Tips on How to Entertain with Ease and Pizzazz

Who doesn’t like to be invited to a dinner party?  But, who has the time these crazy days to organize one?  In reality, all it takes is a little planning and you can be the “hostess with the mostest,” as my mother would say. 

Start with embracing the concept of a pot-luck or “mash-up,” as I like to call it. Once that is settled only two other things are needed:  a theme and a guest list. Easy enough, no?  It is, however, highly recommended that your guests like to cook!

Recently, I invited five couples to our home for a classic 60’s Retro dinner.  Once I determined the main course of baked ham (from the East Village’s Polish Meat Market), each person was assigned a dish. Contributions were discussed via email to avoid any duplication of ingredients and to make sure the menu was balanced in terms of taste and texture.

The final menu was as follows:


Pigs in a blanket

Toast points with chicken liver mousse topped with fig jam

Salmon Rillette

First course: 

Alice Water’s warm goat’s milk cheese salad

Main course:  

Glazed baked ham (Recipe to be provided in Dessert section of TTT)

Green beans with sautéed shallots

Scalloped potatoes           

Dessert: Red fruit pie with vanilla ice cream

In lieu of classic Martinis or Manhattans, Champagne flowed lavishly with the appetizers.  Then, with the main course, our appointed sommelier—one of the guests— decanted several magnum bottles remaining from the barrel of 2006 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon created by Kunde Winery for my husband’s 75th birthday.

To set the mood, I created a table scape capturing the Retro theme. Luckily, as the dinner party took place mid-December, the existing holiday centerpiece of colored ornaments and fairy lights was repurposed.  As I own neither a Marimekko table cloth nor fiesta dishware, I opted to add bright red boxes and pomegranates instead.  Why? Not that they were particularly “Retro” but because they were readily available. This is a Martha Stewart trick.  She suggests checking out your closets to see what you have at hand. The real challenge is putting it together with some panache. Clearly, the more “stuff” you have in your closet, the better the chance you can pull this design challenge off.

To add a fun element, wooden artist hands with moveable joints held the napkins.  Our guests couldn’t stop playing with the fingers, placing them in all sorts of imaginable positions, some more polite than others.

Naturally, a party needs music so we turned to Spotify for a playlist of 60’s hits. 

In the end, everyone enjoyed showing off their respective dish in addition to having a blast working collectively in the kitchen.  Sharing the labor made the dinner a cinch to organize.  And the glorious leftovers!  After all, the hosts deserve some extra benefit for getting the party rolling in the first place.