I'm still recovering from the excitement (and the wine!) at Saturday night's first-ever dinner party. I'm proud to announce that I pulled it off -- it was even better than I had anticipated (then again, I had pretty low expectations). The guests all showed up. People seemed to like the food and to enjoy themselves. And I had a lot of fun too.
All in all, I'm very proud. Considering that less than a year ago, I could barely defrost a microwave dinner or follow the directions on the Amy's macaroni and cheese box, I have come a long way. I'm mostly relieved that all of my guests showed up and I didn't burn anything!
Still, there's always room for improvement.
I've learned so much during this adventure. If you're hoping to throw your own dinner party, here are some Undomesticated Me tips:
1. Plan a detailed scheduled for the day of the party, leaving time for last-minute errands. I was so busy cleaning the apartment and buying baguettes on Saturday that I waited until too late to start prepping the food. I had to scramble at the last minute to halve the Brussels Sprouts and scrub and quarter the mushrooms. I barely had time to put on makeup and get dressed (not to mention time for the clothing crisis!)
2. Make sure you have enough serving dishes and cutlery. I ended up renting a table, dishes and silverware and I still didn't have quite enough bowls (luckily, I found some from a different pattern, but at least I didn't have to resort to using the kids' Disney princess bowls).
3. It's nice to entertain without kids. I know it's a hassle to get a babysitter and it's not cheap, but it's worth it to have a night out without the kids, right? It was certainly a treat for me to have adult chat without having to worry about any meltdowns or freak-outs (my kids were perfect angels and went to bed without any struggle).
4. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Realizing I was in over my head, I asked Avo to prepare salad dressing (a wonderful garlic vinaigrette). Then I had Mr. Di Franco plate the salad. What a team!
5. It seems obvious, but don't forget to invite an assortment of interesting guests and not just the usual suspects. I went out of my way to invite people I wanted to know better and who I thought would get along, not necessarily old friends.
6. Keep color in mind when deciding what to serve. Honestly, I never considered it when planning my menu, but in hindsight, I wish I had injected some color -- maybe in the form of glazed carrots?
7. You can never have too much wine or cheese. I bought a wonderful selection of cheese, but it went pretty fast (whereas I bought way too many baguettes). I only bought one bottle of wine and even though guests generously brought wine, we cut it pretty close. A little more wine would have been a good thing and we could always have saved leftovers for another night.
8. Don't be a perfectionist. I had planned to make whipped cream to top the apple spice cake and brownies for dessert. But I didn't want to stress about whipping up whipped cream while I was enjoying dinner. Besides, the vanilla ice cream a la mode was sweet enough.
9. Try to relax and enjoy yourself. At the end of the party, OTBKB's own Louise Crawford said "It was so nice to see you enjoying yourself. So many times you go to a party and the host spends the whole night in the kitchen. Guests don't like that. They want to see the host enjoying the party." So true.
10. Guests will appreciate the fact that you invited them and cooked for them. And you'll get a kick out of cooking for other people (I promise!). It may be a lot of work, but the end result is worth it.
One guest e-mailed the day after the party to say "Great food, guests and conversation. Wonderful success! You have arrived as a hostess!"
I e-mailed back, "I'm not sure I've arrived, but at least I'm in the driveway."
I had so much fun planning the first-ever dinner party that I'm already undertaking another challenge: a Very Belated (6 years late!) Housewarming Cocktail Party. I'll be sure to let you know once I set a date.
Oh yeah, one last final tip: Don't forget to take pictures! I forgot, but luckily there were a couple of photographers at the party. Hopefully, they'll send me some good pics soon (Hugh and Ken, if you're reading this, get on it pronto!)