Author Topic: Tips for reoccuring, family-style dinner parties?  (Read 4108 times)

cranilation

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Tips for reoccuring, family-style dinner parties?
« on: January 02, 2015, 10:00:08 AM »
I love to see my friends, but we all gripe about going out to loud restaurants and paying lots of money.  Hey, why don't I just organize a regular "dinner party" with standing invitations?  But there's a big difference between throwing a "dinner party" where you impress and astound your guests by having a more put-together life than them (how anti-mustachian!) and having friends over for a good time.

I know this sounds like "being a human 101" but I would really love advice from some more socially adapt, experienced, or older mustachians out there.

What are your key tips to throwing a good dinner party?  What do you do about that one friend who will. not. stop. eating?  What do you think is a good price per head for a group meal?  How many people do you think is ideal for a good dinner?

DeltaBond

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Re: Tips for reoccuring, family-style dinner parties?
« Reply #1 on: January 02, 2015, 10:06:20 AM »
How many people typically go out to a restaurant with you?  And what types of places are you all used to going to?  Also, do all of you have kids?

iamlindoro

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Re: Tips for reoccuring, family-style dinner parties?
« Reply #2 on: January 02, 2015, 10:08:45 AM »
Background: Me and my SO have 20-25 people over for big dinner parties about 3-4 times a year.  Our dinners have gotten a bit of a reputation and people who have never been invited but want to come routinely ask us how they can "make the list" for the next dinner.

What are your key tips to throwing a good dinner party?

Prepare absolutely everything you can well in advance, and where possible, do only the very last steps as guests arrive.  This will lower the stress of having everything done in time and free you up to actually interact with your guests.  The timing took me a long time to get just right, but I can now cook for 20 and not stress out about it.  For maximum fun, pick a meal that is out of the ordinary and involves some amount of participation by the people invited.  Our favorite is Raclette dinners, where the only prep necessary is boiling potatoes and slicing a ton of stuff.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raclette

What do you do about that one friend who will. not. stop. eating?

Nothing.  If you are concerned about how much people will eat, don't have a dinner party.

What do you think is a good price per head for a group meal?

Also nothing.  I don't personally feel comfortable accepting money from people when I invited them.  If costs are a concern, you can ask them to bring very specific items (x bottles of wine, dessert, etc.).  If you guys have an agreement about splitting costs going into it, then discuss amongst yourselves what a reasonable amount per person is.  I would say that we spend maybe $10 per person in food costs for most of our dinners.

How many people do you think is ideal for a good dinner?

20 is incredibly fun but can be very high stress for a less experienced cook.  10 is low to medium stress and still a lot of fun.

trailrated

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Re: Tips for reoccuring, family-style dinner parties?
« Reply #3 on: January 02, 2015, 10:20:23 AM »
You could either have whoever is hosting everyone cover it all and switch houses every time you do it or set it up like a pot luck?

swick

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Re: Tips for reoccuring, family-style dinner parties?
« Reply #4 on: January 02, 2015, 10:26:38 AM »
There is also nothing that says you have to do all the work yourself - Build your own bars (Taco, baked potato, pizza) work well and allow you to have more people and not have to worry about serving/timing issues.

Serving "Family Style" is also a great way to cut down on the work.

One thing that has worked out really well for us is classy themed potlucks. The theme is chosen and everyone brings something and we have small, silly prizes for "best tasting" "most creative" fan favorite" "most unusual ingredient" That are related to the theme. We are in a group that likes to cook and enjoy friendly competition though.  Several popular ones were "Miniaturized food" "High Tea" "Surf & Turf" "50's fare" "Food Inspired by my favorite drink" "food from my favorite book"

MrsK

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Re: Tips for reoccuring, family-style dinner parties?
« Reply #5 on: January 02, 2015, 10:40:05 AM »
I think 6 or 8 people is a good number for a monthly dinner party.  Ask people to bring wine or beer or dessert if you want. 

The crockpot is a great friend for dinner parties.  I find people appreciate humble food if it is prepared well.  Try a beef stew and dinner rolls--you can buy large quantities of frozen bread dough very cheaply. 

I always set out some nuts and cheese for nibbling ahead of time, but not too many snacks.  My grandmother once told me that the key to a good dinner party is to always have plenty of booze but less food than you think you need.  I don't know why this is so, but it works. 

My last dinner with guests was 2 large meatloaves, mashed potatoes (instant), green bean casserole (yes the one with the soup in it) and 3 boxes of wine from Trader Joe's.  I also made the Trader Joe brownies (the mix they sell is the best!).  I spent $55 and $25 was on the wine.  Everyone had a great time.  We had a winter bonfire in the back yard and our last guest left at 3 am, which to me is success. 

My husband and I love to entertain, and have learned from practice.  Keep it simple, be a relaxed host, and do not worry about clean up until the next day.  Is anything more uncomfortable than a host cleaning the kitchen while the guests feel awkward and like they have intruded? 

Noodle

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Re: Tips for reoccuring, family-style dinner parties?
« Reply #6 on: January 02, 2015, 11:37:30 AM »
I remember coming across this article about a family that does something similar, with weekly Spaghetti and Meatballs dinners. http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/08/simpler-entertaining-friday-night-dinners-end-loneliness-how-to-build-community-after-having-kids.html I also recall reading about another family whose approach was even more relaxed (I think they had a bigger house, so they didn't need to worry about seating)...they just let everyone know that they were always home and serving dinner to anyone who would show up on Sunday night. That had been going on for a number of years. Of course I can't find the reference for that one...

mm1970

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Re: Tips for reoccuring, family-style dinner parties?
« Reply #7 on: January 02, 2015, 11:50:29 AM »
On our pre-kid days, on of our friends organized a "supper club".  These were mostly graduate students.  They let dh and I do our supper as a combined supper, but it had to be nicer than everyone else going solo.  It lasted several months, then of course, some of the grad students graduated.

So, first night up David (the Korean guy) did Indian food.  It was a couple of dishes that he made and then a few of the pre-made pouches.  Family-style, with rice and naan.

We also had pasta made by the Norwegian, Chicken, rice and peppers from the girl from Washington.  We made a roast beef, mashed potatoes, rolls, key-lime pie and a vegetable for our night.  I can't remember what the guy from Finland made, and we went through half another round too.  It was 15 years ago.

Around the same time we had friends that we played volleyball with on the weekends, and we alternated dinner at each other's houses. 

After kids, we started hanging out with the neighbors, and we occasionally have a last minute (want to come over for dinner?) but more often than not, we are more likely to trade babysitting.

So in the last couple of years we've become friends with people in then neighborhood and they have a standing potluck at the park on Sundays at 5:30 pm.  So that's really nice - it's family-style.  Some days it's all takeout pizza, but that's rare.  Most times it's a wide variety of salads, mains, sides, desserts, and wine.  Now that it's dark early, we switched to brunch (first time this year).

As far as how many people goes -
Pre-kid days we also did big Thanksgiving dinners, from 10-14 people.  Maybe more.
We also did dinner parties from 4 to 10 people.
It's important to be relaxed about it and don't try to do too much.  Wine, a main, a salad or a side, maybe an appetizer.

Make sure you have enough seating.

TerriM

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Re: Tips for reoccuring, family-style dinner parties?
« Reply #8 on: January 02, 2015, 12:23:14 PM »
We used to do this--we had dinner at our house every Sunday night and anyone was invited to come.  We had some regulars, and we had a lot of fun and we'd play games after dinner.

My best advice is to keep the meals simple.  Certain meals are easier to make than others even if they rank just as good on the taste ranking.  For example, broiled pork chops, fettuccine alfredo, and steamed broccoli is easier to make for a large crowd than pizza and a salad.  On the other hand, things that you can make the night before and cook the day of the dinner, like lasagne, are also good.   I tried hard to have the dessert made the day before because desserts (like chocolate mousse pie or cheesecake with raspberry sauce) were generally time intensive and needed a lot of cleaning, and some of them have to sit and cool for 24 hours anyways.

Having others bring wine, drinks, bread, salad or dessert can also help if you're worried about price.  We never asked that for our regular dinners because I liked arranging the menu, but if we had Easter/Thanksgiving dinners, some people were offended if I didn't let them bring food, so I called it "potluck optional" and would provide a basic meal (meat, potatoes or rice, and a veggie) and whatever else people brought was great.

I don't know what I'd say for the price--really depends on what you make and whether you buy wine (we didn't, but we tended to have pastured meat, so that really jacks up the price).  Probably $5-$15 depending on what you're making.
« Last Edit: January 02, 2015, 12:32:03 PM by TerriM »