It is no secret that I love to entertain; a day spent puttering in the kitchen is wonderful. But entertaining during the week? Hmm … that is a little harder to pull off. I work in a PR agency and we can’t always predict what will happening during the day … control over our calendars is less than optimal, so that makes weeknight dinner parties a challenge.
Last week, I hosted an alumni dinner for Leadership St. Louis … I had10 people, mostly strangers coming for dinner at 6:30. I needed a menu that could be largely prepared in advance and was flexible for unknown palates. The only thing I knew in advance was that one person did not eat any pork products. And, to make things more challenging, the night before the party I had a global conference call so I knew the earliest I would be home would be 9 pm. Oh, and I have a very small house so 10 people would absolutely stretch my space (side note: two people cancelled right before so ended up with 8 for dinner). Plus the view from my dining room is the kitchen so I do not have the advantage of leaving the kitchen in chaos.
What to do? Here’s how I handled it.
- Cheese plate
- Caramelized onion and blue cheese flatbread
- Spinach salad with pears, cranberries, pecans, goat cheese, peppers and tomatoes tossed in a champagne vinaigrette
- Red wine braised short ribs
- Mashed potatoes
- Sautéed green vegetables
- Burgundy mushrooms
- French bread and butter
- Mixed berry almond cake with vanilla ice cream
3 days before (Saturday)
2 days before (Sunday)
Make potatoes, short ribs, mushrooms
Prep veggies that can last (i.e. trimmed green beans, did not touch pears)
Reclean house and patio
Final check of house for dust
5:10 Arrive home (bonus, had a client meeting out of the office which helped with schedule), let dogs out of the house, feed dogs
5:15 Call #1 from colleague – multi-task and take potatoes, mushrooms, meat out of the fridge to come to room temp, put mushrooms on top of stove, roll out dough for flatbread, add onions, blue cheese, put butter on table, bread in basket, open wine –try to check email
5:35 Hang up from colleague
5:40 Change clothes
5:45 Prep cheese platter, put items in oven, turn oven on
5:50 Start making salad
5:55 Call #2 from colleague, continue with salad, begin to get worried about time
6:10 Hang up from colleague, finish the salad
6:15 Sprinkle powder sugar on cake
6:20 Final check of house, drink glass of wine, take a few pictures for blog
6:25 Try to check email (again, was out at a client meeting so had limited email access that day)
6:25 First guest arrive
In the end, it was fine. The food was good, conversation was flowing, and the only thing I would change would be to not leave Pippi’s pool out. We had drinks and appetizers on the patio and Pippi thought it was a good time to demonstrate her swimming skills. And, if this had been a group of friends it would have been even easier. I am perfectly happy to slice veggies for a salad with friends, but with new people, I wanted to be able to focus on them.
The lesson: With preparation, anything is possible.