Hi there captivating blog readers! My life has me unable to blog as frequently as I once was. I’m creating content once a week on Mondays (with the occasional Friday post here and there) and have decided to open up this platform for other writers to share when they feel led to! Today’s guest blog post is from a dear friend and amazing blogger Josh Casper. Josh and I lived and worked together in Chicago many many moons ago. I’m continuously encouraged by his compassion and challenged by his passion. I hope that you enjoy this piece from him as much as I did. Now dear ones, grab a cup of coffee or tea, and chew on the words of Josh Casper.
I love having people over for dinner.
Until recently my table was only big enough for one other person, which, unless I was trying to woo the opposite sex, didn’t really work out. And to be honest, the woo’ing wasn’t happening all that much either.
About a month ago I bought a table. I put it together and had people over a week after that.
It is an almost sacred thing for me to have people in my home. It is tiny and old, but I love it dearly.
As a person who cooks professionally, it has seriously stepped up my home entertaining game. It takes a lot to cook and clean and be emotionally ready for guests to step into your home for a meal.
Not to mention, when friends walk into my apartment, there is big bed to their right. There’s no hiding my things in my tiny apartment. It’s intimate. I’m okay with that.
With a tiny place comes an even smaller kitchen. But don’t let that deter you from throwing a sweet night of imbibing and munching.
Here are a few bits I’ve picked up along the way that come from cooking in a restaurant kitchen, and also loving to entertain in my own home.
Mise en Place – This is a French term we used in the kitchen that means, “everything in its place”. Mise en place is cooking. When your friends come over, you don’t really want to be chopping onions or mincing garlic. You also don’t want to be searing off short ribs or breaking down raw meat. Unless your friends are cooks and don’t care if they eat before midnight, in which case they might understand and maybe even help you out.
Having all of your prep done before your party shows up, helps immensely. Plus, it will make you look so bad-ass. People will say, “Wow, that looked effortless!” and in the back of your mind you will know they will enjoy it so much more because you were able to be more present with them, instead of sweating away!
Don’t get too crazy. I get it. I do it all the time. Stick with what you’re good at.
If you aren’t comfortable with cooking, grab some cheeses. Some cured meats. Fruit. Pickled veggies. Good chocolate. Wine. Maybe some bubbles. For sure a nice crusty baguette. Good, soft butter. Keep refilling as it dwindles. No one wants a wussy looking charcuterie board.
Drinks. Recently, I was reading an article about the top restaurants in the world, and how they generally get you super tipsy before your first course even arrives at the table.
It’s no surprise that being tipsy makes you even hungrier. And if you’ve gone through all the trouble of cooking a meal for your friends, you should lead them on a little.
Start them off with some cocktails. Help them take the edge off. Get them in a couple of glasses of wine before you put the big dishes in front of them. You really don’t need too many bottles. Maybe just one cocktail you feel really solid making, and make plenty of them.
Another really important rule; don’t forget to make a drink for yourself. You should have fun too.
Music. If you have a theme, go for it! If not, pick out some of your favorite jams and name it “Dinner Playlist”. If you have the luxury of Spotify or some program similar, let it go into radio. Music, to me, is just as important as the beverages and the food. Aesthetic. Mood. Rhythm.
Clean as you go. Try, if you can, to have all the dishes and pots and pans you don’t need washed and put away before your guests arrive. This makes all of life easier. It makes you look in control, because you are. It helps your guests relax and it makes the end of your night so much easier.
Be prepared with stories and questions. Now, I know this might sound odd. But I do this when I go out to eat with people who I know and who I don’t know. Often times, there is a lull. That’s okay. But also, that need to jolt the conversation is very natural. This is why I have a few things floating around in my head for such an occasion. If alcohol is flowing, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue. Just make sure your friends can drive home safely. If not, call them a cab or let them sleep it off on your inflatable mattress.
Transition. Don’t push things too quickly. Notice everyone’s plates. If they’ve stopped eating savory bits, give it about 15 to 20 minutes and offer the sweets. I like to offer coffee and tea as well.
After all is said and done, you might be exhausted — especially if you’re introverted like me.
The feeling of having all of my friends leave satisfied and giggly and a little tired — it’s just the best.
You are now close to collapsing on your couch to drift away, and you can do so knowing that most of your dishes are done.
So put away the food.
Turn off the lights.
Slip on your sweatpants and rest easy.
You did a great job.