holiday entertaining: dinner & cocktail party menu ideas…

…and my thanksgiving dinner for 17!


when james and i went to bed on friday night (well, saturday morning at 1.30ish), we felt pretty good about the big dinner party we were throwing on saturday night. the house was clean, the groceries were bought and about half of the cooking complete. i was especially pleased with the table i’d set–with the dinner table we normally use as our desk brought down from the den and saddled up to our actual dining table, i was just able to fit 14 patio chairs and place settings all around. it wasn’t until a very clever 5-year-old walked into the kitchen at 7pm on saturday, where we and at least 3 friends were furiously cooking (despite my estimation that we’d be done all of that and on to our 3rd drinks by then), and pointed at each of us and counted “…15, 16…17!”, that james and i really thought we might be in trouble. oh. 17 guests, not 14…uh huh. quick-thinking james pulled apart the two dining tables, we squeezed in a few more chairs on the extra side we’d gained, and our dining room got just a little cozier. what would holiday entertaining be without a little craziness, right?

the dinner party menu

but put aside my lack of time-management and basic math skills, and you have a menu that was entertaining-friendly because the recipes each have portions that can be made in advance. i served a mix of my own recipes like hot banana peppers in chili oil and the porcini-fried rapini recipe i shared in my last post, and ones from gourmet (what am i going to do without you, gourmet??) including the mushroom farro pie which i’ve served before and is a beautiful and worthy vegetarian main dish. and, just for me, i worked in a few recipes that paid homage to my recent meals in brooklyn: deviled eggs were on few menus there–these ones were too pretty in pink to pass up, and there was buttermilk in everything from the salad dressings to the trendy buttermilk-fried chicken…so into our mashed potatoes it went. it was a high-flavour, comfort-food spread we intended for the friends we feel most comfortable with.

cocktail party menu!

and we really do have amazing friends. they helped cook, clean, even play host at our own house that night at times. still, i don’t know in how much of a hurry i’ll be to have almost 20 for dinner again. (soooo in denial about the 26 people coming over for the family holiday party that it’s our turn to host in 3 weeks….hi james!) the next time, i think cocktails are in order. i rounded up some recipes i’ve posted over the past year that would work perfectly as hors d’oeuvres over cocktails or as pre-dinner bites.

  • wild-mushroom wontons are the perfect finger food for any occasion.
  • lidia’s panelle, cut into smaller triangles, can be dipped into chutney, pesto, hot sauce or just about any condiment you have on hand.
  • old-school but ever-popular, quiches, made mini, are endlessly customizable always get devoured.
  • my good friend, may, (who gave birth yesterday to a lovely little girl, bryce!) tested this mushroom and rictotta toast recipe but spread it onto smaller toasted baguette slices and commented on how it would make a great appetizer. i agree!
  • my mother often serves these fried chickpeas to guests. i think they’d be perfect with a (few) glass(es) of bubbly.
  • and if you’re serving any south-east asian patties, samosas or filled/fried delights, you must pair it with my dad’s green chili sambol–prepare more than you think you’ll need!

as promised, this month is all about entertaining and i’ll be posting some new recipes, edible party favours, host(ess) gifts and even some party tips–ones that i may even follow one day. if you have favourites–tips, recipes, gifts, please let me know! i would love to know what you keep in your entertaining arsenal. till then, cheers!