Throwing dinner parties can be a lot to take on…especially when they have multiple courses. No one wants to come to a party where the host spends the entire night in the kitchen. And trust me…that used to be me. I used to be the girl in the kitchen, covered in flour, when my guests arrived…and left. But along the way I learned a few tricks of the trade. And here they are, my 5 tips on how to trick your guests into thinking you are Martha throw a successful dinner party!

Menu: Think your recipes through and really consider your menu. Don’t pick recipes that are overly ambitious or something that takes a lot of hands on time.

Prep Work: Prepping some things the day before your dinner party can be a large help. For example, I made my soup and dough the night before the party and I also chopped up all the vegetables.

Game Day Plan: You need a game day plan. No this isn’t football, but the same rule applies. You need to have a plan of execution for your courses, what you can make ahead of time and what will require your attention before and during the party. With a good plan, you will have a better chance of not seeming frazzled in front of your guests. For this particular dinner party, I made the soup the day before and just had to reheat it. I made the dessert the morning of the party. And most importantly, I picked an entree that would need little attention from me while it cooked for an hour and a half.

Entertain Your Guests: Think ahead to how you plan to keep your guests entertained. A small, intimate group can be more difficult then if you have a large group of guests. A large group will tend to mingle amongst themselves, while a small group will look to you, the host, for entertainment. So have something planned! For example, we had a Pumpkin Ale Tasting before sitting down to dinner, which was a great way to distract our guests while I put some last minute touches on our salads.

Relax: In the end, RELAX! A relaxed host is really all that matters. If you are relaxed, your guests will immediately feel at ease. If something doesn’t work out, it’s ok! There is always next time!

 

For my Project Food Blog Luxury Dinner Party, I decided that I wanted to celebrate Fall! It finally dropped below 90 this week….and for Florida….that’s Fall! So in true Fall celebration, we started our night off with a Pumpkin Ale Tasting!

We had 4 different brands of Pumpkin Ale and 2 flavors of “Fall” beers. I was so happy to find out that ABC Liquor allows you to “Mix & Match”, which means you can make your own 6 pack! So for $13, I got to pick 6 different beers to try! It is a drunk girl’s pumpkin lovin’ girl’s dream! We each tried all 6 flavors, and after careful consideration…I choose Shipyard’s PumpkinHead as my favorite.

Jorge however choose Michelob’s Pumpkin Spice Ale as his favorite. Leave it to him to pick the cheaper beer! Not gonna lie though…I did love it as well and really like that it is available in almost all grocery stores. I am honestly considering stocking up on a bunch of Pumpkin Spice Ale since they refuse to sell it all year!

After our Pumpkin Ale Tasting, we headed inside for our first course, Vertical Pear Salad. This was a huge hit! Not only is it completely different from any other salad, it was a tasty way to start our meal. The salad was a watercress salad with pecans, blue cheese, and vinaigrette…all stuffed in pear, topped with honey! It was a new combination of flavors, definitely worth trying! To try to keep the length of this post down, I will be posting this recipe later this week!

 

Our second course, was Pumpkin Thai Soup…and one of my favorite courses! I must first confess that I have a crazy obsession with Fall…so part of my love for this course was because I got to serve it in pumpkins! But the other half…was the flavor! I loved the spices in this soup and the ease with which it came together. It has hints of curry, garam marsala, and just enough heat for that slow long burn I crave. This recipe will also be posted later this week!

For our 3rd/Main course we had Spice-Rubbed Pork Loin with Ratatouille and Mashed Potatoes. This was the most talked about dish of the night! I was slightly nervous about working with pork, which I find to be temperamental, but thought this recipe was straight forward enough and worked well into my time frame. The pork was perfectly seasoned and thanks to all the veggies did not dry out at all. The Ratatouille was easier then I could have hoped for…and with the combination of capers and garlic on top, it was a real winner! This recipe was so delicious, that I have already been asked to make it again in two weeks! Check out the recipe at the end of this post!

As our last and final course, we had an amazing Apple and Cranberry Galette! This was delicious and just screamed Fall to me! The combination of apples and cranberries was perfect. And the crust was truly one of the best, and easiest crusts! No eggs, no milk…instead butter and sour cream! Thanks to the balance of sweet Granny Smith Apples and tart Cranberries this dessert walked the perfect line! Not too sweet….and not too tart….but just right (you are free to now make the Goldilocks references)!  This recipe will also be posted later this week….and make sure and check back, because it would be perfect for Thanksgiving!

Thank you Foodbuzz for making this Challenge #3! I loved coming up with this menu and decorating for Fall! And even more so, I loved pushing myself to come up with new and interesting dishes. This was truly my favorite challenge yet!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spice-Rubbed Pork Loin with Ratatouille

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients:

2 Tbs. dried oregano
1 Tbs. garlic powder
1 Tbs. freshly ground peppercorns
1 tsp. salt
1 boneless pork loin roast, about 3 lb.
3 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
3 baby globe eggplant, peeled and cut into chunks
1 zucchini, cut into chunks
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into chunks
1 yellow onion, cut into chunks
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. minced fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 Tbs. capers, including brine

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 400°F.

To make the spice rub, in a small bowl, combine the oregano, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Pat the pork dry with paper towels and rub all over with the spice rub. Place the pork in an oiled heavy roasting pan just large enough to hold it comfortably.

Arrange the tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper and onion around the pork. Sprinkle with the garlic and basil, and season with salt and pepper. Scatter the capers over all.

Roast the pork until it is cooked through but still slightly pink in the center, about 1 1/2 hours. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the meat should register 155°F to 160°F. Turn the vegetables once during roasting.

Transfer the pork to a carving board, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let stand for 10 minutes. Slice and arrange on a warmed platter. Surround with the vegetables and serve. Serves 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Roasting, by Barbara Grunes