Thursday, October 22, 2015

An Autumn Dinner Party At Home

Nota bene: This is rather a long post on what I hope you will find an enjoyable account of a recent dinner party we held at home, and the preparations involved in making it all happen.

After the lull of summer, and the more casual al fresco entertaining of friends that goes on around here, we are always ready for a change of pace by the time autumn rolls around.  So, hatching a plan to rev things up a few notches, we began planning a small at-home-old-fashioned-sit-down-dinner-party back in early September. Now, I say "old-fashioned" because it appears to me that with few exceptions, the at-home-sit-down-dinner-party has become a rarity, at least in my world it is.  In an age where restaurants are so numerous, and everyone is short on time, I can very well understand the instinct to meet friends at a local eatery for an impromptu dinner.  We often dine out ourselves and, of course, if that is the only opportunity we have to catch up with acquaintances, we'll take it. However, there is nothing quite like an enjoyable at-home-old-fashioned-sit-down-dinner-party shared with a group of fun friends over the course of a long evening of tasty libations, scrumptious food, and delicious banter to make for a memorable occasion.  Now, doesn't all this sound infinitely more pleasing than having to put a time limit on a restaurant table, and worrying about when it will be turned over to the next hungry diner in line?

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The door bell will soon be ringing, announcing the arrival of our dinner guests 
Photo: Chronica Domus


This past Saturday evening we kicked things off by hosting our first dinner party of the season.  Once we had secured a date when all of our guests would be available, it soon dawned on us that two of them would be sharing birthdays very close to the day of our party.  Well, that was all the impetus needed to ratchet things up and make the evening even more special.  However, before the first cork was popped in celebration, there was much to prepare.  These things take lots of effort and lots of planning to pull off successfully, so please don't be fooled into thinking otherwise by the "effortless entertaining" set.  Frankly, there is no such thing.  However, with adequate preparation, much can be accomplished.

As this was to be a small dinner party, we could handle all the food preparations ourselves. Larger gatherings, of course, would require outside help.  Once we had settled on the menu, which included recipes we were already comfortable cooking (do not attempt to make anything you are not already familiar with - your guests are not your guinea pigs for the evening!), we set about sourcing the ingredients.  A call to our favorite fishmonger was placed several days in advance of our dinner party to insure our order could be fulfilled.

Next, alcoholic beverages.  Champagne, port, white and red wine, check!  I leave this important task in the capable hands of my trusty husband who does the lion's share of our household's wine and spirits purchasing.  He seems to take more than a passing interest in keeping our wine cellar stocked, and we are rarely caught short of enjoying an evening's worth of imbibing.  One can have quite the party down there!

Chronica Domus
Hmm....decisions, decisions... but wait, let's take all three bottles upstairs!
Photo: Chronica Domus


The day before a dinner party is spent fussing over such details as the tarting up of the dining table, selecting flowers, and making sure the house is shipshape and Bristol fashion.

An early morning run to the San Francisco Flower Market is the first order of the day. If you are anything like me, you will easily find yourself becoming quite giddy at the sight of mounds of gorgeous greenery and flowers on offer.  Inevitably, it takes a few laps around the market before I can finally focus and settle on my purchases.  In the meantime, my husband patiently awaits in the Volvo ready to assist with packing it all into the boot trunk (thank you, darling!).

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The Volvo packed with the morning's spoils
Photo: Chronica Domus


Once we return home, I turn my attention to tomorrow's menu.  I get to work making the carrot, leek, and thyme soup, and then poach Bosc pears in Merlot wine and spices.

Chronica Domus
Poached pears are simple, delicious, and elegant, just add vanilla ice cream or heavy whipped cream
Photo: Chronica Domus


These shall be eaten for dessert and are very easy to make.  The pears also provide quite the "wow" factor when presented at table.  I also make a batch of cheese straws that will be served, alongside other hors d'œuvres, in the drawing room with champagne.  While I'm racing around the kitchen, my husband takes his leave to shop for cheeses, chocolates, and assorted comestibles.  Thank goodness he's willing and able.  He enjoys the activities revolving around our dinner party preparations as much as I do.  

Having decided weeks ago that I would set the dining table with my recently acquired creamware, I have a last minute change of heart.  Realizing there would be seven of us at table (I only have six dinner plates), and no bowls from which to serve the soup, I quickly resort to "Plan B".  Old Paris Porcelain will suffice.  It is always wise to set the dining table and round up all the serving pieces to be used the day prior to a dinner party.  Averting last-minute pesky issues that could very well send the coolest of hostesses into a tizzy is the goal here.

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I could feed a small army off Old Paris Porcelain dishes which, somehow, I've amassed in a variety of colors over the years - for this occasion, a classic gilt ring decoration seems appropriate
Photo: Chronica Domus


It is now Saturday morning, the day of our dinner party.  Although we had spent a lovely Friday evening over at our neighboring friends' house for dinner (thank you Jeannette and Harvey!), there is no sleeping in on this particular morning.  Locally grown seasonal vegetables need to be picked up at the farmers' market, where we are always assured of the best selection and freshest produce available. I would not dare leave such details to the last minute were it not for the fact that we are fortunate to have easy access to a reliable and excellent farmers' market.

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Three bunches of organic carrots, two heads of cauliflower, and three bundles of brocollini will be added to the potatoes already at home to form part of this evening's menu
Photo: Chronica Domus


Next, I must bring the flowers and branches up from our basement and make three low arrangements for the dining room table, and two for the drawing room's mantelshelf. Meanwhile, my husband drives to the fishmongers to pick up our order, four pounds of fresh Alaskan halibut.

Chronica Domus
Dahlias, autumn's best flowers, in black and salmon pink, miniature ornamental cabbages, and green pin oak leaves await in a bucket
(note: It's best to avoid highly fragrant flowers on a dinner table - candles too for that matter!)
Photo: Chronica Domus


Chronica Domus
One of two diminutive posies that will grace the dining room table this evening - these stand in a pair of Anglo-Irish cut glass footed bowls
Photo: Chronica Domus


Once I've set the flowers on the table, I light the candles in the room so that I can snap a few photographs for the purpose of this blog post, and before I forget to do so later in the evening when the party is in full swing.  I think it is all beginning to look rather festive, don't you?

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The third arrangement sits at the center of the table in a black basalt pot
Photo: Chronica Domus


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Photo: Chronica Domus


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With only a few hours remaining until our guests arrive, the dining room is almost ready for action
Photo: Chronica Domus


Later in the afternoon, I prep the vegetables that will be roasted (carrots, cauliflower) and sautéed (brocollini).  I make the base of the Béarnaise sauce which I finish right before we serve the fish.  It takes but a few minutes to prepare, as does the fish.  I leave my husband peeling potatoes while I set up the dishes that will hold the hors d'œuvres in the drawing room. I remember too that the refrigerated cheeses need arranging on a platter and set out, with plenty of time to come to room temperature before the cheese course arrives at table.  

With the frenzy of kitchen activity at full-throttle, we take a short break and perform a last minute walk through of the public rooms in the house.  We want to insure that every detail is taken care of before our guests ring the doorbell.  After all, our goal in hosting such a dinner party is to spend an enjoyable evening in the company of our dear friends, and to make them all feel as comfortable and as welcomed as possible. 

At five-thirty, once everything that can be taken care of ahead of time has been, we get ourselves party ready.  Obviously we want to look our very best when greeting our friends at the front door, who will also arrive dressed appropriately for such a celebratory dinner (this means at minimum ties for the gents in our merry party). With thirty minutes to go, my husband makes a quick gee and tee for himself. I, wisely, forgo my cocktail - just this once - but promise to make up for things once the bubbly begins flowing.  The red wine and port is decanted, and the white wine and champagne is chilling on ice.

My husband lights the fireplace right before six-thirty, the time our guests are expected. This is the first fire of the autumn and I can't think of anything more welcoming than the glowing flames of a roaring fire lighting up a room during the cooler months of the year.

Chronica Domus
Photo: Chronica Domus


The doorbell rings at approximately six-forty which means it's party time. Once everyone has arrived, we toast two of our dear friends with birthday wishes over delicious champagne and hors d'œuvres, and spend a convivial hour chatting and laughing away like there is no tomorrow. 

With vegetables roasting in the oven, and the candles lit, we proceed to the dining room and begin our dinner. First course, soup.  But wait, something is amiss!  I've forgotten to set out the soup spoons. Yes, even with all the careful planning that is required to carry off such an enjoyable at-home-old-fashioned-sit-down-dinner-party, something invariably gets forgotten.  With minimal fuss, my mea culpa is swiftly put right, and after a good chuckle by all, we finally set about enjoying a most delectable dinner.

Chronica Domus
Photo: Chronica Domus


Throughout the evening, everyone exclaimed what a wonderful time they were having and how marvelous it was to spend such an agreeable evening in each other's delightful company.  It really was quite lovely.  After dinner, we retired to the drawing room for chocolates and more drinks, via a quick breather on the balcony to admire the night view and take in the fresh air.  It was just past midnight when our first friend took her leave of us, with promises of a reciprocal dinner soon.

I toddled off to bed around two o'clock in the morning, still high from the evening's merriment.  I had somehow mustered up the strength to wash all the silver and dishes before doing so. My dear old husband just couldn't take it any longer.  He retired an hour earlier, exhausted but happy.

The next morning, I slowly and gingerly tackled the remainder of the fallout.  Glasses, pots, and pans needed washing.  I performed my best impersonation of a scullery maid, hand-washing all of the antique glassware I enjoy using so much.  The English Regency champagne flutes looked so pretty lined up on the drainer.  I use my Irish linen glass cloths to dry those and the other wine glasses we used last night. They are the very best cloths available for wicking away moisture and, most importantly, are lint-free. Your glasses will be sparkling clean in no time.  I encourage you to invest in a handful of these useful little towels if you too assume the position of a scullery maid in your household.

Chronica Domus
Irish linen glass cloths make light work of drying one's beautiful glassware
Photo: Chronica Domus


Now, if only the task of removing dripping candle wax was as enjoyable.

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The remains of an evening well spent
Photo: Chronica Domus


The scene around the dining room's candle sconces was just as piteous in the morning light.  Ah well, this is but a small price to pay for the honey colored light that sets a room aglow.

At least I still had these beauties to gaze upon, reminding me of our marvelous dinner party.  I can't wait to do it all again.

Chronica Domus
Photo: Chronica Domus


I do hope you enjoyed this post, and that you too might consider reviving the tradition of hosting an at-home-old-fashioned-sit-down-dinner-party in the not too distant future.  It really is a lot of fun.

52 comments:

  1. I've been feasting on this fabulous event, as well, and must, must away to pick up our scholar. Moire anon of the lovely, lovely evening, but in case you and the candles might still be at swords' points, I just wanted to chime in quickly and say: With over-exuberant candle-wax, a hair dryer and a credit card are your friends, especially on wood floors..

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    1. Hello racheld,

      I never thought about using a hair dryer on my candelabra, thank you. In the past, I have dismantled all the pieces and popped them in an oven set at a low temperature. I have chipped away candle wax with a credit card on wooden surfaces, and it does work rather nicely. I've also used a hot iron for tablecloths (between a layer of brown paper) which does the trick. Electricity is so much more convenient but infinitely less romantic, don't you agree?

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  2. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the planning, preparations and execution of this lovely dinner party. It is getting harder and harder to find like-minded individuals who enjoy doing this sort of entertaining. Yes, it is work but it is worthwhile and most enjoyable. I still try to entertain more formally as often as possible and am trying to convince my daughters to do so as well.

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    1. Hello slf,

      I'm so happy you enjoyed reading all about our little dinner party, and all that goes into pulling it off, despite the soup spoon fiasco! It really is a lot of fun for both guest and host, and gives everyone a good excuse to savor not only the food, but each other's company.

      I'm also glad to read that you too enjoy more formal entertaining and no doubt, it would be an honor to partake of your hospitality. As you say, like-minded individuals and all that.

      Please, please do press on with your campaign to get your daughters on-board. They'll soon discover that an invitation to their table will be coveted by their friends if they have you to guide them.

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  3. Dear CD,

    I so enjoyed reading about your delightful dinner party, preparations and all. The roaring fire and dressed table look so inviting - a beautiful scene to greet your fortunate guests.

    I notice you've set the flatware with fork tines and spoon bowls facing down. This piqued my interest as I've not seen it before. A quick spot of research suggests it's a European tradition. Is it an American one too?

    Another question if I may - were the potatoes from your very own garden?

    Spud.


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    1. Hello Spud,

      Thank you, I'm so pleased you enjoyed this post. It was rather long, but it does give a good insight into the effort and preparation that goes into these fun dinners.

      Now, about those face down eating irons. This is not an American tradition. The set I used is French sterling, made in the nineteenth century, and the decoration/monogram is on the backside, much like most old French silver, hence its face down placement on the table. I only turn them face up when using plates that already have a monogram on them (such as my recently found creamware plates) because it all get a bit much on the eye.

      Well, as you did ask, I do still have potatoes from our harvest but only the small red ones remain. We purchased a bag of spuds for our dinner party, and my husband made the most delectable mashed potatoes, which were creamy and delish!

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    2. Thank you for explaining the face up/down flatware.

      Oh, and your menu sounded lovely. Ideal for the season.

      Spud.

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    3. You're welcome, Spud. I find it interesting to learn how the world goes around when it comes to these matters, and yes, the menu was based around seasonal ingredients, simple and nothing very fancy.

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  4. CD,
    We still host "old fashioned" dinner parties and our first of the season will be this Saturday in celebration of Mr. B's good health (at last). Like you it takes the 2 of us to perform all the preparation tasks, but it's alway so much fun and satisfying to enjoy an evening with dear friends, not being asked if the waiter can bring us anything else, hint at the check! :-)
    I'm not sure our weather will allow for a fire in the fireplace but the candles will be lit and toasts will be made. Lovely post.
    xo,
    Karen

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    1. Hello Karen,

      Firstly, I couldn't think of a better reason to throw a dinner party than to toast Mr. B's good health! That is splendid news indeed.

      Yes, having one's spouse play an active role in the prep work for a dinner party is certainly essential in getting it all done in time and in good order.

      Enjoy your party this Saturday, and again congrats on Mr. B's good news.

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  5. I find it very rare to be invited to other people's houses for dinner - very few have dinner parties anymore. As you no doubt know from my blog posts we try to have a dinner party every few months, and you're right - it's so different from dinner in a restaurant. They are very late nights, and a lot of prep and thought goes into them. But people are so genuinely pleased to come it makes any 'work' worth it. My tricks now are to not be overly ambitious with the food. I used to spend days putting together complicated meals. Now, with all I have on my plate (literally!), I just cook things that are simple, delicious and most importantly, prepared in advance. Then it is a matter of just throwing it together at the last minute to serve. And I don't even mind the scullery maid part the next morning when you still have the glow of an excellent evening behind you. I really enjoyed reading all about your preparation and dinner, sounds like a wonderful night.

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    1. Hello Heidi,

      I am shocked and saddened to learn that your wonderful dinner parties are not reciprocated by your friends. I do understand that not everyone has the inclination, or means, to throw such a fancy dinner party as the one we just held at our house (to date, our most formal of the year), but I do hope your lucky friends at least invite you over for an evening of take out food, delivered to their house and re-plated, or at least treat you to a restaurant meal every now and then. If you ever find yourself in our neck of the woods, I'll be delighted to invite you over for a jolly evening of food and banter. We'll have a swell time of it!

      As you say, we too keep the food we like to serve at thees dinners quite uncomplicated, although obviously much prep is done upfront. Who wants to be tied to the kitchen stove for the evening when one's friends are around- not me that's for sure!

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  6. Hello Cd, I can imagine how welcoming your party must have been, combining the modern spirit of hospitality with all of your antiques, representing the essence of entertaining of an earlier day. I love how your black basalt collection keeps turning up!

    I also love to entertain at home, although a less formal style seems more appropriate here, especially since children are usually expected and welcome. Also, it can be hard to plan a specific menu, since many ingredients, even staples, are only erratically available.
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim,

      Its funny, but I would describe the "spirit of hospitality" as quite an old concept and I constantly find myself shaking my head at the lack of it in our modern times. Why else are dinner parties so few and far between nowadays? I'll admit, they don't have to be "fancy" by any means, and as I wrote to Heidi above, even a night of take out food at a friend's house is becoming rarer and rarer. We are lucky in that some of our friends do still entertain us (again, either at home or at restaurants). I'm sure your friends too are lucky to have you entertain them, especially the children in your party. You might be surprised to learn that our teenage daughter was also in attendance at our dinner party. She relishes such occasions and finds much to discuss with our grown up friends. She's quite the social animal. When she was very young, I would bring her high-chair into the dining room whenever we held such a dinner so she too would be included in the festivities. It was a proud moment for me when she eventually graduated to the childrens' table if other children were in attendance. Next, a seat at the dining table, but only when I was confident she could manage her eating irons properly.

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    2. Well your guests are very lucky! You set a great table and can feel the restful and welcoming give over the web.

      Don't know if it's a London thing plus my age group but I go to one dinner party a week on average. It's not on your scale but most restaurants are booked plus there is a two hour time limit and acoustics are terrible. I'm at the age where I want to catch up and not be scene. I tend to go to restaurants with my single friends BC they need to scene. I keep it simple but must admit I have only been hosting once a month. I do love seeing how people approach dinner parties and yours was no exception. I keep meaning to post one on it myself but never do...

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    3. Hello Naomi,

      Why, thank you. I'm pleased to read that from the many miles that separate us, you are feeling the welcome vibe. That's what it's all about!

      I had a sneaking suspicion that dinner parties in London are held more frequently than in the world I orbit here in California. I remember attending several of them in my younger days when I still lived in the metrop. Also, happy to read that you open your doors to your lucky friends at least once a month. You should certainly consider posting on one of your parties in the not too distant future.

      By the way, you make an excellent point about acoustics in restaurants. The din is becoming so outrageously loud in some places, thanks to inappropriately loud music blaring through the room (as though the sound of hungry diners is not already enough), that I've been known to leave a restaurant as quickly as I've darkened its door.

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  7. Giving a dinner party is pleasurable but such hard work but with good selection of guests such an enjoyable evening can be had. Your food and table looked lovely with such pretty flowers for the table.

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    1. Hello elaine,

      You've hit on a very important point when planning such an enjoyable dinner party as the one we just threw - the guests. They make all the difference in the world to a smash hit of an evening . We had a mix of both old and new friends, each of them a joy to have around a table, full of fun and interesting conversation with not a dull moment to be had all night.

      I'm thrilled you loved the flowers as much as I did. Our friends enjoyed them also and I sent one of the small posies home with our final departing guest of the evening.

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  8. Well done for all the effort you put into and which is required for an elegant dinner party. It's my favourite way of dining - at someone else's place! We used to invest in all the time and detail such as you describe, which we enjoyed doing immensely, but I'm afraid I've come full circle on this one, and like to have friends here for drinks and then go to a nearby bistro. I suppose it's a result of not many people reciprocating, not that that was/is the purpose, but it is nice to be acknowledged by a return engagement where someone has gone to equal trouble, and sadly that does not seem to be the case here, or anymore generally. Washing silver and glass by hand at the end of an evening or the next day is not my idea of fun, I regret to say! We do now only occasionally wheel out the "good stuff", but only for a couple of friends, who obviously appreciate it. My days as a butler, cook and chief bottle-washer are long since over!

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    1. Hello columnist,

      Yes, these things are a lot of effort, but it is effort well spent and we find it particularly fun to pull out all the stops a couple of times a year for these dinners. As you say "it is my favorite way of dining". My husband and I believe that being invited into someone's house for dinner is a very special thing, and each time we do receive an invitation, it is not only an opportunity to merely "break bread" together, but we see it as a special gift our friends have generously bestowed upon us; a gift of the very best kind.

      I'm sure you put on quite an evening for the few remaining friends that appreciate such things so please don't hang up your apron strings just yet for I know they appreciate it as much as we would were we to be invited to chez columnist.

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  9. And so t goes...the old-fashioned-sit down dinner party. That brought a big smile. And you are so right, there's not such thing as effortless entertaining. I've come to realize that is why young people of my daughter's generation just don't entertain like that, if they entertain at all. They have seen what their mothers and grandmothers go through.and said nah nah, this ain't for me!

    It is a two day sacrificial event. So many things to plan and do. If you have a husband like yours, it's a blessing. Hug and kiss him for me. Having been single for a lot time what frazzles me is the arrival of the guests when so many things have to be addressed. Coats, first drinks, introductions. You need a second person!

    It all looks lovely CD, you must be proud. I covet those Champagne glasses. and serving Champagne for drinks is so elegant and the way I prefer it.

    As you see, pounding the keys is no effort anymore and yours is the first long comment I leave. It's the least I can do for all the effort you've made.

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    1. Firstly, wonderful to have you back in Blogland and to learn that you are on the mend! Great news.

      Ah, you'd make a perfect guest at one of our soirees, I just know it, especially as you can well appreciate all that goes into such a fun evening. I shall make sure to pass on your kisses to hubby, for he certainly deserves them. You make such a good point about the initial arrival of guests and their coats and drinks - I always make sure we both meet our guests at the door, but then my husband attends bar duty. Team work.

      I do hope you can convince your daughter that entertaining doesn't all have to be "from scratch", especially as there is so much excellent pre-prepared food one can purchase from the grocery store nowadays. That way, all she needs to do is heat it up and plate it, and enjoy her guests. The important thing is to slow down and actually make time for entertaining. Everyone always appreciates it and has fun.

      So glad you like my champagne flutes, which took me years to find (I have an even dozen now). I love an excuse to use them and well, lucky for me, I adore champagne. So, here's a virtual toast to your recovery lindaraxa - cheers!

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    2. Dear CD,
      I enjoyed your post vicariously and agree wholeheartedly that entertaining at home is a treat if one can manage it. Yes, it takes planning and work, but well worth it and so appreciated by the guests.
      A few months ago we gave a small dinner party for friends visiting from Fresno. Those same friends reciprocated when we were in Fresno last week. It was the highlight of our trip (well that and the giant sequoias at Sequoia National Park!) There is something so life-affirming about extending the hospitality of one's home.
      Best,
      Karen

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    3. Hello Karen,

      So glad you enjoyed reading this rather lengthy post but I think it gives a good idea of what is involved in the planning and execution of such a fun evening.

      How fortunate that you have such good friends that enjoy reciprocating. I can well understand why your recent dinner was such a highlight of your trip.

      I hope the Sequoias lived up to their lofty expectations. They are a marvel are they not?

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  10. My gosh it's so beautiful all of it! You are truly gifted CD. The flowers, the food, the planning (the only glitch being the forgotten soup spoon, that's amazing), it's very impressive and inspiring. So few people entertain at home these days and it's a shame because it's the nicest evening imaginable, as evidenced here!
    Your friends must be very happy when an invite arrives from you and your husband. :) Thanks so much for sharing.

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    1. Dearest Dani,

      You are too kind, thank you. The soup spoons provided quite a good laugh for all. I honestly didn't catch my mistake until right before my guests were about to tuck into their soup. In a way, it is these little hiccups that make for good memories. One of these days I'll tell you all about my Christmas stuffing disaster. Nothing should be taken too seriously at these sorts of dinners.

      I wholeheartedly agree with what you say about entertaining at home. It truly makes for the nicest evenings imaginable. Won't you join us for dinner when you are next in California?

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  11. Putting candles in a freezer the day before a party will stop them from dripping.

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    1. Hello Jean,

      Thank you for the tip, which I shall try the next time we light our candles. I use non-drip, good quality candles. However, the ones I show in this post were placed on a table by a drafty doorway, which might help explain how they got into such a mess.

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    2. I've been through the candle dripping menace many times; like your draft, I think mine was as a result of the aircon. I tried to find a solution - including finding out where Buckingham Palace bought theirs for State Banquets etc, thinking they must know about these things in spades - and I think the answer was unexpected - Hatchard's in Piccadilly. But they no longer stock; not surprisingly for a bookshop whose readers now universally use electric light. (I imagine.)

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    3. columnist,

      Air currents certainly play havoc with a candle, don't they? What an interesting bit of research you unearthed with regards to Hatchards - would have never guessed! A while back, my sister gave me a box of candles that hold a royal warrant so I'm off to see who's warrant they hold. I believe the company was Price's Candles, from memory. I've yet to break into them but shall report back if they are truly superior to the candles I use here in the United States (made in the US too).

      By the way, I do believe one of the duo of Fortum and Mason started their business by collecting the stubs of royal candles from the palace and selling them.

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    4. I can make this suggestion! Putting the dripped messy candles into the freezer is much easier than the blow dryer and credit cards! It just peels right off; no need to even polish!

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    5. Hello Penelope,

      I resort to the old credit card trick when the wax has fallen upon the wooden floors or the surface of furniture and it's quite a quick fix. I will try the freezer trick for portable items such as small candlesticks that are marred by the dripping wax. For the large candelabra, I resort to dismantling the pieces and placing them in a warm oven which melts the wax from all the little crevices in a jiffy.

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  12. Oh a woman after my own heart. Not that I've done this, in ages, but 20 years ago I'd put on dinner parties, from 4 to 8 people, regularly. Rarely so fancy, but always with really special food and a sense of joy in the company.

    Your table is graceful and beautiful, the dinner sounds perfect. What is more important, more worth celebrating, than friends?

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    1. Awww, thank you! We love to entertain our friends for we find much pleasure in their good company. Not all of our dinner parties are quite so formal, of course, but this one warranted all the extras for our special birthday guests.

      Lovely to learn that you too enjoy putting on a good evening of food and fun. Friends and Life (with a capital "L", of course!), are always worth celebrating!

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  13. Loved reading this CD! Even on my phone with aging eyes. I suspect an invite to a CDan Dinner Party the most coveted in the Bay area...or soon will be.
    I'll have sugarplum visions of following your doorbell's command and feasting on all the scrumptious food, tasty libations, and most importantly....a charming hostess. I do hope one of those fortunate gents summoned for this glorious evening took the appropriate measure of toasting his charming hostess in a way that this magical evening demanded...? I certainly would have and been inspired to outdo myself... and perhaps Sir Galahad too.
    With all your fine black basalt and table finery, i do want to make you aware of Replacement Inc. in my hometown where one can often pick up that extra place setting, soup spoon, replace an injured English Regency champagne flute or add reinforcements. I 've toured the showroom and picked up several wedding gifts now featured prominantly on sideboards from sea to shining sea....and know those people only as a satisfied customer.

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    1. Dear GSL (or Mossy, as of late),

      In all honesty, I cannot recall any specific toasts to the host and hostess, but that may very well be due to the fact that there were two birthday guests we were celebrating, or the fact that things got a little blurry after a certain amount of toasting. Yes, that must be it.

      I had no idea Replacement Inc. had a warehouse that was open for touring. You should consider popping in and writing a blog on it (don't forget your camera). Should be a fun read for those of us that appreciate such things.

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    1. Thank you, PVE, and so nice of you to drop by.

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  15. Your table looks lovely and the dahlia arrangement is quite beautiful. Do dahlias have a long vase life?

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    1. Hello Diogenes,

      So nice of you to say so, thank you.

      Ah, beautiful dahlias.... I've found they do not last as long as I'd like them to. They fade away about four days after I've put them in a vase sadly. The good news is that if there are unfurled buds upon the stem, they will eventually open up and provide a second flush so to speak.

      Thank you for dropping by and I do hope you come back and visit again.

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  16. From the first press of a white-gloved finger to that venerable doorbell (PLEASE tell me that is really a pink wall, as well) to the last melty sculpt of the slumpy candle-wax---what a delightful evening! All delights and flowers and napery laid just so, in preparation for such an important event. I can picture the scene, with the flickers of such radiance on each expectant face, the clink of wineglasses and gleaming silver, then the eye-widens and smiles as the courses unfold: the soft scrape of Those Spoons in that sumptuous golden soup, and the quiet satisfaction in such a calm, delicious beginning. Then the expressions of delight, the murmurs of enjoyment betwixt all the convivial conversation, and the gasps of amazement at those sublime pears, served whole and complete, like a perfect apple on a palm.


    All the time and trouble (yes, entertaining IS hard work, no matter how rewarding and fulfilling, and sometimes a table-for-six can become more complex than three-tables-for-eight. But don't you love it just for YOU, whether anyone else might be involved? I love the preparation, as well---the looking-down of the china, the last-inspection and polish of the glasses, a flower moved to better advantage, a stand-to-the-side admiring look at what your hands have arranged.

    Long ago a nun in a movie told the Hero that life consists of Preparation, Meditation, then Dedication, and I think all those are great parts of entertaining, with each necessary and completing. (She also told my favorite sacrilegious joke of all time, which I've never forgotten).



    A REAL LIVE DINNER PARTY! Outside my house and yours, they’re becoming a rare breed, and that makes such gatherings the more to be sought. The last one we attended, our hostess had dedicated her dining room to an enormous art project she was trying to complete, and so we sat at a bridge table in the small sitting room beside the fire. She had four poufy-backed Windsor chairs sort of pulled into a square, and our two husbands sort of brought the small table with all its elegant linens and china TO US, so to speak, before pulling up their own. We dined on Quinoa Something and parsley-and-celery-top salad, I remember, and it's one of the most scrumptious evenings I can remember.

    And an invitation to yours---well. There must be veritable lines and stand-by lists and lotteries awaiting such an invitation.

    Should you care for such frivolous things, I hereby convey upon you your very own G.R.I.T.S. Girl credentials---even sans such splendid hospitality and care to guests’ comfort and enjoyment, you’d have earned your card on the Cheese Straws alone.

    http://lawntea.blogspot.com/search?q=G.R.I.T.S.+Girls

    r

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    1. Hello racheld,

      What have I done to deserve such a generous and thoughtful comment, thank you! You paint such a romantic image of our fun dinner party. Alas, the rosy tint that surrounds our doorbell is merely a product of the sun setting over California early on the evening of our party (the wall is white in real life).

      I shall have to remember the mantra you wrote about "Preparation, Meditation, then Dedication". Sounds like a plan for success!

      So glad to learn that you too enjoy throwing dinner parties and the one you last attended sounds rather like the times we too enjoy dinners around the fireplace (although for two or three people only).

      Thank you for bestowing G.R.I.T.S. upon me. I am intrigued, and I'm now off to investigate your post.

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  17. A beautiful post. Sadly, hosting dinner parties has become a lost art.

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    1. Thank you, Sarah Gouin, and welcome.

      Perhaps by writing this post, I might have inspired a few of my readers to revive the old-fashioned-sit-down-dinner-party and insure it does not become such a thing of the past.

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  18. A lovely dinner party! Beautiful silver, crystal and flowers - particularly love those champagne flutes. Have found some of the hostess tips very useful. The wax is still shamefully upon the candlesticks from the last time we had a dinner, some months ago now. Will give it the hair drier treatment and next time remember to put the candles in the fridge or was it the freezer? (will look it up) beforehand to reduce the drips.
    I've been making a similar whole pear in red wine (with cinnamon sticks) dessert for years - from an old Robert Carrier book. Once I left the syrup simmering slowly (after having removed the pears) for a bit too long when called into a neighbour's apartment in an emergency for her. By the time I returned it was close to turning to toffee and instead of a light syrup had become thick and gooey. By then too late to make anything else. One of our guests - a new friend at the time and now a dear friend of many years - asked when all was served and eaten if he could lick the dish. Would probably have horrified your guests, but he was such a darling and so full of fun - and I was so chuffed - that we all loved him for it. He was by the way the son of an English lord and went on to a brilliant career - so it wasn't as if he didn't know how to behave.
    I rather like having something unexpected - especially when the person is so full of fun and charming. Once had a dinner party that lasted till almost morning when a surprise guest was asked to sing - he turned out to have a beautiful voice. I'd met him for the first time at a cocktail party elsewhere that evening - and as he was a great friend of other guests we'd invited, and as my husband was at the last minute called up by his boss to some diplomatic emergency, I asked him to join us at dinner. It had all the makings of a dreadful disaster as the guest of honour couldn't attend either as he suddenly had to fly to Africa. But what I'd warned them would be a disaster turned out to be one of the most successful dinners ever for us. When my husband finally walked in the door he was amazed to find everyone was still there - all singing away and suddenly best friends, led by a random Finnish tenor, with their coffee and drinks still on the table. Miss those times - and the great fun we had over the dinners. Eating in a restaurant is pleasant and much less work - but not a venue for such spontaneous delights. Best wishes, Pammie

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    1. Hello Pammie,

      Thrilled that you enjoyed this post so much, and to learn of your riotously funny friends and their dinner party antics. As every good hostess knows, no matter the effort and thought put into any dinner party, it truly is the mix of guests that make or break any gathering. I believe dinner guests have obligations to fulfill once accepting their host's invitation, and part of that includes talking and mingling (and even singing in the wee hours of the morning if things make a turn for the better).

      The pears I make sound similar to the recipe you use. Once I've removed the fruit, I boil down the remainder of the liquid until it thickens. As your friend found out, it is delish!

      Thanks so much for your fun comment. I do hope you drop by again and add to the conversation.

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  19. So beautifully done and I can only imagine how much fun your guests had at this gorgeous dinner party!! Love that you have shown the morning after!!!

    xoxo
    Karena
    The Arts by Karena

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    1. Hello Karena Albert, and welcome!

      Thank you so much for your kind comment and yes, our guests certainly had fun, as did we.

      Oh, the morning after a good dinner party, where pots and pans await, and glasses require washing. In my own way, I rather enjoy the process of putting the house back together, albeit rather slowly. It gives me an opportunity to reflect upon the previous night which always brings a smile to my face.

      Thank you for stopping by, and I do hope you visit CD again.

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    2. Ding dong! I'm a little daunted when I see the quantity of comments here, but i just wanted to say that this seems a true labor of love and I'm sure your guests were deserving and appreciative. And to think you also took the time to document all this. Bravo, Lady Domus!

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    3. Thank you, gésbi. I'm delighted that so many of my readers felt compelled to leave a comment on this particular post. I enjoyed reading every one of them. It is what makes blogging so rewarding for me.

      Oh, and yes, I agree, a labor of love indeed, and so much fun to boot.

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  20. Looks like a wonderful time was had, thanks to a fastidious hostess! It was wonderful being talked through the preparation - I began to have vicarious excitement by the time the guests were arriving. 'Tip top and Bristol'... and car 'boot' - all quite correct as far as we're concerned. Thank you for sharing. I look forward to sharing the preparation for Christmas this year at WBP.

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    1. Thank you so much, Lord Cowell. I'm so pleased you could share in the excitement of our dinner party across the miles and through my musings. It really was all rather fun to put together.

      I'm sure that your Christmas preparations will be quite something this year as WBP continues to take shape. I look forward to following along.

      Thanks for stopping by today.

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Please do leave a comment as I enjoy the dialogue with my readership, thank you.

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