Choose a Saturday night and invite a few friends for dinner. Everyone loves being asked to a party - and a dinner party is a lovely way to wile away a weekend evening in the dead of winter.
Keep it Simple, Yet Special
Our dinner party is designed for six people. The food is slightly out of the ordinary but still familiar and easy to prepare.
We center the meal around a pepper-crusted roast pork loin - a very easy meat to cook. It's served with wilted spinach and mashed potatoes, both tasty and uncomplicated, yet not everyday fare.
The only part of the meal that needs last-minute attention is the spinach, and it requires just a little time at the stove right before eating.
The stuffed mushrooms, served before dinner with glasses of wine or more spirited cocktails, can be prepared in advance and cooked shortly before the guests arrive.
The cheesecake must be made well ahead of serving. When you bring it to the table after the meal, everyone will smile gleefully! Who doesn't like cheesecake? And this one, flavored with apricots, is a nice accent to the food that precedes it.
Pay Attention to the Table
For a wintertime dinner party, you and your guests will spend a long time at the table. Unlike the spring and summer, when you might move from patio to deck or take a stroll around the garden, during the cold weather, the dining room table takes center stage.
Pay attention to the details of the table. Set it with generously sized napkins, large plates, and shining silverware. The centerpiece should be low enough so that no one feels he has to peer around when making conversation.
Set out wine glasses appropriate for white wine (unless you plan to serve red wine with the pork). Put water glasses on the table, too, and have a pitcher of ice water nearby.
Put new candles in the candlesticks and set a few extras around the room on sideboards and mantles. Nothing makes a room more cozy and conducive to good conversation than candlelight.
Spoil Your Guests
Do all you can to make your guests welcome. Even if you see them at the office, gym, or PTA, when you invite them for dinner, treat them like royalty.
Make sure the front steps are shoveled. Replace any burned-out bulbs in outside fixtures to light their way. Instruct them where to park, if that might be a problem.
Clear space for coats in the closet, set out guest towels in the bathroom, and brighten the house with fresh flowers. Welcome your friends at the front door and wave goodbye to them at the end of the evening.
The more you do to make your guests feel welcome, the more pleasurable the evening will be. The more cleaning, shopping, and cooking you do ahead of time, the more relaxed you will be -- and the more fun you will have at your own party.