Memorial Day kicks off the summer entertaining season. Here's how to make your dinner party a standout:
Be responsible with your guest list: Limit your dinner party to friends, family or clients. Mixing social groups will make hosting more difficult. You wouldn't want to coax your shy aunt into mingling with your boss. That's no fun for anyone.
Find a perfect table, preferably outdoors: Circular tables that seat no more than 14 people are always more conducive to conversation. If you have the flexibility of a terrace, balcony or backyard, you should have your party outdoors. It's summer, after all, and you have the rest of the year to eat in your dining room.
If your outdoor furniture has seen better days or you're using a plywood tabletop on a makeshift base, skip the floral-print linens. Instead, dress it up with a simple, white
tablecloth from Williams-Sonoma (WSM) . Keep lighting indirect by placing votive candles on tables or hanging tiki lanterns around the party area.
To cook or not to cook: Try to at least make the main course yourself. Start with the easy recipes you know. Now's not the time to try an ambitious dish from the French Laundry Cookbook.
If you're short on time, buy side dishes from a local deli and serve them in your own bowls. Don't go to Whole Foods Market (WFMI) or any chain your guests are likely to recognize, and don't forget to get rid of the cartons.
Try to do as much preparation as possible ahead of time, so you'll be free to spend time with guests before dinner. Reheat and arrange your dishes 10 minutes before serving.