Although I don't do it nearly enough, I love hosting dinner parties. To make a weekend dinner party more fun (and to split up the work), Ariel and I put our heads together to plan a simple Sunday get-together with make-ahead recipes from The Kitchn Cookbook. I've already shared the party plan and make-ahead menu, my tips for hosting a weeknight dinner party, and Faith shared the recipe for lettuce cups with red pepper lentils.
Now it's time to see how our Simple Sunday Dinner Party turned out!
The Party Plan
The plan was simple — a casual Sunday dinner party with a few friends to wrap up the weekend. Ariel and I planned everything together, and hosted dinner at my apartment.
We used The Kitchn Cookbook as inspiration not only for the make-ahead dinner and dessert recipes, but also for tips on throwing a simple, stress-free dinner party (stay tuned for these later this week!). There was also a festive cocktail to match our Mediterranean-inspired menu.
→ Get a copy for yourself: The Kitchn Cookbook
→ Read more about our party plan here: A Simple Sunday Dinner Party: The Party Plan and Menu
Our Menu for a Simple Sunday Dinner Party
This menu serves six people. The best thing about this menu is that many of the items, or at the very least their components, can be made ahead of time.
Two Days Before the Party (Friday)
Even though our dinner party was on a Sunday, we planned to do the prep work ahead of time, starting two days before. Breaking the prep into smaller bits made it feel manageable, and it also made me see how feasible it is to even have a small dinner party during the week.
Cleaning the Apartment - There wasn't a lot of heavy cleaning to be done. I tidied up the living room and dining room, and cleaned the bathroom.
Setting the Table - Since I have a separate dining room table, I was able to set it ahead of time. I ironed the table runners and napkins, laid them on the table, set all of the plates, silverware, and glasses in place. I also laid out all of the serving platters, bowls, and utensils we'd use for Sunday's dinner.
Grocery Shopping - Friday afternoon I went through the recipes in The Kitchn Cookbook again, and made a list of all the ingredients I needed to buy. Before going to the store, I double checked the refrigerator and pantry to see if there were items I already had. I bought all of the food, except for the salmon.
The Day Before the Party (Saturday)
Making the Food Ahead
While it doesn't require too much hands-on work, the bread does take a bit of time to make, so I got that started on Saturday morning. I made the filling and sauce for the red lentil wraps, and prepared the cauliflower couscous. I also made the three components for the phyllo stacks — the cinnamon-sugar phyllo squares, the lemony Greek yogurt, and the dried fruit and pistachio mixture.
Setting up the Drink Station
We used a small side table in the dining room as our cocktail area. I set up all the drink components, a muddler shaker, and more glasses.
The Day of the Party
We wanted to leave as little as possible until the last minute. Sunday morning I went to the store to buy the salmon and pick up a few bouquets of fresh flowers. This is the first time I bought such a big piece of fish. It was much larger than I expected, and I have to admit it made me feel pretty cool to hoist that sucker into my basket.
Before Our Guests Arrived
We divided the flowers and placed one bouquet on the dining room table, one on the buffet, and a small vase in the bathroom. We also did some last-minute straightening up, like fluffing the pillows on the couch, taking out the trash, cuing up our playlist, and lighting a few candles on the table.
Finishing the Food
I assembled the red lentil wraps and spooned the sauce over top, chopped the shallots and herbs to go with the salmon, cut the bread, and assembled the phyllo stacks for dessert.
After Our Guests Arrived
Like I mentioned yesterday, it's always helpful to designate one person to be in charge of drinks. That can mean setting pitchers of water on the table, making cocktails, pouring wine, and mostly making sure all your guests have a drink. Ariel's boyfriend, James, was our cocktail-maker for the evening, and greeted guests with our signature drink.
Once all the guests arrived I put the salmon in the oven, then joined everyone in the living room to catch up.
Just Before Sitting Down
I let the salmon rest for a few minutes after taking it out of the oven. Just before everyone sat down for dinner I transferred the salmon to a large serving platter. I lined the platter with chard leaves for some color and texture.
The moment we'd all been waiting for — time to settle in at the dining room table. One of the bonuses of opting for an early dinner time was getting to take advantage of the longer daylight hours and early evening sunshine. Definitely a nice change of pace.
All of the food was served family-style on large platters and in serving bowls. I always feel like this creates a more intimate vibe, yet it also kept things casual. We dove in and passed the food around the table.
We lingered around the table, talking and laughing long after we filled our bellies. Since it was still early, no one was rushed to move the evening along too quickly. It was comforting and relaxing to spend a Sunday evening sharing a meal with friends, rather than prematurely thinking about the growing to-do list for the coming week. Plenty of time for that later.
After finishing dinner and settling in for a little while, Ariel and I cleared the dinner plates and serving platters from the table. (Though doing the dishes was saved for much later.)
The three components of the phyllo stacks were made the day before, then assembled shortly before the guests arrived. So, all we had to do was grab the plates from the kitchen and pass them around the table. Following suit with our Mediterranean-inspired theme, this dessert (also from The Kitchn Cookbook) fit right in. It's simple and subtle, yet sweet with lemon-scented Greek yogurt, topped with sweet dried fruit and pistachios, then sandwiched between cinnamon-sugar crisp sheets of phyllo dough. It was indeed the perfect ending to our meal.
Featured Party Resources
- Runner: Capri Runner in Indigo, Serena & Lily
- Napkins: Yellow Napkins, West Elm
- Glasses: Marquis Tumblers, Waterford
- Dinner Plates: Hutschenreuther (Racine), no longer available
- Dessert Plates: Hutschenreuther (Racine), no longer available
- Butter Plate: Rika Appetizer Plate, Crate & Barrel
- Rectangular Serving Platter: Large Platter, CB2
- Bread Bowl: Bistro Bowl, Fishs Eddy
- Water Pitchers: Weck Canning Juice Jar, Crate & Barrel
- Flowers: Pink tulips, peach tulips, and yellow freesia from Whole Foods, and wildflowers that I already happened to have