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Menu... please?

how to plan a perfect 
dinner party menu
1 2 3

I've been to dinner parties where the décor was lacking (futons pulled up around a coffee table), the music absent (or worse yet, present but cringe-inducingly awful), the place settings eclectic (and not in a charming, flea-market-fashionable way), the ambience nil. But feed me a zesty salad and an exquisitely prepared entrée or two, and I can guarantee I’ll be a happy camper for the evening. Serve it all up with a luscious bottle of wine, and I may even forget that the host made me use a plastic cup.

Good food makes for content dinner guests. And a well-planned menu makes for a blissfully stress-free host(ess). Both of which lead to one obvious conclusion: if you’re going to obsess over one thing, dinner party divas, make it the menu.

Faced with a plethora of cookbooks and so many recipes it makes your head spin, divining a dinner menu can seem intimidating, to say the least. First things first -- take a deep breath, quit hyperventilating, and realize this: You’re throwing a party. It’s supposed to be fun. And no one’s coming to your house expecting a 5-star restaurant-worthy epicurean extravaganza.

The first thing you’ll need to decide is whether you’re aiming for a casual, homey sort of meal – perfect for a relaxed Sunday dinner with good friends – or a swanky, gourmet feast that’s meant to impress. Think about who your guests will be – your family? your future in-laws? your best friend and her new guy? your oldest and dearest buds? your new office mates? – and what level of formality would make them feel most comfortable. While you may love nothing better than donning your best little back dress, daintily dining on escargots, and sipping a pricey French red from that cut crystal wine glass you inherited from Grandma, your jeans-and-tee-shirt-loving, spaghetti-and-meatballs- raised pals may be squirming the whole night long, should you be so cruel as to force them into an evening of trendy elegance. A simple home-cooked stew can be every bit as delicious as salmon en croute … it’s just a matter of which best suits your particular guest list, and the occasion for which you’ve gathered these folks together.

but wait, there's more menu madness! 


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