Casual Summer Dinner Party

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I like to throw a fun party. I enjoy the planning process.  Thinking of a theme, planning the menu, decorating my house, etc., is really fun for me.  These days with two small kids, it’s harder for me to put as much effort as I’d like into planning parties and gatherings with friends. But, I still do my best to make it a nice event, try to enjoy the process and love the social aspect of the party the most (especially the wine drinking!).

Last weekend, Andy and I hosted three couples, two of whom didn’t know each other. These are my favorite dinners…I love the opportunity to introduce people and get to know others better.

The key to planning a nice party, especially when you have limited time, is to plan in advance and save only the necessary things for the last minute. I put just as much emphasis into the decorating and table setting as I do the food. Delegating is also key. If someone wants to bring something, let them! We also assume that nothing is going to be perfect and try to enjoy our guests.

Below is the menu from our dinner party last weekend. I wanted a “summery” and casually-sophisticated menu. It’s not particularly special but was enjoyed by all.

The Game Plan

Friday night:

  • Buy flowers and groceries.
  • Make dessert and put in the fridge to chill. 

Saturday morning:

  • Set the table.
  • Make the meat marinade and marinate the meat.
  • Cut the goat cheese log, marinated it in oil with rosemary.
  • Cut up the mint and put it in the lemonade and vodka for the signature drink.
  • Cut the veggies. 

Saturday afternoon and evening:

  • Make the salad (reserve the dressing).
  • Rotate the meat (every two hours).
  • Set up the drinks and appetizers
  • Start the grill.
  • Begin to sauté the veggies and boil the potatoes.
  • Bake the breadcrumbs.  Dredge the goat cheese in baked crumbs and return to oven.
  • Cook steaks; then let them rest.
  • Warm bread in oven. 

The Menu

Appetizer: Fresh bruschetta with goat cheese spread (brought by a friend) 

Cocktail: Mint-Vodka Lemonade

Salad:  Arugula, fresh peaches, toasted walnuts, basil, and baked goat cheese (dredged in breadcrumbs)

Bread: Gruyère and sour dough, warmed (from Trader Joes)

Marinated flank steak: The key with the steak is the marinate it all day.

Side 1: Sautéed mixed veggies of mushrooms, red onions and asparagus (butter, olive oil, salt and pepper, white wine)

Side 2: Salt potatoes (red potatoes boiled in salt water, butter and chives added optionally)

Desert: Raspberry shortcake served with whipped cream and fresh berries


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