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February 24, 2014

Progressive Dinner Party Prep | Steak Frites with Truffle Fries & Carbernet Thyme Mushrooms

Our entertaining style has definitely evolved a little bit since we've had Emma.  Before she was born we hosted our friends all of the time to long, lingering dinners around the table with multiple bottles of wine - it was our favorite way to spend the weekend.

From the time she was 6 months until she was about a year and a half, we would invite friends over at 7 for drinks, put Emma to bed at 8 and served dinner at 8:15.  It worked perfectly when her bedtime routine was being rocked for 10 minutes and she fell asleep, done.

Nowadays, her bedtime routine looks more like : playing dress-up for 20 minutes, dancing for 20 minutes, running around for 20 minutes, then reading books for a half hour... it is drawn-out to say the least.  We love the routine during the week, because it is a fun, no TV just fun and silly time for us to spend with her.  However... it makes it hard to have a post-bedtime adult-only dinner while they're waiting on you to put her down.

So, entertaining at our house has become more family friendly - which we love, but sometimes I get the itch to have one of those lovely, long and lingering candlelight and multiple bottles of wine dinners like the old days.

I planned the weekend as a little treat for everyone, Emma got to stay the night at her Mimi & Papi's house, and I planned a fun progressive dinner party with some of our friends.  We went to one of the neighbors for Cocktail Hour, here for dinner, then to the last couple's for dessert.  It was such a great time and the food and drinks was fabulous at every house.

Earlier in the day I made out my to-do list and schedule for the party as I always do - an old habit from catering days.  Getting a timeline down on paper really helps me be on autopilot, otherwise, I'll just keep thinking about what happens when and it will drive me crazy.  

This was the simplest menu I think I've ever prepared.  The prep work literally took me 30 minutes... which gave me a little more time to spend on the table.

Last week was a beautiful week with a tiny glimpse of spring for a couple of days... and now it is going to snow again this week.  For the dinner party, I wanted it to feel like spring so used purple hyacinth and daffodils "arranged" in drinking glasses.  I like to keep the flowers really simple and casual for friendly dinner parties, otherwise it can feel a little too fussy for my style.  But, I do like the table to feel full and festive, so I always make sure I have plenty of candles and usually multiple small bunches of flowers.  I like it to look fresh and pretty, but not too sparse - hosting friends should be about sharing bounty and abundance. 

For the candles, I used my new favorite Thin Taper candles.  This is a tip I "borrowed" from Eddie Ross a couple of years ago when he led me on a tour of the Creative Candle factory (the same candles I now carry in the store). 

He said he often uses an array of glass containers down a table with candles set in sea salt.  I love the idea and use it all of the time - especially in the summer with pillar candles. 
I used my Anna Wheatherly powder blue gold rimmed plates - I love how they look with the yellow daffodils - and classic white hemstitch linen napkins.
Dinner was so simple - and one of my favorite meals yet.  No surprise, Beef Tenderloin was the centerpiece.  It can be a little pricey, but it is just so darn easy and fabulous that it is worth it.  Prep is simple - drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Full recipe here.   I'll share the rest of the full recipes this week.

We've really been into roasting these "colorful" carrots lately.  Simple, fresh and beautiful to serve. 

I cooked mushrooms all day in garlic, red wine and thyme... so, so good.  I served them piled up next to the beef on the platter, and the sauce on the side.  This was my first time slow cooking them - and I can't wait to make them again.  Well, actually, I already did last night for dinner.   So good.

Another new favorite, well, an old favorite, but the first time I've made them at home.  The big secret is that I used frozen french fries, then dressed them up with truffle oil, parmesan and thyme.  Completely amazing.  I'll also be making these again very, very soon. 

As always, when I'm planning a dinner party I like to create a menu that can be made in advance.  For this dinner, everything was made earlier in the day, then popped in the oven during cocktail hour.  Simple.  

Here is the table all set before we headed out for cocktail hour.

Dinner is served.  I snapped this photo just before everyone sat down for dinner. 

I love to put everything on one platter - beef down the middle, and mushrooms and carrots piled on the sides.  You can see the truffle fries on the other corner of the table.  I walked the large platter around and served everyone while they passed the fries and sauce - it makes a very friendly and casual serving style and gives me a chance to chat with everyone.

I'll be sharing the rest of the recipes this week and hope to get the recipes we enjoyed at the other houses, too - Amy's Goat Cheese & Peppadew Dip and Annie's Mocha Silk Pie were both amazing.    Hope you are off to a great week.


  1. Beautiful as always ~Leslie

  2. I love how your table looks so simply beautiful! How wise you are as a young Mom to make time for both your daughter, AND for your adult needs and friends too. Bless your family.

  3. This seems like a wonderful idea. Especially for this time of year when we are all going stir crazy!

  4. Fabulous. I've started making beef tenderlion because of you! Did you slow cook this one?

  5. Everything looks wonderful! I started making beef tenderloin because of you! Did you slow cook this one?

  6. Looks like a lovely dinner. I adore your simple florals! Thank you for sharing how you manage the timeline. I, too, get stressed out if I don't have the plan on paper.

  7. It looks amazing and delicious. Ok, first thing I thought when I saw the French fries, was we would love that....but that is a quite a bit of prep time. Thank you for sharing there was a short cut! Would you mind sharing the brand you had success with? It would be so helpful.

  8. YUM! I'm drooling! Great meal plan; I'm excited to add all these recipes to my list!

  9. Great tip about dressing up frozen French fries!! Love it!!!


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