Besides the guests, there are two things that make an evening feel special–the food and the setting. I believe a dinner party table should be set with nice plates, glasses, napkins and silverware–no paper or plastic please. I have a dozen white plates from IKEA and wine glasses I’ve picked up at thrift stores and when one gets broken, I find another. Add a tablecloth, some flowers and candles and you let people know that this is a special night. If you’re serving condiments, put them into ramekins or glasses rather than putting bottles on the table.
You don’t have to make everything yourself, but try to add something special to each course. If you’re serving a salad with bagged lettuce, make an interesting dressing and some homemade croutons. If dessert is store bought ice cream, add a homemade chocolate sauce (chocolate chips and cream melted in the microwave and then mixed well make a great one.) We’ve all been to meals where we could identify everything as coming from Costco and I think we should make a little more effort than that.
But in the end, the most important thing about dinner parties is to have them. Invite friends, neighbors, colleagues to share a meal. And even if you follow none of my rules, if you bring people together it is bound to be a special evening.