In the spring and summer, I advocate easy entertaining. Throw a six pack in the cooler, some chicken and zucchini on the grill and you're good to go. But the advent of fall beckons us indoors. Lures us into sweaters and snuggling into the couch and eating foods that are oh-so-bad for us. So I find myself wanting to take my time with a fall dinner party. I want to create a setting that makes my friends want to linger; cook foods that will compel us to stick around the dinner table while we digest.
Fall, then, is an ideal time to prepare comfort food, the fatty, buttery, bacony dishes our moms made that now occupy the menu of every hip restaurant in the country. While I champion taking your time with this Comfort Food dinner party, I also offers ways you can shave a little time off the top. I'm not responsible for what happens to your waist.
1. Prep and planning
Fall is a good time to begin using the dining table again, so limit your invite list to the number of people you can fit around it. Sending everyone an email is fine. Do your grocery shopping the day before the party. Try to reserve party day for just decorating and food cooking. Sounds extravagant? Trust me, if one partner can be responsible for driving kids to baseball, walking the dog and grabbing lunch, and the other partner can get Zen with the party duties, both partners will be less flustered when guests start knocking at the door.
Time-saving tool: Peapod. I let this grocery delivery service deliver the bulk of my groceries and then head to a specialty market for items like fresh-baked desserts or stand-out salad fixings.
I used to go overboard decorating for dinner parties, but now I have three secret weapons: Candles, flowers and white plates. White plates create a clean canvas for all that delicious food. Candles can be used in the middle of the table (judiciously so they don't get in the way of food passing or conversation) and in the living room. And inexpensive grocery store flowers in appropriate fall colors add a touch of pizzazz. I know it doesn't sound like much, but taking your time setting up these three details before guests arrive will enhance the sense that it's a special night at your house.
Time-saving tool: Placemats are an inexpensive and quick way to add flair to your table. The ones I use are from Ikea and cost $3. I also have them in black and silver.