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Rules for Entertaining

Don't get stressed about having people over!

Here are some tips, to boost your confidence and keep you organized.


  • Music, place settings and the bar are all things you can figure out way ahead of time.... Like, Now! And Remember: The Freezer is Your Friend! Delicious turkey stock for gravy, pie crust dough, mini quiches... they can all be made (or purchased) way ahead.

  • Skip the grocery store Butterball. Order your turkey from a local farmer, like Hurd Farm in Hampton or Kellie Brook in Greenland. Then you can feel morally superior and eat a more delicious dinner.

  • Before you do your main shopping trip, clean out your fridge. It’s easier to stay organized if you aren’t hunting around for all your ingredients.

  • Try to start out with an empty dishwasher, garbage can and recycling bin.

The Bar

  • The standard catering rule of thumb is 2 drinks per hour (10 guests x 2 drinks x 2 hours = 40 drinks). But if your friends and family are boozebags, like mine, you might want to up it a bit-- especially if they live in your cul de sac. There are approximately 4 glasses of wine per bottle. A 750ml bottle of liquor contains enough for about 25 mixed drinks.

  • You don’t need a full bar. Have one or two pitchers of “hipster cocktails” ready to go. Offer one thoughtful non-alcoholic drink, too, for any non-drinkers in the mix: an interesting flavor of herbal iced tea with fresh mint is always nice and easy to make. The rest: beer, wine and sparkling water.

  • Lemon and lime wheels make any drink more sophisticated.

  • Serve wine in a nice big glass, and make sure it's the right temperature.

  • Have a drink in the hand of each guest as soon as possible! Everyone is more comfortable when they are holding a drink—even a sparkling water.

  • Have bowls of something to snack on (potato chips, nuts, olives, World’s Best Chex Mix, which I posted) out before anyone arrives. This takes pressure off to have appetizers out right away. If you serve olives, make sure there’s a little dish for pits.

The Menu

  • Think room temp! Especially on a buffet, the fewer things that need to be piping hot or ice cold, the better.

  • Fewer, delicious, well-thought-out dishes will be more successful than a trying-to-please-everyone smorgasbord.

  • Hors d’oeuvres should be a maximum of two bites. Personally I hate toothpicks/skewers/shrimp tails/bones/spoons/shot glasses, but if you love them, make sure there's an obvious place to put the empties.

  • TASTE YOUR FOOD BEFORE YOU SERVE IT. Salt mysteriously disappears, and flavors can go a little flat when dishes sit in the fridge overnight. Salt, squeezes of lemon, drizzles of good olive oil and fresh herbs can brighten up and even rescue just about anything.

  • Always serve potato chips. Always. It's not a party without potato chips.

  • And a crudite platter-- especially if there are kids, offer some cut up veggies, and they can grab some as they zoom by. It will lessen the guilt of the hot dogs or pizza that you are also serving them. But even if it's just for kids, forget that bullshit veggie platter from the grocery store. NO ONE LIKES RAW BROCCOLI OR CAULIFLOWER (roasted, on the other hand, they are delicious, even room temp. Roasted baby potatoes and beets are also winners). Cut up some colorful veggies that TASTE GOOD. Serve with an interesting dip like green goddess dressing.

The Setting

  • Soft lighting! Everyone looks better basking in candlelight (no scented candles on the table, though).

  • Music is mandatory. Make sure the genre and level are appropriate, too.

  • Fresh flowers make everything look better.

  • Make sure your bathroom is clean.

But if these pointers are too hard to remember, just remember this one:

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