This week I've been sharing a spring dinner party for six I hosted in my small Brooklyn apartment. I bought a bunch of pretty lilacs and tulips, strung a few lights, and rearranged my living room to create an colorful indoor garden party where my friends could sip cocktails, snack on appetizers, and then sit down to a vegetarian meal over candlelight.
Today I'll show you the full party and how it all came together, from the pre-party prep to serving the food, from the table setup and decor to my makeshift cocktail lounge. It really was a delightful night, topped off with an impromptu jam session after dessert. (Roasted strawberries inspire singing, in case you didn't know.)
The Day Before
Setting Up the Party
- Make simple flower arrangements for the table from a few market- and- store-bought bouquets.
- Move my dining table into the living room, and a few of my lounge chairs where the dining table used to be.
- String lights across the room, right over the table.
- Set the table.
- Write out a menu to hang on the wall.
As far as arranging my apartment, what I did was remarkably simple yet had a huge effect. My living room and dining area are all in one big room, but the dining table sits up against a wall. It didn't feel special enough to have the dinner in that corner, nor was there any way I could string lights over the table in its current set-up.
So instead I pushed my sofa closer to the window and moved my dining table to the center of my living room. Then I moved two lounge chairs and a side table from my living room to where the dining table used to be, which also happens to be right next to our liquor cabinet. (Ahem, mixology station, as my husband would want me to say.) Presto! A makeshift cocktail lounge.
Doing this simple switcharoo also enabled me to string lights right over the dining table. I used two sets of indoor-outdoor globe lights from Target ($12.99 each). To string the lights, we put two nails into the wall on one side, and two nails into the top of my wooden bookshelf on the other side. That's it! It was so easy, and remarkably sturdy.
Party Tip #2: Don't be afraid to rearrange your apartment for the occasion. Swapping a few pieces of furniture or moving a few things into the bedroom is well worth it if it opens up the room, enables you to hang lights, or gives you easier access to the kitchen or bar area. Or space for break dancing.
Here's what my living room looked like before...
And here's what it looked like after!
Here's what my dining area looked like before...
And here's what it looked like after I made it into a cocktail lounge!
For the table setting, I relied on the beauty of lilacs and tulips, a dozen tea lights, and a wheatgrass centerpiece to really set the mood. The gold-rimmed Mikasa dishes are my wedding china, and played beautifully against my linen tablecloth (which I've written about before) and woven abaca runner from West Elm. A few hot pink napkins, both solid and patterned, added a final colorful punch.
After the apartment was ready to go, I set out to finish prepping the food. I'd already roasted the strawberries for dessert that morning, and my bread dough was rising and ready to go in the oven. About an hour before my guests arrived, I started roasting the vegetables and made the dumpling dough for the soup.
We served two kinds of wine with the meal, a white wine and a rosé, at the recommendation of The Kitchn's resident wine expert, Mary Gorman-McAdams. I emailed her my menu, and she came back with a few options. I chose a bottle of the 2011 Gavi di Gavi Vigna di San Martino and a bottle of the 2012 Wölffer Rosé, both under $15 — and both delicious and just perfect for this spring meal!
Party Tip #4: Do an ice breaker at dinner. The wackier or funnier, the better, but really anything that gets people talking or reminiscing is good. We picked "first childhood crush." Me: Elijah Wood. Flipper really did a whopper on me as a child.
Party Tip #5: Have an 'after-dinner' playlist ready, something chill, dreamy, and mood-enhancing. Try this playlist if you want! You want people to feel like life can't get any better than it is in that moment. Good food, good friends, good music. Ahhhhhh...
A Spring Vegetarian Dinner for Six
Featured Party Resources
At the Table
- Linen tablecloth: Grey and White Thin Strip Tablecloth from Fog Linen
- Runner: Woven Fishnet Runner from West Elm
- Napkins: Grate Napkins and Cross Dye Basic Napkins in Begonia from West Elm
- Candles: Beeswax Tealight Candles
- Tea light holders: Birch candle holders were a gift; White Porcelain Candleholder from West Elm
- Appetizer and bread board: Olive Wood Paddle Board from West Elm
- Dishes: Mikasa
- String Lights: Indoor-Outdoor Globe Lights from Target
- Teapot: Handmade honeymoon souvenir
The Food and Drinks
- Cocktail: Cucumber and Rosemary Gin and Tonic
- Appetizers: Cream Cheese, Arugula, and Radish Toast Bites (radish added to this recipe) and Chipotle and Rosemary Spiced Nuts
- Roasted vegetables: Roasted Potatoes, Radishes, and Fennel with Lemon Brown Butter Sauce
- Bread: Crusty No-Knead Bread
- Ricotta: Baked Ricotta with Lemon, Garlic, and Chives
- Soup: Creamy Watercress Soup with Lemon-Goat Cheese Dumplings
- Wine: 2011 Gavi di Gavi Vigna di San Martino and 2012 Wölffer Rosé
- Dessert: Roasted strawberry goat cheese squares
- Tea: Lemon Verbena Tisane with St. Germain