Is building a stronger family and friend connection on your resolution list? Or keeping the connections you have strong? Special family dinner parties or a small close friend gathering are fantastic ways to do this! This Friday, February 9, is the Lunar New Year so it’s a great day to break out of COVID monotany right?!? Special dinners do not need to be stressful, hard to execute or time-consuming. In fact, they shouldn’t be!
So with this in mind, want to host a fantastic, delicious dinner party yet spend only 60 minutes in preparation time? Including cleaning your house? Um…yes, please! How pray tell?!?
Easy Dinner Party How To:
- Speed clean your house: 30 minutes
- Pre-order take out from your favorite nearby restaurant (and pre-pay to make delivery/pick up easier): 5 minutes
- If restaurant delivery isn’t an option, ask a good friend to stop on the way to your place to pick up the food or if it’s a weekday evening, either you or your husband stop on the way home: 5 minutes
- Set your table with a table cloth that looks great without ironing (like the linen one shown) or an easy care/no-iron table cloth, colorful napkins, dishes, glasses and utensils (&/or chopsticks in this instance): 5 minutes
- Add some no-fuss decor like the gold coins and pre-made child’s art project dragon (close up below): 5 minutes
- Pull out a chilled bottle of wine or bubbly (or pitcher of a signature cocktail like Aperol Spritzers) and have a tray ready with glasses and a small snack like store-bought Asian Spicy Shrimp Crackers, Wasabi Peas, or some non-Asian but savory choice like black truffle popcorn: 5 minutes
- If needed, re-heat the take out food as needed once all guests have arrived and mingled for a few minutes: 5 minutes
Small extra touches elevate the party’s style:
- 2021 is the year of the Ox so there are not as many cute options out there to give your decor a little nod to this year’s zodiac. Of course Chinese, Thai, or any other Asian cuisine and themes are wonderful anytime of the year so focusing on The Year of the Ox isn’t at all important; any decor that evokes your theme is great. I chose things I already had: an antique black chinoiserie dish and box, a gold dragonfly motif bowl along with pillar candles. And you can add some of these free printables for the kids to create Year of the Ox pictures.
- There are some pretty paper napkin options, yet I really prefer cloth napkins! I opted for dinner napkins by Beauville and cocktail napkins (that are my absolute favorite) by Wakefield Designs in their monogrammed Chinoiserie pagoda (below). Both are special, heirloom quality so the prices are a bit higher yet because the quality is so outstanding you’ll have them for many years. I’ve had the Chinoiserie Beauville ones for over 15 years! Plus in a classic design like French Chinoiserie, they’ll never go out of style. And if you’d rather opt for a lower price point, check out these floral Chinoiserie as they’re pretty too, as are these black and white toile or blue and white art deco vibe floral napkins.
- For a kid-friendly party, offer a craft for the kids to do. Just make 1 model, lay out supplies for the dragon blowers linked above and have the kids work on them while the adults enjoy a cocktail. The kids can proudly display them on the table before dinner is served plus have a fun favor to take with them. I used 2 stacked glass votives as a riser stand to draw more attention to my daughter’s dragon, but they’re cute flat on the table too. If you wanted to offer a kids movie after dinner, Mulan or Kung Fu Panda are easy choices in theme.
- With Asian food—and most take out food in general—you need to be careful to choose dishes that will both taste and look great; opt for dishes with chilis (like the crispy shrimp below) otherwise you’ll end up with a lot of beige and brown dominating your tablescape.
- When choosing your dishes, remember to balance the menu with an appetizer or two, a soup, a noodle dish, rice, and a main dish or two depending on the size of the crowd.
- An easy touch to notch up the vibe of the table of a simple table design is to use silver or other unique serving utensils. I’ve collected a variety of silver serving spoons, ladles and tongs at flea markets, antique malls, and eBay for a fraction of the cost of new silver.
- Dessert can simply be fortune cookies but you could also offer something easy like citrus sorbet, store-bought vanilla petit fours or my daughter’s favorite chocolate-dipped biscuit cookies from Japan.
- If you’d like to add flowers, opt for something easy like an orchid plant so you can enjoy it long after the party. I’ve seen them at Trader Joe’s, Home Depot, and Costco lately for close to $10. Just be sure to pick a great plant and corresponding free planter (I’ve been known to swap planter pots to get the more classic neutral ones). Bamboo is another interesting choice but any simple arrangement works well. Just keep it simple! Like a bouquet of red or white roses, or a single white hydrangea bloom as shown next to the linen napkin above.
- Bump up the festivities by using nicer china and crystal rather than everyday dishes and using candles. This set of china is a Macy’s house brand and was very inexpensive even though it looks like higher end brands. I know a lot of folks have china yet rarely use it and I really think everything you have should be used; why store it just to pull out at the holidays?!?
Other great take out party options not related to the Lunar New Year:
- Italian including Pasta, Antipasto and/or Salad with Gelato for dessert
- Fried Chicken, Mashed Potatoes with Gravy, Corn and Biscuits with pie for dessert
- BBQ, coleslaw, baked beans, mac and cheese, cornbread with brownies for dessert
- And many others including Pizza, Mexican, Sushi, Greek/Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern
I’ll be featuring easy dinner parties regularly so stay tuned…