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Dinner party: The New "going out"

It's that time of the year again...holidays, parties and good times. Everywhere you go there are great home cook meals and just tons of food.

What this also means is time to party! My favorite, the dinner parties. I never thought I would like this but its pretty fun, inexpensive way to get together with friends and still feel like you are going out.

Sometimes you just need a few basic tips and tools to put this together and you come out looking like a pro!

The rules of the game (there aren’t that many either) are all the same. I'm going to dissect two parties that I recently had. One party was with only four people, and the second party was with 35 people. Enjoy!

1. Choose a theme or concept

You have to start off with: Why are we getting together? This tends to help guide what ideas you are going to look up. It also helps you decide how formal or casual you want to take your party. for example in the last dinner party I had, I wanted to bring some co-workers over for dinner but like at any of the dinner parties I have, the big rule of thumb is always the same: Make my guests feel special.

Party #1 - The Smart Casual dinner: the concept here was a semi-formal sit-down dinner. I wanted to keep it nice but also a little casual since this wasn't a black tie event. Whenever you're choosing a color scheme I find it really easy if you just stick to black and white which is classic, and just add a second color. For this kind of setting, I did want to feel like we were in a restaurant.

Party #2 - The Wine tasting party: for this kind of gathering I just wanted my guests to feel like if were at a wine tasting. I have been to a few of these when I lived in Chicago, and the cool thing about it was the fact that you got to try different kinds of wine, have some good cheese, and get together with friends and talk. The purpose of this party for me was to gather with friends from high school and middle school, that I haven't seen in a long time. After moving back to Miami I wanted to see them all. When you’re getting together with a larger group of people, you can have more of a "buffet"style of eating and presenting the food. Wine and cheese are just perfect for that. Easy.

2. Decide what you (or someone else) are going to cook

Party #1 - The Smart Casual dinner: for the dinner party, I wanted to feel like we were in a restaurant so I chose foods that I normally don't eat on a regular basis. I did want to keep this healthy, but tasty too. I decided to use some recipes that I had already saved on my Pinterest. In this kind of party I try choose foods that I normally don't eat and it will give your guest the feeling that they are in a high-end restaurant.

The truth: I was using ingredients that I always use and know how to cook. I was just using them in different ways. This way you can give a delicious menu but in unexpected ways.

For example: I just made this different way of serving bread and I got the recipe from Kevin is Cooking. It's ok if you do some research and copy some things, your guests will never know.

Party #2 - The Wine tasting party: in this party I wanted to keep it easy and also give people a reason to start talking. Even though, I have friends that knew each other, I also had friends that didn't. Food and wine can help you here.

And a great way to get the conversation going is to have different kinds of "finger foods" for people to try and ask each other. Some are typical things like cheese and crackers...that people would just go for and other are not so popular but still tasty (spicy Home made jelly...I got from a friend)

In this party I chose wine cheeses (I got large quantities at a bulk store like Costco) and a series of meats and different kinds of fruits and veggies (for the vegetarian friends),

I also made a carb platter with different crackers and breads (home made and some not to home made)...just presented them in wooden baskets and trays I got at Marshalls for an average of $8 per tray. My total here was about $60 for all those people to eat.

3. Do the unexpected

This is by far my favorite rule of thumb: the element of surprise. In any party you have to have this, because not only is it going to make your guests feel like they got away, but it will also make you look like the coolest host ever (to them at least)

Party #1 - The Smart Casual dinner: the element of surprise I use here was pretty the dinner itself. My guests had no idea that they were coming for a four course meal with wine pairings and specialty cocktails. I also put together a very easy and inexpensive menu to complete that restaurant concept. I also set up the the plates and utensils properly.

All the stuff I had no idea how to do, this was the first time I was doing it, I just did research on Pinterest and I learn the proper way to set up utensils 20 minutes right before they got to my house and the food was cooking. Sometimes the element of surprise, is the dinner itself. Just make the table setting semi formal.

How to make the menu: I bought white card stock, printed the menu, glued a different card stock (in this case are used a black shiny one), and wrapped it with ribbon. Remember keep it simple black-and-white. Next time you have a dinner date at home guys, you should try this.

Party #2 - The Wine tasting party: I had a couple of surprise moments here. The first one was the different wines I had. I bought a few cases of assorted wines from Heartwood and Oak and it was just perfect for tasting. These are perfect because they send you a box of different kinds of wines good quality and right at your door. For this party I had the first box break on the way here, so they quickly sent me a replacement.

These people make you look like you had a wine cellar in your place. I always try to have wine at home, and it ends up being way cheaper than running to the store every time. Also be conscious of your friends and have alternatives, I had a punch with no alcohol for those who don't drink.

I wanted to place the cheese in a smart way but also let people know what they are. So I took the labels off the cheese, glued them to a card, and a toothpick, to label them. It was easy, and at no additional cost.

Like I said before, focus on making them feel special, take some time preparing, researching and learning.

The last surprise was even for me...across my building fireworks went off. It was a funny moment towards the end of the night...everybody came to the balcony and jokingly said that I even had fireworks for them.

They will leave the party with one thing on their mind: When is the next one?

Let me know...when you plan your next party take some pictures and show me! I want to see how cool your dinner party turns out!

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