You're looking at the aftermath. We got a little ambitious in our holiday entertaining this weekend, throwing not one but two dinner parties for six over the course of 48 hours. The Sunday night party had been on the books for weeks, but the Friday night one was a morning-of, impromptu idea. See menus, tips, and how much we spent, below...
Deciding on Friday morning to have friends over Friday night was actually a blessing. There was no time to hem and haw about a menu, and I was much more decisive. I stuck to a main course I've made dozens (hundreds?) of times and then experimented with a side dish that ended up being so good, I repeated it for the Sunday night party. The impromptu party was so relaxed and fun; our friends stayed until almost 3 a.m.
Ideally, you'd shop once for both parties. On Friday, however, I was hitting up the farmers' market, Murray's, and Whole Foods and then hauling bags while I ran errands, so a huge shopping trip wasn't in the cards. But I did buy the cake ingredients and a few other things that made Sunday's trip to the store a little quicker.
By the way, both parties came in under $100 for groceries. Not that this was the goal, but it's worth mentioning. I spent around $70 for Party #1 and $85 for Party #2. I did buy two inexpensive wines for the second party, but otherwise we drank what we had on hand or what friends brought with them, so it was hard to calculate alcohol exactly.
A few other tips and encouragement:
An already-clean house makes round two easier. I'd already tidied up, dug out my votive candle holders, straightened the hand towels in the bathroom, etc.
Don't stress about the dishwasher. I ran it many times, even breaking my own rules about what doesn't go in (I did wine glasses on the delicate setting for the first time). If you don't have a dishwasher, enlist some help so you don't wear yourself out.
Repeat dishes. In addition to repeating the pasta (see below), I made this Dark Gingerbread Pear Cake for both parties. I had the ingredients, knew exactly how long it took, and only my husband had to eat it twice. (He didn't complain.)
Keep the general meal template the same. This sounds odd, but it helped that both meals had a separate salad, a meat, and a pasta. I used the same dishes and set everything up the same way on the table, which made it all flow more easily.
Don't make appetizers. I bought colorful bulk olives and cheese crackers and scattered them around the living room. Done.
Sara Kate's Beet Salad with Horseradish Cream and Frizzled Sweet Onions (highly recommended)
Roasted Bone-In Chicken Breasts with a few lemon slices stuffed under the skin
Pasta with Brown Butter and Fried Sage
Dark Gingerbread Pear Cake with sweetened, whipped cream
Various cocktails, beer, and wine (see recycling bag, bottom)
A salad of fennel, orange, and shallots, tossed with balsamic dijon vinaigrette
Beer-braised short ribs (a recipe from Epicurious that I'll share later today)
Pasta with Brown Butter and Fried Sage- again
Dark Gingerbread Pear Cake with sweetened, whipped cream- again
Santa Rita Cabernet Savignon (We couldn't find this exact one, but we bought a different Santa Rita that was delicious.)
Goats Do Roam red wine
Overall, we had a great weekend, saw lots of friends, and made it through without feeling stressed out or over-extended. It was a blast.
Have you ever thrown more than one party in a few days? Tell us your story.
Related: Make-Ahead Tips for Dinner Parties
(Images: Elizabeth Passarella)