What is Your Dinner Party Style?

This thread inspired by recent discussion with friends, who note that while they cook for others, their hospitality is rarely reciprocated. (No, it’s not that. They are very nice people.)

It seems as though the dinner party has been replaced with dining out among our middle-aged cohorts. Is that true for most of you?

But we are nostalgic for the olden days, and the quiet intimacy of home meals.

Perhaps all y’all HOs have some tips. Do you cook elaborate meals? Eat in the dining room? Or do you keep it informal? Favorite foods? Seasonal/themed? Party tricks? Enticements?
Or have you given up and just do cocktail hour.

Here is our approach:

  1. We eat in the kitchen at a round table to keep it homey.
  2. I have to serve bistro food. I can lose my mind and burn things while swilling wine and talking.
  3. Unless I know my guests are into cooking, I keep things simple because I’ve read that “foodie” parties can foster feelings of competition. Ugh. But is that really true?

Certainly true for me. It’s years since we , or friends, did dinner parties. Very last century.

Living in NYC, dinner parties are pretty rare. Very few people have the space, and it’s generally easier to meet a big group in a central Manhattan location since people live scattered throughout the boroughs (often in remote corners). I have hosted and attended a few, but they tend to be very casual affairs. I do cook a very elaborate Thanksgiving meal and invite guests, but the presentation is still casual - I’m not serving multiple composed courses on separate plates, etc.

Now that we have moved north to the suburbs, we have plenty of space for entertaining, but getting our city friends to come up to us is more of a challenge. I’m hoping that during the warm weather months we’ll be able to host BBQs and such, and that the lure of outdoor space (and central AC) will be enough to lure people up.

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We have people over for dinner regularly - friends, family, neighbors, co-workers . . .

We do what most people consider elaborate meals but sometimes we do very elaborate meals (and honestly I feel like what others consider elaborate are for us just plentiful, not elaborate).

I try to avoid things that require a lot of last minute attention or “serve immediately” type of stuff because then I’m in the kitchen more than at the table, and that isn’t fun for me. We typically entertain more in the summer when we can eat outside, drink lots of rose wine, and in general relax.

Having recently moved to Boston, I find that co-workers (we don’t have “friends” yet lol) always push to meet out for dinner as opposed to coming over for dinner. I don’t know yet if they are just trying to be gracious, don’t know that I actually can cook, or aren’t comfortable coming over to our house for dinner (as it does tend to be a longer evening than meeting at a restaurant).

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We have 1/3 dinner eating out and about 2/3 home meals. French like to invite friends home even if they aren’t very good cooks.

Personally I like cooking, and husband like barbecues and helps when cooking outdoors, we have friends, neighbours coming regularly at our place. When I’m stuck in the kitchen preparing food, since we have an open kitchen, the guests usually end up chatting with glasses and helping in the kitchen.

I enjoy eating out and exploring food with friends too. But I find sometimes it can a bit tedious to find a restaurant everybody likes and still have places with a last minute notice.


I do a fair amount of entertaining, at least a few times a month between family and friends. Most recently I even entertained a business client and his wife, something rarely done anymore is in home business entertaining. Having a life long background in the restaurant business cooking, serving and general entertaining is truly just in my blood and I thoroughly enjoy hosting dinner parties and holidays.

Traditionally we eat in the kitchen, we have a large 6 person table so there is plenty of room and the center island in the kitchen serves as an excellent buffet style set up. Also I have a wet bar in the family room which is off the kitchen so beverages are easily obtained or refreshed as well.

For larger parties like my old New Years Day parties I’ve cleared the living room and family rooms of furniture, placed a tent and heater over my deck, rented party tables and chairs and have comfortably entertained over 75-100 close family and friends. (FYI Immediate family is 30+ people)

Menu will depend completely on the guests preferences. You name it and I’ll do it or at least give it my best dam attempt.


Oh, Harters, makes me laugh. I feel as if I’m stuck in a ‘fern bar’ half the time (does anybody remember those?). I grew up on the California coast & ‘dinner party’ menus were from Sunsest Magazine = “Ten Hearty Soups to Please A Crowd.” Add hand-thrown earthenware bowls and a Ficus Benjamina in the background and Bobs Your Uncle, it’s a hundred years ago.

& to other posters: thanks for the input, sounds as if not all hope is lost.

I shared this thread with my younger (38 year old) business partner and she said, oh my god, don’t quit cooking for us. (They have two small children and twins on the way!).

We don’t have a formal dining room, so our dinner parties are very informal, but they are always a lot of fun. If we agree to eat out with friends, they will often congregate here beforehand. I think formal dinner parties are a thing of the past, except for political and corporate events.

We have people over for dinner quite a bit. We have an informal dining area, and if the weather is good and we are 4 I will grill and eat on the deck. Unless I’m grilling I typically do things that can be made in advance and heated. I love to have some kind of hors d’oeuvre to pick on first. It’s all very informal.

We love to host home cooked meals too. We like both casual and formal entertaining. We are looking forward to having the space to do so again soon … :slight_smile:
Edited: that is as soon as we have a kitchen :wink:

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I was at a dinner party several light years ago. The featured guest was a magnum of Chateau Latour. The two wives has no clue about the royalty present and had a glass, host and I destroyed.

I couldn’t tell you what the food was but I remember being able to taste the wine the next day.

It was a business dinner by the way.

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Does a crawfish boil served outdoors on a picnic table with byob count as a dinner party?


Summer is all about grilling and picnics, but my freinds and I have two or three formal dinners every year when it cools down. To pactice our manners. :slight_smile:

My family’s Christmases are always formal. Little boys in bow ties and little girls in white tights and satin dresses. No children’s table.

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You bring up a good point, implied in many of the other posts. I grew up on the west coast so “dinner party” to me extends from backyard bbq to a sit-down meal with cloth napkins and wine. I used the term loosely to cover entertaining in the home, and serving home-cooked food.

Am learning here in Pittsburgh that the younger folk are much more interested in home entertainment so they can include their kids, spend less, and avoid having to ‘dress up.’ Makes it nice, I can cook for them. :wink:

And as you say, good wine really helps.

I like to entertain but do so only every couple of months.

Society has changed a lot. I think the rat race has pushed us a lot to have less time to ourselves. I work full time and then some. Dinner parties can be quite tiring. Cooking for the holidays usually puts me in bed for a couple of days recovery. Similarly on a weekend, I find if I’m entertaining, I’m tired for work Monday.

I just have to pace myself.

Oh, yes, I hear you. Going into the work week dragging is the worst.

We’ve tried a new routine. Dinner with no more than four friends begins w/apps at 5:30 & we are done no later than 8 and in bed by 9. However this only works if the cooking is spread out, prep on Friday, heavier prep on Saturday & finish cooking only on Sunday. Which is kind of like a military campaign unless the meal is something I’ve prepared many times before.

But for people with children, this may be the worst possible strategy.

Love to keep company with the Latours.

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