Well, I can tell you that I am not a dinner party hostess extraordinaire, because I still know nothing about dinner parties. Evidence?
- I rolled a spoon, fork, and knife in an ugly paper napkin and put it on the left side of each plate.
- I placed mismatched wine and champagne glasses on the right side of each plate. Since the theme, which no one except myself knew existed, was "all of the mismatched things," the plates were also mismatched.
- I served the soup when only one guest had arrived, and I let him eat it before anyone else showed.
- I tried opening red moscato with a cork screw. Pro-hostess tip: you needn't a cork screw if the cap is a twist off.
- I later blamed the cork incident on the soup-sneaking guest.
- I allowed an unexpected guest a spot at our table, a la Cher from Clueless, because it does not say RSVP on the statue of liberty.
I'm not ashamed. In fact, I'd say it was mostly a success. I think there are worst things I could've done than ignoring all of this:
image from didyouknow.org
My one true take away from the evening involves cohesion. If your food and your invite list have some sort of cohesiveness, some connections between guests and links among food, then you and your guests are going to have a great time over good eats.
So, what might tie people together? Studying the same subject, working at the same place, or sharing an interest can help turn an acquaintance into someone you know well after an evening of conversation. Though not everyone at last week's dinner party knew each other, it was easy to keep conversation going because we shared common acquaintances and an abundance of overlapping interests. We kept our awkward silences to a minimum while getting to know new, or newish, people.
And what ties each plate together? Spices and herbs generally do a great job of this. The other evening, I called on my good friends cilantro and cumin to help separate dishes feel like a meal.
We started with yam and black bean soup with orange and cilantro, one of my favorite recipes from Appetite for Reduction. I love the complex flavors and the pairing of orange and yam.
As our entree we had almond crusted tofu with cumin. I used some of the soup broth, plus a few other vinegar-y pantry staples to make the tofu marinade. Using the soup broth in the marinade, plus cumin in the (gluten free!) breading pulled these two dishes together.
The almond crusted tofu sat atop cilantro lime brown rice. Cilantro made a re-appearance from the soup, and I couldn't be happier. More than any pop song or fresh herb, Cilantro is my jam.
We finished dinner by sipping red wine, eating chocolate covered espresso beans (chocolate and coffee products go with all things, no cohesiveness needed), and chattering... with only the occasional awkward silence.