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Friday Night Dinner Party I

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Tad arranging peonies

My husband, Tad, and I love to throw dinner parties. We used to have lots of them, and they were ambitious events with a dozen guests, too many courses, and drinking late into the night. And then we got caught up with this thing called parenting, and our dinner party muscles atrophied. We've held a rowdy music group and pizza night for parents and kids from the time our twins were tots but that was the extent of our party hosting.

Recently, things changed. We had some friends over for dinner in January. Our kids served hors d'oeuvres and went to bed without pause. Soon after we had a Food52 party at our apartment, and the blood began flowing back into our veins. We promised ourselves to get back into party shape. But this time with a different strategy -- because no matter how gracious a host you are, the success of a dinner party depends in large part on your strategy.

 Getting the pie dough ready The table set the day before

Our Rules

1. We'd stick to a maximum of 6 guests -- enough for lively conversation but not so many that we had to run our dishwasher 3 times after the party.

2. We'd have our parties on Friday evenings. Tad and I both have intense jobs, so this may sound crazy, but having parties on Friday evenings would force us to be more disciplined in our planning. If you have a dinner on Friday night, your menu can't be too ambitious or fussy. And the planning wouldn't suck up the energy of an entire weekend day. Instead, I could plan the menu a week ahead, and complete it in parts throughout the week so all we'd need to do on Friday after work is arrange the hors d'oeuvres, cook the vegetables, and light the candles.

3. Bonus point -- people stay latest and are the most at ease on Fridays, after their work week has just ended. We want our party guests looking forward to an evening of fun, not plotting their departure because they have to get to work the next morning.

The short ribs, the night before The living room ready 

I hope this will be the first of many Friday night dinner menus I can share with you. Here's how we pulled off the first one:


Olives, Crackers with Shrimp Paste and Pickled Ramps, Coppa, Baby Radishes with Salted Butter

Asparagus with April Bloomfield's Lemon Caper Dressing

Dan Barber's Braised Short Ribs, Tad's Roasted Potatoes, Glazed Carrots with Braised Bibb Lettuce

Straight-Up Rhubarb Pie


Cooked food for the week for our kids. Steak; creamed kale; asparagus salad, etc. This way I knew they'd be well fed while I spent the rest of the evenings working on components of the dinner party.

Printed the recipes and made a shopping list.


I had a work event. No dinner party duties!


Tad ordered the wine, and I shopped for all but the vegetables.

Made the pie pastry, shrimp paste, and whisked together the Lemon Caper Dressing.


Braised the short ribs; let the cooking juices chill in the fridge.

Tad arranged flowers for the table, living room, and bathroom, and made sure the bathrooms had enough toilet paper.

Set the table (kids ate in their room on Friday -- presented it to them as an adventure!)

Pie baked on Friday morning Plates and platters set out the day before

Friday Morning

Spooned the fat off the top of the short ribs braising liquid; put the pot back in the fridge.

Baked the pie while packing the kids' lunches.

Shopped for radishes, asparagus, lettuce, and carrots at the Greenmarket on my way to work. Found ramps, so I decided to add pickled ramps as a garnish on top of the shrimp paste.

Friday After Work

Set out all the hors d'oeuvres and cocktail napkins.

Prepped and cooked the carrots. Pickled the ramps.

Despite 3 soaking/washing sessions with the asparagus, when I sauteed it, it oozed grit. Thankfully, I did it in batches. Tossed out the first batch. Continued washing the asparagus. Had a minor freak out, kicked everyone out of the kitchen; Tad talked me down from the ledge. Cooked the rest of the asparagus, and decided to, yes, serve our guests asparagus with dirt. Roughage! ***

Reduced the short ribs braising liquid to a nice sauce, and arranged the short ribs in a pot for reheating in the oven.

Tad roasted the potatoes.

Set out new soap in the bathrooms; replaced the towels. Checked to make sure our kids hadn't left any unpleasant surprises.

Tad lit the candles and handled the music and cocktails.

Saturday Morning Quarterbacking

The Friday night plan worked seamlessly. I probably cooked too much, but hey, I was excited to see our friends, and they care a lot about food, so I wanted them to enjoy the meal.

By Sunday night, we'd already planned the next one for early June. I find that hosting dinners is a lot like flying or public speaking. The more often you do it, the easier it becomes.

More soon! In the meantime, hope you'll tell me about your dinner party strategies. Or if you try this one, let me know what you think.

Hors d'oeuvres set out an hour before the party

*** For the record, the next day I ran into Dan Barber and he told me they always blanch local asparagus so all the grit is released into the cooking water. Next time!

Tags: dinner parties, entertaining, planning

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Comments (63)


almost 3 years ago luvcookbooks

Meg is a trusted home cook.

Inspiring. My kids are much older than yours but I haven't gotten as organized as you are. I'm going to hang on to this post and try to do some Friday evenings, liked yr comment about people being able to stay up late because they don't have to go to work the next day. Once a year for the past two years a food friend and I have had a Sunday Sundae party, centered around home made ice cream and toppings. We just had a sundae at Mozza that may be the inspiration for nextyear's sundae, caramel ice cream with homemade marshmallow sauce topped with salted peanuts.


almost 3 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Sunday Sundaes -- love this. May need to intro this concept to our kids. Also, just a heads up, we have a whole bunch of ice cream recipes we'll be posting next week from our ice cream contest!


about 3 years ago BoulderGalinTokyo

Enjoyed reading about your party. Each time will be a new learning experience, but that's part of the fun of giving a party. Never thought about having rules. P.S. Beautiful fireplace!


about 3 years ago hayley

Would love to see more dinner party menus! Is there another section where other people have shared their own?


about 3 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

There isn't a section ... yet. I'm having another party next week so I'll feature that one soon after, and we've been talking about adding a menu-making section, but that may take a while to build.


over 3 years ago lorelu

Perhaps parenting intensively, I decided to get into "party shape" too. Thanks for sharing your contagious enthusiasm and strategy to put together a wonderful menu. Your menu relieved me from stressing over the menu selection and allowed me to concentrate on my strategy which required balancing a short notice invitation and my four and one year olds helping with the "mise-en-place" under the butcher's block. We had 6 grown-ups and a one year old sitting at the dinning table, and 4 boys ages 3 and 4 at a little table next to ours. The children loved the short ribs and spaghetti (this last was my children-firendly addition to the menu) and loved the "bob the builder" movie they watched after their dessert while the grown-ups were still dinning. I have to say this was a very successful 5-to-8-weeknight-children included-dinner-party! Thanks so much!


over 3 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Sounds terrific -- so glad you did it! Thanks for letting me know. Hope there will be more in your future! Our next one is scheduled for June 8.


over 3 years ago witloof

I don't know if anyone else has commented about grit in asparagus, so forgive me if this is a repeat. I had the same problem and complained about it to one of the vendors, who suggested that I swish the asparagus up and down in a bowl of water with the heads inverted.


over 3 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

I wish this worked -- I swished them every which way and many times, and I couldn't get out the grit. I think heat (aka boiling water) is the only way to truly get all of it out.


over 3 years ago Merilynch

I also love the idea of Friday night dinner parties. And the prep work you shared in this article is so very helpful. I just have a comment for those that have small places and back off from entertaining because of it. A friend of mine has wonderful dinner parties with fabulous menus. She serves buffet style with a lovely presentation of the food with beautiful serving pieces (the silverware is placed in glasses). She also decorates with interesting flower arrangements. But instead of setting up a formal table, she uses her cocktail table. Sofa on one side, living room chairs on the other and sides. She's also uses her ottoman with a nice solid tray on top for another table. These parties are so enjoyable. They don't seem so casual because she brings out her best dishes, serving pieces, linen napkins.... And it brings us all together in a warm and intimate way. I often find this style of entertaining much more enjoyable than a formal table.


over 3 years ago LLStone

I love your wood counter top! What kind of wood is it? And the round table is beautiful. Food looks great, too.


over 3 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Thank you! The countertop is black walnut and I ordered it here (and then had it cut and installed to fit): http://www.butcherblockco... My husband bought the round table in Morocco like 20 years ago!


over 3 years ago LLStone

Thanks for the link. I think it is so cool that the manufacturer, John Boos, is from Effingham, IL. That's like an hour from here! Anyway, it's a gorgeous counter top - and the cutting boards look great, too. I'm going to check and see if he has a workshop/studio that I could visit since he's so close.


over 3 years ago Tori Haschka

Inspiring stuff- to me 6 is the perfect number too- and not just because that's all we can fit at our table in a small London flat. I find having a tasting platter to start, then a braise for main and a pudding I've prepared ahead of time is the key to having a good evening. About half way through the night my husband and I do a switch and he takes over the kitchen, rinsing dishes and getting tea and coffee- that way both of us get the chance to enjoy the party


over 3 years ago BavarianCook

Great article and I love the idea of doing it Fridays. I would enjoy being invited somewhere on a Friday night myself, it's a great way to end the workweek. You laid out nicely how it can be done when the prep work is mapped out properly, and it's doable then. Very cool!!!


over 3 years ago pnavarro

It's one thing to say you are going to plan a weekday dinner party --and another to do it! Thanks so much for this article and breaking down all the steps you did each day before the big night. I'm using it as a guideline for my next dinner party!


over 3 years ago Margy@hidethecheese

I love this post. My husband and I have also begun having more dinner parties now that our children are a bit older. We tend to have larger parties and I prepare a dish a day during the week. You have inspired me to figure out how to streamline the preparations, though. Friday nights are out for us because our family pizza-and-movie nights are sacred, but I think setting a finite window for weekend cooking is a great idea. I hope this inspires a dinner party revolution! Go, Amanda!


over 3 years ago Tsyganova

We love to throw dinner parties too, but I am having a rest now and learning irregular verbs))))


over 3 years ago BitchyMcSnappy

You gals are an inspiration to what can/should be done - this - and all Food52 entries - are why the web doesn't blow. I feel like I'm channeling Marlo Thomas and Donald's boss is coming to dinner, as well as my neighbors. Easy, breezy and elegantly simple. Rock on, chicks!


over 3 years ago ATG117

I absolutely adore this series, and can't wait for more to come. I was wondering, Amanda, whetehr you could tell us more about how you approach your menu. Aside from seasonality, how do you decide what you want to serve and how you want to pair items within and across courses. I always try to plan a menu that will hit different notes, include different textures and flavor profiles etc. But I'd love to hear more about your process.


over 3 years ago Kitchen Butterfly

This is not Amanda :-) but I can offer my two cents on how I approach menu planning. Most times I go with a particular cuisine - be it Middle Eastern, African, European or whatever continent I'm hankering after. The core of the dishes will be along those lines, balanced with a few simple, 'wholesome/unobstrusive' flavours like a simple vanilla cake; or drinks like mint tea and punch.

Like you, texture is important to me so I like to start with a platter of small bites that could include marinated olives, cheeses and crackers/chips. My main usually includes two starches with a couple of different sauces and some salads. A cake/simple cream-based finish usually works well in not jarring the tongue.

Looking forward to hearing from Amanda


over 3 years ago Tabledeckers

I love this idea! I am a small-time caterer, party planner and book arts "person" with a husband that works far too many hours and I'm planning a wedding for my daughter. Therefore our own personal entertaining has gone by the way-side! Your story has inspired me. Our group of friends, like us, are recent empty-nesters who you would think have more time, but it simply isn't the case. I'm going to plan a monthly dinner party, with no more than six, (it is a manageable number). I look forward to future tales of your parties!


over 3 years ago dymnyno

Timely post for me! I have Braised Short Ribs, California Style cooling, Coffee-Nochella Bread Pudding in the oven, Farro Salad with Roasted Mushroom and Parmesan ready to put together. Next I will get my pizza dough going for the Mac's Lobster Pizza, pear, procuitto, and blue cheese pizzas , shrimp for my take on a Pink Adobe appetizer, peel and slice butternut squash for my Spicy Butternut Squash, and maybe a few more vegetables for non meat eaters. I am going to experiment with a lobster broth and tarragon reduction for a fish course for some guests who prefer not to eat meat. This will be for a party of 30 guests and this is how summer goes in the Napa Valley! This particular group held their dinner event on the Great Wall of China last year.


about 3 years ago BoulderGalinTokyo



over 3 years ago coffeefoodwritergirl

This may not be exactly considered a dinner party, but we like to make pizzas. We lay all the ingredients out on a long table or counter (including little balls of pizza dough) rotate the oven and the grill outside and let everyone create and top individual or larger pizzas. We then enjoy them with some nice wine, a salad and lively conversation. Love the idea of Friday night dinner parties as well, and Amanda your comment about guests planning their escapes on weekdays because of work the next morning was so funny! Thanks, you made me laugh!


over 3 years ago davises88

We entertain regularly (nearly every week) on Friday nights for Shabbat dinner. It's all about planning ahead. Guests are often invited on Saturday so menu planning can begin Saturday night. Shopping starts Sunday. Some make ahead dishes are prepped Monday or Tuesday (marinated veg, soups, salad dressings). Dessert and challah dough is started Thursday evening and baked Friday. Super early Friday morning platters are laid out and dishes prepped for the evening. By the time the guests arrive, unless I'm doing a last-minute fish dish, everything is ready and waiting.


over 3 years ago Bob Hosh

Thank you for a very useful article! Planning and doing things ahead is a smart idea. I entertain good friends with dinner and a movie about 4 times a year. We call them "Movie
Dinners" because I select a film and base the dinner menu on the movie, that is, where the story takes place. The last film we watched took place in Brazil, so the menu was primarily Brazilian. We begin with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres , then dinner. Dessert is served during a break in watching the movie or after. We have had some very interesting meals and fun times over the years.



over 3 years ago msitter

Really nice meal and really nice article Amanda. So helpful. Have battled for years with the "few little things first." This is not a bad group. I have stayed away from crackers, using bruschetta toasts instead. But, have started thinking crackers might be appealing. Have seen a lot of them in your various on- line things. Wonder which "healthier ones" or others you like? Everybody is talking about radishes and butter. Have not caught the fever...guests do not seem very enthusiastic about them. I assume the tidbits were served away from the table. Then, the asparagus was a first, separate course at the table? Thanks.


over 3 years ago msitter

Really nice meal and really nice article Amanda. So helpful. Have battled for years with the "few little things first." This is not a bad group. I have stayed away from crackers, using bruschetta toasts instead. But, have started thinking crackers might be appealing. Have seen a lot of them in your various on- line things. Wonder which "healthier ones" or others you like? Everybody is talking about radishes and butter. Have not caught the fever...guests do not seem very enthusiastic about them. I assume the tidbits were served away from the table. Then, the asparagus was a first, separate course at the table? Thanks.


over 3 years ago NBrush

I love methodical planning especially within the realm of serving guests dinner, both the planning review and the comments are excellent. I love hosting dinner parties, and one of my most successful and oft repeated is the trick of employing my unsuspecting guests as ultimately willing partners in the execution of the meal. For instance if the meal is changed into a cooking lesson and want to serve fresh pasta, I can have guests make their own hand-cranked noodles. I simply supply several sauces, and those who want do the heavy lifting. The payoff is that the guests are thrilled that they not only learned how to make fresh pasta, but also have contributed to a memorable meal; and I don't get stuck with an overwhelming amount of manual labor.


over 3 years ago jenniebgood

What a great post Amanda (and very cool table! I can't tell if that is a table cloth, or is it actually inlaid?). And I love all the party-planning tips below. I am definitely inspired - we used to host dinner parties and also fell prey to the "life's hectic" syndrome. Also, we do not have children, and therefore usually end up trying to be flexible for those friends who don't want to hire babysitters, feel it's easier to host themselves, etc.... But, armed with a new dining room table, I hope I can start enticing my friends back to our turf for some dinner parties. If I can even be half as organized as you and Kitchen Butterfly, I think I'm off to a good start (and the bonus is if I'm not, or find myself at a loss for what to eat, I've got a head start with your menus!).


over 3 years ago BethyH

This is so inspirational! I had friends for dinner last night but only managed a crock-pot chili. (A delicious recipe, but still, I pine for the elegance of your menu.)

I'm going to make it a May goal to have a fully planned dinner party like this one!


over 3 years ago grosenb562

I have dinner parties with friends but they are all damn picky eaters. This one doesn't eat meat, that one doesn't eat fish....and it goes on. I've thought about getting new friends but, nah, I like these people.

What do you do with picky eaters? Do you take their preferences into account or cook what my husband and I like? I try to do both but it's frustrating.

But I use my friends for new recipes. They are my guinea pigs.


over 3 years ago Rhonda35

I learned quite some time ago that you can't please everyone - and picky eaters are a big pain in the neck for their hosts.

My rule is two-fold:
(1) I only make big accommodations in my menu planning for people with extreme health issues (deadly allergies and that sort of thing.)
(2) I make what I want, knowing full well that there is something on the table for everyone - if I make fish and someone doesn't like fish, well, there is going to be a delicious side dish, bread or starch, salad and dessert - they won't leave hungry despite not eating the entree.

Give it a try - you will find that some of your picky eaters will surprise you by trying something they normally "don't like" and you will be much happier at your own party - an important part of hosting!

Of course, if your friends complain, you can find new friends to eat with and save your old friends for beer and pizza, movie night, potluck suppers, etc.

Good luck!


over 3 years ago Bethesda Kitchen Gardener

I love this posting and everyone's comments! My husband and I really enjoy giving dinner parties for 8-10 people. Ever since we married 18 years ago, we've kept a small notebook recording who we invited and what we served -- to avoid serving the same favorite party dishes to the same friends. Since I like to serve friends the bounty from my garden, Food52 has been a fantastic resource for delicious new ways to prepare the kale, rhubarb, zucchinis, etc. that I harvest. Indeed, every time I serve Food52's Quinoa-Kale-Goat Cheese pilaf, friends want the recipe and as a result, many have signed up for Food52's emails.


over 3 years ago Ceri @ Sweet Potato Chronicles

I seriously love this. Feeding the kids in their room is a stoke of freaking genius! I'm definitely going to try that next time I'd like a nicely set table.


over 3 years ago QueenOfGreen

LOVE IT! I, too, used to love having dinner parties. My Waterloo came in the form of moving to a tiny, tiny apartment in the city. Still trying to figure out how to accomodate guests!


over 3 years ago Alixe&Lorenzo

This is GREAT Amanda. A much needed push for our own dinner partying. Thank you for the week of planning as i often fall into mad last minute panic and wonder why i can't pull it together in 2 hours. I look forward to your weeks ahead


over 3 years ago Kitchen Butterfly

Thanks Amanda. Yesterday was May day (Workers Day) and we had a holiday in Nigeria. In the small estate of 6 houses were we live, we organised a sit-out - everyone brought something.

The week before, I planned the menu. I decided to bring an entree, main, cake (whats a party without it? and drinks.

Then I went through the PLAN-REVIEW-DO cycle.

PLAN: I wrote out a plan which began with what I needed for each dish and then the subsequent shopping.

Then I planned which dishes could 'cook' together', and most importantly - bake in the oven together.

Thinks I did early which made a difference - made ice-cubes so I had enough for my punch and made enough unbaked pizzas, which i stacked on grease-proof paper (don't stack them on foil....disaster - i tried, so I can tell!)

DO- My menu - hummus, with pita chips; Cumin and Orange roast chicken with pull-apart bread (http://www.beantownbaker...) - easy and a WINNER; Two salads which I could make ahead - a simple tomato salad (http://food52.com/recipes...) and a plantain salad (http://www.kitchenbutterfly...). Dessert was a simple vanilla sheet cake which I topped with homemade strawberry sauce and whipped cream. And for drinks, I served chapman (http://www.food52.com/recipes...)

The key to success for me

- REVIEW: Keeping my list of dishes handy so I could tick/cross off/evaluate as I went along
- Cooking/baking in batches - my chickpeas for the hummus which I like to bake first, went in with the cake. No danger of cross-smells/opposing flavours. Check.

My pull-apart loaf went towards the end of the chicken. Both made it to the table at the same time.

- Make-ahead all the things that can be made ahead and let them head to the table/fridge or some other repository as ready as possible for serving. My salads were made, and then dressed properly, covered and set on the table. Out of the heat of the kitchen and the heat. And in to a safe place. Note that my kids are 'old' and I have no pets! The cake though, stayed with me , almost till the end...and when it went out, stern warning was applied - not only to my 4 year old son but to my almost 40 year old sister!!!!!!! For obvious reasons.

The pizzas (made from no-knead dough) were pulled out of the oven at the last minute, right after the chicken came out so the oven was really hot and didn't need further pre-heating. And were ready in 10 minutes! Also mostly gone in about that time :-)

It was a fantastic, if exhausting day. Everyone LOVED the food, appreciated its simplicity and I was thankful I didn't follow through on my initial plan to make delicate cheescake verrines, which involved homemade jelly! Especially as my fridge conked out on me!

Now, I am so looking forward to hosting a quieter, more civilised dinner party. Thanks


over 3 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Thanks everyone! I look forward to hearing more about your parties and tips. Will post after the next one in June.


over 3 years ago NWB

I love this! I completely agree that the key to a good dinner party is a smart menu and planning. I haven't had a dinner party in over a year and this post inspired me to host one in a couple of weeks. Thanks for the push!


over 3 years ago ChefJune

June is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Look what you started, Amanda! {8-D


over 3 years ago carol_tanenbaum

Thanks for the kick -- I had a friend over this past Friday, and it was all last minute cooking. Soft shelled crabs, sauteed spinach, buttered baby potatoes with dill. Triple creme cheese, fresh bread and salad. We skipped dessert. Somehow the kitchen gods were with me, and it was one of the loveliest evenings I remember in a long while.

Will most definitely consider more Friday night dinners -- albeit with more people, and more advance planning next time. Thanks again for the energizing report!


over 3 years ago Bevi

We too had dinner parties before kids. We made a promise to ourselves that this will be the summer of dinner parties on the screened in porch. And by then the grill will come into play.


over 3 years ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

I love this, too! (especially the part about having the kids eat in their rooms as a treat.). We've had much smaller less ambitious parties on Friday night because I usually work on Saturday. One of my favorite parties that we did this winter was Sunday afternoon lunch. I made a big pot of gumbo and corn bread, and everyone brought either appetizers or desserts. (I've given up telling people not to bring anything. They do anyway. That's just my friends.) There were 12 of us and we ended up hanging out all day watching football on television. Bonus--everyone helped with clean up.


over 3 years ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

P.s. oh, and Amanda, your house is beautiful.


over 3 years ago DebJ

Learned one important strategy: if you select the appropriate entree, it can be cooked ahead and reheated and still be delicious. And I'm not going to be afraid of Friday nights! Thanks!


over 3 years ago thirschfeld

Amy and I used to throw dinner parties all the time, we loved doing it. Then kids-then no parties. Amy and I have been discussing this very topic, you know, "remember how we used to have dinner parties all the time and now we never have anyone over anymore?" "What happened?" "We had kids" This sounds like a good addition to date night for a change of pace. Makes the adults actually feel like adults!


over 3 years ago thirschfeld

Oh, I am so happy to see the glazed carrots and I am with Midge I am going to make the rhubarb pie


over 3 years ago healthierkitchen

My kids are grown-ish now, but we had many a parent-child dinner party over the years, probably once they were over 5or 6 years old. Not quite the pizza party, but not too fussy either. We might have had (and actually still often gather with these same families now that our kids are late teens to college age) anywhere from one to three other families over at the same time, kids eating in the kitchen and adults in the dining room, though most often eating the same food family style. Sometimes we ate all together in the dining room and excused the kids to go watch a movie or play flashlight tag or whatever, while the adults lingered at the table over after dinner drinks. I might have made something like short ribs and vegetables for a dinner like this or anything from chicken to paella, to chili to something grilled with lots of salads and side dishes and maybe a pasta with sun dried tomato pesto in the summer. I've never been a fancy dinner person, so it just worked and allowed the parents to get together without needing a babysitter. We often served buffet style, and let the kids take dinner first, but we adults started dessert before letting the kids know!


over 3 years ago Kitchen Butterfly

Yesterday I was thinking of dinner parties and then the excuses started popping up - what about the kids? Our current table only sits 6...and on and on I went.

This morning, I woke up, determined to have a dinner party, excuses and all. And then I started working out the menu and when.

Now I have all the support, experiences and tips to execute it! Thanks.


over 3 years ago ChefJune

June is a trusted source on General Cooking.

You have some lucky friends. That dinner sounds amazing. And good on you for discovering the joy of Friday night. It's better than Saturday, imho, because if your guests are coming Saturday, there's a tendency to spend all day getting ready, rather than planning and executing during the week.

And thanks for sharing Dan's tip for the asparagus. I've been stressing over all the grit. ;)


over 3 years ago Midge

This was so fun to read! Look forward to the next installment. Must make that rhubarb pie.


over 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

I always have a problem with planning and never quite get it right, it seems like no matter what I make ahead I am always having to do last minute prep so the food is fresh and hot when it hits the table. Maybe I am making the wrong types of food. I love this article and you are so organized. One day I will get it right.


over 3 years ago SKK

I adore this article! This is in the domain of doability for me! (Hereafter referred to as DD). While I love reading the Big Feast it won't be happening in this kitchen in this decade.

Love establishing the rules up front, the menu, the photos. This would be a wonderful contest!


over 3 years ago Phoenix Helix

I love your reasoning behind Friday Night Dinner. I have always hosted on the weekend, to give myself a whole day to cook, but you're absolutely right, that takes up the whole day. This sounds like a better alternative!

On a techie note, is there any way you can start putting the author name at the top, right under the title of your articles? You all write in the 1st person, and we don't know who's talking until we get to the author box at the end of the article. Granted, it's like a mystery with hints along the way, but I admit that I'd rather know up front.


over 3 years ago cheese1227

It's comforting to read that you still have pre-dinner party freak out moments. I have two strategies. First I always ID one item on the menu that can be dropped and not missed if need be. Secondly, I always set the table the night before. I find that having that done - and done well -- when guests arrive, buys me some time in getting the food out should I need it.


over 3 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Love your first tip -- really great.


over 3 years ago allie

Amanda, what do you think the difference is between "dinner parties" and "having friends for dinner (or weekend lunch)?" We do lots and lots of the latter (usually with lots of kids around) for shabbat dinners/lunches, but I don't think of them as dinner parties. Maybe I should?


over 3 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

This is a great question -- I think of dinner parties as being a little more planned, and having guests who aren't necessarily friends with each other but who we bring together because we think they'll enjoy each other and will be a lively mix. When it's just friends who already know each other and is a casual evening, I think of it as "having friends over."


over 3 years ago EmilyC

Love this post and new series! I get nearly as excited for dishes and a nice table setting as I do about food, so seeing your pictures was a great bonus. You can't get any better than peonies (my favorite flower) -- your table looks gorgeous, as does your menu.


over 3 years ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

Wow. You're like Wonder Woman! I will be living my dinner party fantasies vicariously through yours, Amanda. More pictures, please. And a video. Boy, am I demanding.

There is a recent Hotline thread on scaling back on "performance cooking" - sorta kinda related to this very topic. http://www.food52.com/hotline...


over 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

What a great new series! Cannot wait to see future pieces on this topic. This would be a fantastic theme, by the way, for contests similar to "The Big Feast," but so much more within the range of possibility for so many more of us. You could offer more modest prizes such as serving pieces for dinner parties, e.g., gorgeous gratin dishes, party-worthy salad bowl + servers, stunning pitchers, etc. I almost never plan parties for Friday nights, but I can certainly see the advantage of not having an entire weekend day taken up by party prep. (Although I must say, an entire day in the kitchen preparing for a party is one of life's sweetest pleasures for me.) When I have weeknight parties, they're always on short notice, so the advance prep mentality/strategies come easily. Will post later in the week with more details on some of my more successful efforts. I'm so inspired by this!! ;o)