Holy shit… they’re going to be here in 5 minutes.

Here’s the thing. You don’t have to be a fantastic cook or the most gracious host to throw a successful dinner party. But you have to have a plan. If you’re organized, you probably won’t burn things, because you’ll set a timer, you probably won’t forget to buy ice because you’ll have made a checklist, and you probably, unlike me, will not have guests in your house while you’re still slaving away in the kitchen in your ripped t-shirt without a lick of makeup on because you completely underestimated how long it actually takes to make the main course you’re serving. I always, always run out of time. I’m getting better about managing my time in the kitchen, making lists that actually get crossed off, in order, and setting my damn timer, especially when toasting nuts.

And it’s working. I’m dressed for dinner when people arrive now! And at least one of my lids has eyeliner on it. Still, nothing is more crucial than the menu. Even a tried and true main dish will still get most of the attention, usually leaving appetizers to the bitter end, also known as crunch time. Appetizers are where you need to rely on the simplest starters and snacks. Maybe even ones that you could make the day before. Maybe even ones you buy and then put a thoughtful spin on. It’s allowed – in fact, a seriously good cheese served with a sliver of honeycomb is a great way to spoil your guests. You can whip that out even when you realize that they’re going to be there in…5 minutes?? While my own guests are getting their hands sticky with that, I can run upstairs and draw a line on my right eyelid. The ideas and recipes within may even allow us time to mix a cocktail for someone. Imagine it.

Find all of the recipes published in this issue here.