The Un-Dinner Dinner Party: How Much Food Should You Prepare?

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We have an occasional dinner party dilemma at our house: we really want to gather our friends together and make cocktails and prepare just a few quick things, but the thought of making a full meal often proves to be a deterrent. So a few weeks ago we came to a sort-of solution: invite friends over a bit later in the evening so they're not expecting a full meal. We still have the chance to prepare a few snacks, my boyfriend Sam can make cocktails, and everyone will be happy. Or will they?

It turns out that a few people hadn't actually eaten when they arrived and halfway into the evening left to pick up a pizza. I couldn't tell if it was poor planning on their part or ours. I figured if we asked folks to arrive at 8 for "drinks and company," it would be clear that there wouldn't be a full meal, but I assumed falsely. So now we're back to square one. This time I'm trying to convince Sam we just throw a full-fledged dinner party, but he seems to think there's a delicate balance of lighter, simpler food we can make to have on hand. 

What do you think? How much food do you prepare when having folks over for evening drinks? Very light snacks or more substantial dishes (as folks can get hungry, also, when they drink)? I'd love to know!

Related: Food and Wine's Cocktail Meatballs

(Image: Faith Durand)

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