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Invite Your People
What better time to host a dinner party than New Year's Eve? With our simple strategy and manageable menu, you and your guests are sure to have a fabulous time.
When it comes to the guest list, six is the golden number. Two fewer guests and it turns into a double date (or an awkward rendition thereof), two more and the conversation divides and you miss out on half of it. Email or mail invitations at least a month in advance since calendars fill up faster around the holidays. Ask guests to RSVP within a week. Convey the mood of the party in the invite, but stop short of imposing a dress code.
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Set the Table (and the Tone)
Good news: For this party, celebrate your everyday dishware. For a sleek tablecloth update, fold and iron the long sides under so the cloth is only as wide as the table and doesn't hang over. Arranged seats set people at ease: Go with name cards when you want certain people to sit next to each other (wink, wink, college friend; nudge, nudge, work friend). Or, for a fun riff on that formality, opt for cards that simply read "boy" and girl," as we did here. For soft lighting, we placed low votives around two traditional tapers and finished the look with faux (yes, faux!) magnolia blossoms.
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Music is essential for all types of entertaining. But when it comes to having a dinner party, the songs need to strike the perfect balance: not too slow, not too fast, just right. Consider downloading a few of our picks for dinner music -- just load up your MP3 or CD player with several hours of music and hit play.Get our Playlists
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What to Drink
When guests arrive, pour Cava Avinyo Brut, a crisp, sparkling Spanish wine that's an inexpensive (and less predictable) alternative to Champagne (winehouse.com). For dinner, serve a Cotes du Rhone or Syrah, and a smooth, non-oaky Chardonnay. As a nightcap, pour "his and hers" scotches. Macallan Cask Strength has a bold, toffee-like aroma, and Macallan Fine Oak 15 Years Old, served over ice, is lighter and delicate. (You decide which is his and which is hers.) themacallan.com
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Think of the recipes on the following slides as dinner-party building blocks: People-pleasing and delicious, every one will become your signature dish.
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The best predinner appetizers stimulate your appetite; they don't stuff you to the gills. Set out bowls of delicious store-bought Marcona almonds, veggie chips, and a platter of carrots, cucumbers, and yellow wax beans. Serve with a whipped feta and pepper dip.Get the Whipped Feta and Pepper Dip Recipe
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Like we said, these recipes are building blocks. To switch up the recipes without risk, introduce seasonal ingredients. For example, the Cornish game hens can be partnered with roasted root vegetables instead of asparagus.
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A modern dinner party needs a traditional twist. Serve this palate-cleansing salad after the main course.
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Chocolate is always ooh-and-ahh-inducing, but this dense, single-layer cake is especially easy because it's supposed to look imperfect and requires no frosting. The cake may be served with coffee ice cream, if you wish.
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Hostess Dos and Don'ts
You have the menu, the strategy, the guest list -- the biggest variable left is your stress level. Relax. Or you could just find yourself doing one of these hostess don'ts.
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