For the love of food and friends, here’s the how-to on hosting a dinner party and starting your very own dinner club.
AN INTRODUCTION TO DINNER CLUB
One of my goals for the summer was to throw a dinner party! My reasoning behind this was pretty simple: I enjoy cooking and I enjoy my friends, so I should combine the two to make a dinner party. To spice things up from just a normal dinner with friends, I challenged myself to make everything and make it fancy shmancy. We’re talking like a good homemade dinner. No messing around as I attempt to follow the recipes printed ever so beautifully in the cookbooks. A dinner with all the real stuff.
The summer went by way too quickly, as it usually does, and I found myself planning this for the middle of August; a “goodbye summer, hello fall” dinner celebration.
However, you should know I have a tendency to amp things up. Sometimes I get an idea and then before I know it, it’s spun out in a million directions. At this point in my life, I know this happens and I embrace it. How does this relate to the dinner party? While planning the dinner party, I realized the potential of what could be. This could be a dinner club. It could be a monthly, real-food-and-real-talk deal. So what happened with this idea? A dinner party was planned, and that led to the start of dinner club.
So, here’s the how-to on throwing a dinner party and starting your very own dinner club.
STEP 1: INVITE PEOPLE OVER FOR A DINNER Party
This part is probably the easiest because you can honestly invite anyone you want. Whether it’s good pals or people you want to know better, the important part is that you’re inviting other people into your home with the intention of building community. And let’s be real, you’re offering a home-cooked meal, which basically means real food without any grocery shopping, planning, or cleaning for the others involved. Only a crazy person would turn that down.
I looked in my sent messages and here’s the exact group text I sent:
“you all don’t know each other well, but you know of each other’s existence (in this message is the franklins, smiths, and soon-to-be pelcs). we would make a great pack of couples! would you consider starting a dinner club together? i think the community would be stellar and we all love food.”
here are some guidelines (feel free to add or take away):
- one night a month, rotating homes
- when you host, you do everything: plan, shop, cook and clean. (this means for two months in a row you just show up!)
- the food is serious (grab your cookbooks and dishes from your registry you don’t use nearly enough!)
- the only thing you can ever bring is alcohol (wine, beer, cocktails, etc)
- what happens at dinner club, stays at dinner club
- we find a time once a month and make it work
if you’re in, alan and i will host the first month in august! let us know ?”
I sent that text message and didn’t get a response for over a week. I laugh now because it is a pretty intense message — not only am I inviting people to my home, but I’m also basically asking that they cook for me in the future. However, it was soon enough that the couples were committed, and dinner club was officially in the works!
STEP 2: PLAN THE MENU
Planning the menu is one of my favorite parts of the whole deal. I absolutely adore taking the cookbooks off the shelf and browsing through all of the recipes and scrolling through the beautiful dishes on Pinterest. There’s something about planning a menu and choosing a theme for a meal that sparks all of my creative juices. I spent hours researching ideas, only because I love this step. To soak up the end of summer, I decided to incorporate several seasonal foods into the menu.
I used Canva to create a printed a menu for the table. I know, I’m super extra and I’m not sorry about it.
STEP 3: SET THE TABLE
To make it feel more like a dinner party, I set the table with the best dishes we have (also know as the only dishes we have). It always feels a little fancier by making each place uniform, adding cloth napkins, and using the water pitcher!
STEP 4: COOK THE MEAL
Real talk: this step could take hours… It totally depends on the recipes you choose, the number of dishes, and what methods of cooking are required. For example, if a dish calls for marinating or soaking, so you might need to start the night before.
Like I mentioned earlier, I planned the menu based on seasonal foods. The first foods that came to mind for a summer dinner were berries (couldn’t pass up those $1 cartons from Aldi!), corn on the cob (straight from the back of a pick-up truck at the farmers market), watermelon (also from the farmers market), and burgers. A picture of each dish with the link to the recipe is below!
WATERMELON FETA SALAD
ARUGULA + WATERMELON + FETA + MINT + RED ONION + VINAIGRETTE RECIPE
This watermelon feta salad was my favorite dish on the menu! As you can see from the picture, I went a little overboard with the toppings. The secret to the goodness of this dish is that the watermelon soaks in lime juice over night. Y’ALL. The lime watermelon is life-changing. Trust me. I will also admit I was skeptical about the red onion, mint, and watermelon mixed together but it works so well.
GRILLED MEXICAN STREET CORN
CORN + FETA + SAUCE + CILANTRORECIPE
If you have never had Mexican street corn, you’re missing out. The combination of creamy, cheesy, cilantro-y, spicy corn gets your taste buds kicking. For me, the slightly burnt crispies of corn from the cob being grilled puts this over the top.
TURKEY BURGERS + MANGO CHUTNEY + SPECIAL SAUCE RECIPE
In the spirit of summer, grilling seemed like the absolute right move. I’m a big fan of turkey burgers so we grilled up these turkey and mango patties over the charcoal right before our guests arrived. What isn’t pictured is the special sauce that goes on top of these burgers. I’m a sauce person through and through so I think that’s what made me like these burgers more than usual.
BLUEBERRIES + STRAWBERRIES + CRUMBLE RECIPE
With every dinner party, there has to be a dessert. I’m usually a chocolate dessert gal, but to take advantage of the summer berries, I baked a berry crisp. If you’re intimated by baking, a crisp is a super simple item to try because it’s really hard to mess up. (Side note: If you make this recipe, I thought it tasted a bit salty so I would recommend using less salt than it asks for.)
STEP 5: EAT DINNER
This is the best part. You get to pile your plate full of all of the many dishes you created. More than that, you get to talk and be with people you like. This is the glorious step of building community around the table. Then after a while you put some more scoops onto your plate because second’s are a real thing. After that, you will laugh some more because you’re still with people you like. You keep repeating all of these steps until your tummies and hearts are full and everyone is tired.
STEP 6: CLEAN UP
The act of cleaning up is not very fun, unless you’re someone who really enjoys an overflowing sink and multiple sticky dishes and pots. Then, of course, you will have a blast and the party has just begun.
Some people choose to switch steps 6 and 7, but I am one who doesn’t like to wake up with the overflowing sink so I do this before moving along to step 7.
STEP 7: SLEEP
Congratulations! Give yourself two thumbs up because you did it! You threw a dinner party! You planned the menu, cooked everything, and put it all together. Something might have tasted funky or burnt, but there’s no such thing as perfection and you positively put in hard work. You did an amazing thing: cooking and nourishing bodies. Now sleep well because your stomach is fully satisfied, your brain is stimulated, and your heart is full.
STEP 8: REPEAT NEXT MONTH
This dinner party was an introduction into our very own little dinner club. It stems from the desire for real food shared with real community. Whether you’re planning a one time dinner or many in the future, it’s amazing how a meal can bring nourishment through more than just the food, but through the laughter, conversation, and friendships that is life around the table.
- Have you ever thrown a dinner party?
- Do you have a favorite show-stopper recipe you like to make for people?
- Are there people coming to mind that you want to invite over for your next big dinner?!