Art of The Table: Hosting Dinner Parties

Art of The Table: Hosting Dinner Parties

Seattle life seems to be speeding up and getting more practical by the day. We strategize efficiencies with our to-do list and yet, our inbox continues to overflow. We are running around trying to be the best at everything.

At the end of the day when we manage to eke out those few moments to ourselves all we want to do is sink into the couch, order Pike Place Chowder delivery on Amazon Prime and watch Daenerys Targaryen become the ruler of all Seven Kingdoms. I get it!

As I sit down to plan my menu for Mother’s Day dinner I reminisce on my time spent in France when the pace was more leisurely. Hosting friends for small dinner parties in Paris centered around a respected etiquette by guests and host and carefully thought out courses.  The day before was enjoyed perusing farmer’s markets for fresh ingredients, smelling stinky fromage for the cheese course and prepping in my kitchenette (AKA toaster oven and two electric burners). The day-of was focused on cleaning my 250 sq/ft apartment and making sure everything was in place when guests arrived. It was “playing house” for adults and I was ecstatic to finally be #adulting!

Over the years I’ve slowly drifted away from this type of entertainment but I do enjoy putting together a good dinner party for a special occasion.

I’m looking forward to this Mother’s Day to exercise my Art De La Table skills and wanted to share a few tips on how to make a hosted meal a memorable experience. 

  • Dietary Restrictions- It’s important to check in on these! It can be a moving target as we are all attempting to be our best and hottest selves. You may learn that your friend, who you thought you knew so well, hates garlic and onions. You two may never have had a future anyway…who hates caramelized onions?

  • Planning- Decide how many courses you would like to serve. Is there anything you would like to highlight? What’s fresh and in season? Which meals will be served hot and which ones will be served cold? What wines will you serve? You’ll want the dishes to flow well so that you can pay attention to your guests. After all what’s the point if you can’t enjoy your company?

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Low Maintenance Courses:

Chilled pea soup – night before

Almond Cake- night before

Cake and Soup Garnishes- prepped the night before

Courses that Take Attention:

Cheese Soufflés using Beecher’s Flagship- Day of

Pan Seared the slow roasted King Salmon.

 Easy Day-Of Items- Asparagus and Couscous salad to be made 2-3 hours beforehand.

 Whip Cream for dessert

Seasoned Dungeness Crab

Herb oil

Here’s the recipes for the Chilled Pea Soup!

  • Wine- Of course, you should consider which wine or wines will go with what courses. The Pike & Western Wine Shop has an excellent selection and knowledgeable staff if you’d like guidance. In France when a guest brings a bottle of wine it’s often times considered a host gift, given with the assumption that there is already a plan that won’t be altered. Here it is a little different …Many of my friends bring bottles that they are excited to try together. I’m usually open to alternating the plan unless it really won’t work.  

  • Shopping- This meal is all about highlighting fresh Spring ingredients. I’ll be getting my produce at Pike Place the day before and seafood the morning of.

  • Prep- As outlined in the “planning” some dishes will be prepped the evening before, some during the afternoon and a few tasks will be reserved for when guests are present.

  • Mise en Place- As there will be a few items to make while guests are there I want to get everything in place and keep a clean workspace in the process. I will have my salmon warming up on the lined baking sheet when people arrive. I’ll have the pan out that is needed to sear the salmon before it slow roasts in the oven. Then there’s my soufflé plan... I’ll have the base done and warming on the counter in a bowl. The egg whites will be in the Kitchen Aid ready to be turned on. The asparagus salad is the in the fridge. The chilled soup will be ready to pour and their accouterments will be in individual bowls in the fridge.  

  • Printed Menus- We use Canva for our menus for Eat Seattle. There are templates available for menus. This is a great way to get your guests excited about what’s to come and show that you’ve put thought into it.


  • Place Settings- Don’t fret if you don’t have the perfect plates, setters, napkins…it’s the effort that counts. Make sure the table is set properly before guests arrive and think through which utensils are needed. A linen napkin is always preferred. There are tutorials on how to fold napkins on YouTube.

  • Hors d’oeuvres- Will guests be welcomed with champagne or cocktails upon arrival? If so, make sure your beverages are ready to go and chilled appropriately. Make sure all utensils and plates are out for small bites.

  • Service Station- This is where I have extra glasses, dessert forks and beverages that are easy to grab.  Make sure these items are sitting on something like a tablecloth or napkin. I like to use slate boards and white serving trays.  This area makes a world of difference to smooth service.

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  • Amuse-Bouche- An amuse–bouche is the small little bite to get the palate started. It’s a lovely touch to a coursed out meal and gets your guests seated.

  • Cheese Course- A cheese course can be a nice touch if you have access to a quality source or if you’re trying to buy time while dessert finishes in the oven.  I’m opting against this for my dinner since I’m serving a cheese soufflé. The Quality Cheese shop in Pike Place has a cheese from Italy called La Tur which is possibly the best cheese I’ve had in the US.

  • Delegate- There’s nothing that kills the mood of your dinner party more than your guests catching you give the evil eye to your significant other because he or she isn’t lifting a finger. Be sure to clarify roles if you are co-hosting with someone so that everyone is clear where they are helping.


Post By Liz Philpot