the party on the Foodo Cakes tab.  You’ll notice that these cakes look incredibly luxurious, and after trying to make a few of them, myself, I found that the directions for decorating are extremely easy to follow, and I found success and rave reviews!  These cakes are often even better than they look, if you can believe that.  Chocolate Mousse served in martini glasses is simple to make in advance, looks divine and tastes even better.  In fact, I’ll have to get on that for an entry on Foododelmundo.

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When it comes to the courses (and nothing says “Luxury” like a many-coursed meal), begin with an appetizer.  I like to serve my appetizers while the guests are getting their drinks, socializing and milling around.  For a multi-coursed meal, serve no more than two appetizers.  These, too, can be created in advance.  For the entire meal, choose fruits and vegetables that are in season.  They’re much less expensive this way.  When purchasing the main course meat or seafood (if you are serving these), I get my fresh fish from Coastal Seafoods and my meats from a local butcher or at Whole Foods.  Having grown up on a farm, I can taste the difference between chicken, pork or beef which has been raised organically and that which has not.

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Presentation is everything when entertaining.  Don’t skip the garnish, and be sure you have a pretty/striking/stunning arrangement planned out for each course.  This is actually very easy to do.  I like to do “Stacks” (see some of the links, below)  that combine amazing flavors, for at least one of my courses.  I learned not to do more than one (or two if I feel ambitious) per meal, because they are labor-intensive.  Here are some examples of what I’ve served for each course: Appetizers:

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Spring:

Cedar Plank Brie with Peach Chutney

Charred Tomato Bruschetta

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Summer:

Goat Cheese & Roasted Pepper Panini

Mango & Black Bean Salsa

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Winter:

Carmelized Onion & Bacon Tart

Bourbon Steak on Crostini

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Fall:

Bacon and Sage Wrapped Beef

Asparagus Tart

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Soups:  Hot or cold for spring (depending on if it’s late or early in the season), cold soup for summer and hot soup for fall and winter.  I’d avoid the chili in a multi-coursed meal, since chili is a meal in itself.  Here’s the Soup tab on Foodo  for many I’ve tried.

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Salads:  You can get organic mixed greens in bulk at a great price.  There are a thousand ways to do salads, and for this you can go simple (lettuce, tomato, onion, blue cheese dressing) or stack it up. You can also, in the summer, go with a hearty salad as your entrée.  I’m simply going to share the Salads tab. Main courses:

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Spring:

Shrimp Cake Stacks

Rigatoni with Sausage, Artichokes and Asparagus

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Summer:

Sayur Lodeh (Shrimp with Vegetables)

Smoke House Ribs

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Winter:

Shrimp Cassoulet

Beef Wellington

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Fall:

Swordfish-Rosemary Polenta Stacks

Pumpkin Risotto

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Drinks:  This is where the greatest expense usually comes in.  I buy in bulk at one of two local “clubs”.  I know what each of my guests likes to drink and am sure to get something for everyone.  Buying in bulk means I have a lot to go around for multiple dinner parties.  I have a lot of wine on hand for the seated portion of the program, but usually my guests bring enough wine for the evening (and sometimes even more than that).  I often like to serve a tray full of after-dinner drinks.  On the tray I’ll place bottles of Bailey’s, Amaretto, Port, Single-Malt Scotch, etc. with appropriate glasses.  Sometimes I will have a special cocktail for starting (or finishing) things off.  What’s great about these is that you can make an entire pitcher just before guests arrive, and you’ve got your bar tending out of the way for awhile. Specialty Cocktails:

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Spring:

Key Lie Martini

Pom Martini Great for any season!

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Summer:

Watermelon Cooler

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Winter:

Glühwein

Easy Egg-Nog

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Fall:

Pom Martini

Hot Apple Pie

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Fresh flowers add so much.  I arrange my own from my garden when they’re growing.  In winter and early spring, I buy and arrange flowers from a local store or one of the clubs.  If I am having a guest who usually brings flowers, I don’t need to buy them.  Easy luxury tip:  Place cards.

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Also, I’ve hosted luxury dinner parties where each couple or guest brings a part of the meal.  It’s fun and very affordable.  Another tip:  if someone is great at something and they’d like to contribute, allow them to do so (as long as they’re not the taking-over type).  It’s the utmost in kindness for them to offer to share their expertise/talent/best soup, appetizer, dessert or salad. That’s all I can think of right now.  Good luck with your project!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Marilyn permalink
    March 6, 2011 6:52 pm

    Wonderful advice, always good for a refresher to see in print what is the ideal for a dinner party.
    Thank you so much!!!!!

  2. March 7, 2011 7:08 pm

    Great tips — love those menu ideas (always nice to have staple dishes you can mix/match), and I’m a big fan of doing “theme” drinks. Much easier on the budget than catering to the whims of every palate. And it will often get people trying something new!

    And flowers… such a great way to “glam up” even the simplest affair. Somehow the addition of fresh flowers makes almost any occasion seem special.

  3. March 9, 2011 10:10 pm

    Superb party plans and fabulous display! I’m horrible at plating and garnishing… You tips helped more than the senior, thanks!

  4. March 10, 2011 5:21 pm

    Love all of your tips! Now if you could just convince my husband to invite people over, I’ll have all the tools! 😀

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