Here’s a not-so-secret secret I will let you in on: we at Eat Boutique are a wee bit obsessed with food and entertaining. Terribly surprising, I know. And when you put those two things together, you get the dinner party, which happens to be one of our all-time favorite things. Because of that, Maggie and I decided to create a new series that highlights the how-to’s of making a smashing successful dinner party. Plus, we have asked our ever-so-talented hand-lettering guru, Jenny Milwid, to create downloadable templates of menus that you just print and write in the courses.
To kick things off, I thought a Cookbook Club dinner party might be fitting, because, ya know, I may know someone (*cough, Maggie, cough*) whose very first cookbook just came out. Also, what better excuse to get friends together than cooking? And there’s so many new cookbooks, which are perfect for a Cookbook Club dinner party.
Since the evening will revolve around the meal, it’s important to think about what you want to make and serve. A Cookbook Club is typically a more-casual atmosphere, and you may want to have several make-ahead items so you can join in on the conversation versus standing at the stove. It’s also fun to make at least one recipe from the book you’re discussing, though you could create the entire meal from the cookbook, if you’d like.
Our Cookbook Club Menu:
Small Bites: Root Veggie Chips with Lemon Rosemary Sea Salt
Sweets: Pantry Cookies Ice Cream Sandwiches
Notes on preparation:
Maggie and I chose to go with an easy-to-prepare menu that captured the fall season. The Root Veggie Chips can be made earlier in the day, but don’t make them too far in advance as they may not stay crisp. The lasagne is simple to make ahead either the night before or further out and freeze.
We decided on two recipes from Food Gift Love that we could make in advance: Sparkling Elderflower Punch and Pantry Cookies. That way, the only thing we had to do when guests arrived was bake the pre-made lasagne and pop the bubbly.
Root Veggie Chips with Lemon Rosemary Sea Salt: I love this crunchy take on chips, but do pat them as dry as possible, especially the beets, or you might get soggy chips. Give each chip a bunch of space on the paper towel after removing from the pan, to allow for some of that oil to be absorbed. The sweet potato stays crunchy longest, so consider doing just those, too.
Roasted Butternut and Sage Sauce Lasagne: Gosh, this recipe is perfect as is. It reheats beautifully, with a drizzle of olive oil, and can be frozen in a tray pan for future dinners.
Pantry Cookies Ice Cream Sandwiches: These cookies were one of the most popular recipes during the creation of Maggie’s cookbook. Add a scoop of ice cream sandwiched between two cookies, and, well, it’s a little out of control. The sweet vanilla ice cream contrasts so nicely against the salty-sweetness of the cookie. Keep these sandwiches in the freezer until the very last moment.
Sparkling Elderflower Punch: Simple yet elegant, this punch adds a sparkling touch to an otherwise casual get-together. You can make the syrup ahead, and then simply pour as guests arrive.
Part of the fun of hosting a get-together is in the decoration details. Maggie and I first decided between going informal or fancy, as that determines the overall feel of a tablescape. For the Cookbook Club dinner, we opted for a more casual affair.
We went with striped linen napkins to add a little color and classic style to the table. Heidi Murphy (our photographer!) recommended that for the clever and more-frugal host, one can buy 100% cotton or linen fabric by the yard and cut it into standard napkins size(s), launder, and the edges perfectly fringe. “I like linen the best as it has the perfect amount of “soft wrinkle” right from the dryer,” says Heidi.
Since we were serving sparkling punch, we chose stemless champagne glasses for easy, yet casual, toasting. White plates seemed like a natural choice to make the brightly-colored chips and orange-lasagna pop. We completed the look with tiny acorn candles for a little shimmer, and the handwritten menu is the final decorative touch.
To get the look:
Striped Linen Napkins or do as Heidi suggest above
Once you’ve set the table, now set the scene. I love to cook to music that makes me want to move and certainly makes me smile–and songs about food accomplish both of those things and are perfect for an evening focused on cooking. These are a just of few of my favorites to get your guests talking about more than just the dessert chapter.
Every great dinner party should end with a little gift for the guests (remember, we are all about the Food Gift Love). Deciding, however, on the gift can be a bit tricky since you want it to feel like an extension of the meal and as a thank you for coming to dinner. For this meal, Maggie decided to jar the Rosemary Lemon Sea Salt from the Root Chips recipe. Since we were already making the fragrant sea salt, she realized it was easy to just make a bit more (work smarter, not harder, right?). We then simply filled 2-ounce jars with the salt and wrote the title on a strip of masking tape before tying white string around the jar, et voilà! Instant food gift.
To get the gift:
Have a fantastic time and tell us what you do for your own Cookbook Club dinner party. Take a photo of your menu and share it with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with the #foodgiftlove hashtag. And keep an eye out for our next dinner party menu (hint, it will be très bien).
The Giveaway ***Giveaway is closed and a winner has be chosen. Thank you to all who entered.***
To help get you started on your very own Cookbook Club Dinner Party, we’re giving away a signed copy of Food Gift Love. To enter, simply tell us a quick dinner-party trick–i.e. advice on food prep, decorating, music selection, guest list, etc.–in the comments section below.
We’ll randomly pick a winner on Monday, October 26, 2015. If your name is picked, we’ll notify you between October 27-29 and ship to you directly shortly thereafter. Please reply within 48 hours, or we’ll need to choose another winner. (Don’t forget the fine print: We can only ship to continental U.S. addresses.)
Eat Boutique is an award-winning shop and story-driven recipe site created by Maggie Battista. After hosting pop-up markets for 25,000+ guests, Maggie is now focused on opening her first permanent Eat Boutique–a food-retail concept space with a new way to the very best food. Her second cookbook, A New Way to Food: Recipes That Revamped My Pantry & Made Me Love Me, At Last, will be published by Roost Books/Penguin Random House in 2019. Her first cookbook, Food Gift Love, features more than 100 food gift recipes to make, wrap, and share and is available wherever you find favorite cookbooks.