I consider a dinner party the ultimate form of entertainment and a way to create strong relationships. Bringing together good friends and good food for a long evening of conversation gives people a chance to talk about things that matter to them, to get deeper than the usual small talk. (When I found this photo I thought yes, that’s what a great dinner party feels like.) I know many people find the idea of having a dinner party to be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. I’m lucky enough to be married to a man who loves to give dinner parties. He likes the planning, the shopping, the cooking and everything else that goes into being a good host. He’s also knows that it’s important to set a schedule for the evening and then keep to it, more or less, where as I can get lost in conversation and good wine to the point of forgetting just exactly what needs to be done. (I remember spending a lot of time making gazpacho many years ago, only to find it still sitting in the frig long after the guests had gone home.) So what is a dinner party? To me, it’s an evening with adult friends (family can be included but this is different from a family get together) that lasts a minimum of 2 hours–though I’ve had ones that lasted half a dozen–has at least three courses and does not include watching TV or a movie. It can be planned weeks in advance or it can be a last minute invitation. This week I’ll be writing about what you need to throw successful dinner parties. From where your guests should gather to what you should serve, I’ll give you my ideas on what makes a great dinner party and why they’re important for our lives and our community.