Back-to-Back Dinner Parties

Then again, perhaps you're in the mood for something less musical chairs. That's when I turn to the small, slow dinner. Phone up one to three people or slip a note under their doors asking them to come over and brave your attempt at home cooking, and they will show up, tickled and touched to have been asked. So tickled and touched, in fact, that if the food—or anything else—is a disaster but you remain a delight as ever, they will actually like you better for it.

That said, you will inevitably go to some effort to get ready. You will put clean soap and towels in the bathroom. You will vacuum and dust. If you're going for an extra touch of class, you may put out some flowers or iron a tablecloth. And after your guests have come and gone—assuming that you have loaded the dishwasher and swept the kitchen floor—you will wake up with a house that still looks much better than usual and a refrigerator full of fabulous leftovers.

There is only one logical response: Have another small dinner party...that night.

All you have to do is (a) plan the first party for a Friday night, so you can have the second one on a Saturday night, and (b) make something that will not look or taste like leftovers—beef Bourguignonne or spaghetti Bolognese will actually taste better on night two. Whether you're making or buying the dessert, choose something that is served individually rather than something elaborate people are supposed to drool over before it's cut.

On Saturday all you have to do is inspect the tablecloth for any really bad stains; cover any not-really-bad stains with the dishes or some candlesticks. Open the dishwasher, and instead of putting the dishes, glasses, and cutlery away, put it all back on the table. Spritz the flowers. Reheat the leftovers. When the doorbell rings, open the door. Et voilà—you've doubled your entertaining, while barely adding to your effort.

Next: The Skip-Dinner Party


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