Fall may just be the best time of year to throw a dinner party. Cooler weather is starting to creep in, the foliage outside is changing, friends are back in town from summer vacations and everyone is back into a regular routine.
A relaxing dinner party is a great way to gather friends at your home and catch up, but for many people, the thought of cooking for guests is overwhelming. Many people feel they are good cooks, but the idea of simultaneously preparing a meal and entertaining guests can be enough to cancel the party before it’s ever started.
Just in time, we’ve together your guide to a perfect dinner party at home that leaves you plenty of time to schmooze with guests and not worry if anything is burning in the kitchen. And it involves just one stop — the New York Butcher Shoppe. With locations on Augusta Road and Woodruff Road, no matter what side of town you’re on, an amazing meal is just one stop — and one shopping cart — away.
Set the tone for a relaxing evening by creating a hors d’oeuvres and drinks station. Use a wooden cutting board for understated elegance and create a spread of cheeses and prosciutto. The New York Butcher Shoppe has a wide variety of options including Tillamook vintage extra-sharp white cheddar, Yancey’s Fancy horseradish and smoked bacon-aged cheddar along with Jarlsberg and aged Asiago.
Let your guests think you were inspired to play Julia Child all afternoon and have a party-sized penne a la vodka and Sausage simmering in the oven when they walk in the door. The New York Butcher Shoppe keeps plenty of casseroles in stock, but to call ahead to make sure if you want multiples of one particular dish.
“Our most popular are chicken Parmesan and lasagnas,” says Julius Aiken, manager of the New York Butcher Shoppe on Augusta Road. “Beef stroganoff is also popular among customers.”
The butcher shop will even have the casserole heated, if needed; just call ahead and make sure their oven isn’t otherwise occupied. Otherwise, just follow the directions on the package and heat in the oven — maybe in your own dish?
Aiken suggests looking at your meal as if you were going to a restaurant.
“At a restaurant you’d usually get a side of spaghetti with chicken Parm,” Aiken says. “We have our house-made sauce and also Vince Perone sauce.”
The shoppe also offers Caesar salads along with garlic bread and baguettes.
Make sure the evening ends on a sweet note. Continue the Italian theme of the evening by topping your guests off with a piece of tiramisu. Or offer a smorgasbord of desserts with individually sized portions of sea salt caramel, New York cheesecake, ganache chocolate cake and carrot cake.
A good rule of thumb is to calculate three bottles of wine for every four guests.
“Our selection of wine is very nice and we can definitely help you make a selection to go with your meal,” Aiken says. “Usually red wine goes well with pasta.”
Getting someone else to do all the cooking leaves the host or hostess open for the more fun elements of planning a party like creating a tablescape out of fall foliage. If using flowers on the table, remember to keep them low so that guests have plenty of eye contact to go along with the conversation.
Ina Garten, host of Barefoot Contessa, offers this great advice for starting your party off right: “I try to greet my friends with a drink in my hand, a warm smile on my face and great music in the background, because that’s what gets a dinner party off to a fun start.”