Dinner Party Place Setting

There are a lot of ways to set the table for your next dinner party.

Casual, Formal, European.

It can be elaborate or simple depending on your style and theme.

Here's the basic place setting I use and you can build from there.

I like to use chargers and/or placemats. Forks go on the left, knives on the right. Be sure to use the dishes that are appropriate (i.e. salad plate, bread plate, spoons, bowls) depending on what you are serving.

Also offer wine glasses and a water glass.

For a more formal feel, I put the napkin on the plate but this can easily be switched up and placed under the knife.

Hosting a Super Bowl Party

Or any sport-themed party!

Sports parties always call for the classic bar food and drinks. We hosted this year's Super Bowl party and it went off without a hitch. Here's how I did it.

1. Set the Menu - of course Super Bowl parties remind me of fried, bar snacks and dips. I brought the deep fryer out of storage and used a few crock-pots to keep food warm throughout the night.

Make sure to put out condiments for all the different snacks including marinara sauce, ketchup, mustard, etc.

2. Prepare for your guests by setting up the living room with enough seating for everyone. Set up a projector screen if you're really intense, we did! 

3. Set up the table - I highly recommend using tablecloths especially with messy foods like chili, meatballs, and dips. It will save you so much time during clean up. Position those messy foods at the edge of the table so no one spills all over the table when making their plate. 

Also set up a beverage table with beer and wine on ice, bottled waters, soft drinks, cups, glasses and an ice bucket. Don't forget the bottle openers. Everyone can help themselves without having to go into your fridge or cabinets.

4. Time to prepare the food! Choose your platters and label them with sticky notes so everything is ready to go when the food is prepared. Most of the menu needs to be served hot/warm but do as much as you can beforehand like any prep work. I also staggered some of the food so everything wasn't cold by halftime. This will take away from you watching the game but if you're like me, I'd rather cook than watch football! If you prefer to stay out of the kitchen during your party, I'd suggest food that can be served room temperature.
Chicken wing dip stuffed jalapeno poppers

Tuesdays at The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons

Photo courtesy of Ritz-Carlton
If you haven't been to Entyse Wine Bar at the Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner, you need to plan an evening!

I visited a little while ago and truly enjoyed my experience. Read more about it here. They host wine events throughout the week including:

Raw Bar & Wine on Wednesdays 5:30-8:30
Sushi Bar & Wine on Thursdays 5:30-8:30
Live Music on Fridays and Saturdays

And select Tuesdays, Sommelier Vincent Feraud is opening up shop! For $22, sample 5 wines and a selection of cheeses and have the option to purchase these wines.

Here's the upcoming schedule:
February 11 - Sparkling Wine from Around the World
February 25 - Rhone Valley of the North
March 11 - Bordeaux
March 25 - Burgundy
April 8 - Spain
April 22 - Argentina
May 6 - Chile
May 20 - Loire Valley

Hosting a Winter Wonderland Party

Our dear friends are getting married this year! The bride originally wanted a winter wedding but instead they are getting married in August (exact opposite, right?!).

So we decided to throw them an engagement party with a winter wonderland theme.

The idea was to have everything light and white, including the food. Theme colors included white, silver and Tiffany blue. I re-purposed a lot of household items/decorations to take this party over the top.

First up, the food table. A simple white tablecloth was used for the color scheme and also easy clean-up. Thankfully, all of my entertaining dinnerware is white so that also helped with the color scheme. Small, sparkly blue and clear diamonds helped bring some color and bling to the table. Icicle lights were hung to add a pop of light and tied with pom poms at the end. Silver Christmas ornaments were also used to add some sparkle.

TIP: Add height to your table by using dishes and platters that are elevated or use white shoe boxes turned upside down to double as a stand. Add a placemat on top of the boxes too!

The candy bar incorporated the blue color scheme from the napkins and was an easy, no-cook dessert!

Now onto the food. There are not many foods that are white but here's what I went with for this cocktail party:

  • Rice Crispy Treats - a great hit and completely gone by the end of the night
  • Queso Blanco with tortilla chips
  • Popcorn cups with parmesan
  • Candy bar with white and blue candies, including organza bags
  • Cheesecake
  • Spinach and Goat Cheese Tartlets
  • Garlic knots
But a party is more than just setting out a food table. We added a fun element with a homemade photo booth. We used a black and white backdrop that was purchased from a party store but you can easily use a large piece of fabric and pin to the wall.

I also designed, printed and cut out mustaches, hats, bow ties and cards with sayings on them to be used for the photo booth. These can easily be customized depending on the theme of the party. Simple silver and white balloons were scattered around the backdrop to help frame it so it's not just pinned to the wall. This was a fun addition to the party and everyone was able to use their own cameras and phones.

The happy couple!

The Wining Hostess To-Go

Whether it's a friend who has just moved into a new place, just had a baby or is under the weather, there's no gift like the gift a warm dinner in the comfort of their home.

My friend recently had her 2nd baby girl (awww) AND broke her finger (ouch!).

So what better way to go meet the new addition and bring dinner along?

The best and easiest option is lasagna. Perfect to make ahead, carry and re-heat. Plus it's a great family friendly meal and who doesn't love ooey-gooey cheesy pasta? So comforting.

No Italian meal is complete without garlic bread and a salad. Also, very easy to prepare ahead of time, just don't dress the salad until you're ready to eat.

Pack up the items, bring a bottle of wine along and hey, flowers never hurt either.

Classic wine pairings include a nice Chianti, Syrah, or a Malbec blend. All are easily accessible and don't break the budget.

What are you waiting for? Take dinner to a friend tonight.

I've Found My "Sushi Prince"

After moving to Fairfax 2 years ago, I've been on a quest to find new favorite restaurants. There's not nearly the selection as inside the beltway so this has proven quite the task.

When the sushi craving hit, I did some online research and came across Sushi Prince in downtown Fairfax. Great reviews, trendy menu. From their site "The place for people who know sushi. Your eyes will be pleased, Your taste buds will be delighted. Your Highness, your table awaits."

Ok, I'm sold.

I called to make reservations since a lot of the reviews said it's a small dining room, only about 20 seats! (Highly recommend doing this) When we arrived, the entire staff welcomed us and there was a personalized card on the table. Nice personal touch.

The restaurant is cozy and intimate with a small sushi bar seating 4. I also loved the Japanese parasols hanging from the ceiling.
Spicy Tuna Gratin

The appetizer menu is extensive with both hot and cold options. It was hard to narrow it down and I could have easily made a meal out of just apps. The Spicy Tuna Gratin caught our eye, very different than other appetizers at Japanese restaurants and man were we pleased!

A gratin of rice, avocado, spicy tuna, crab meat, cream cheese, aioli and soy, baked in a small casserole dish and served warm. Delectable! A must-try. Hot appetizers we want to try next time: Heart Breaker and Volcanic Mountain.

Now onto the sushi, the main reason for our visit. The sushi menu is also extensive with a lot of creative, and great sounding chef's signature rolls. They also have nigri and classic sushi rolls on an a la carte menu.

Our sushi selections were: Crown Royal Roll (tuna, salmon, crab and spicy tuna!), Crunch Infinity (shrimp tempura and crab), spicy tuna roll, avocado roll and spicy salmon roll.

Crunch Inifinty (left), Crown Royal Roll (right)
With the vast selection, I can't wait to go back and try some of the other signature rolls like Las Vegas Roll, Super Volcano, Spicy Spider and more!

And how about the service?

5 star. We were welcomed by the full staff when we walked in and also when we left. Attentive servers kept our drinks full and food coming.

I highly suggest this little gem in Fairfax for your next sushi date.

Reservations: 703-383-0588
10256 Main St, Fairfax
Open for lunch and dinner

Cheese & Charcuterie

It’s not a cocktail party without the basic cheese and charcuterie platter. It’s as simple as choosing a selection of cheeses and meats and placing on a nice platter with some spreads and garnishes and of course, the right wines.

Select a wide range of cheeses to appeal to all palates. The platter should have at least 3 different cheeses. Adding garnishes like fig spread, honey, grapes, apples and dried fruits help take your platter to the next level. Don’t forget some crackers and hearty bread.

Common charcuterie selections include salami, chorizo, paté, speck, proscuitto, soppressata and more.

Via A Beautiful Mess
Check out these basic cheese and wine pairings:

                    Goat Cheese – soft, goat milk, “chevre” ------- Crisp, acidic White – Sauvignon Blanc
                    Blue Cheese – soft, cow, sheep or goat  -------    Sweet, dessert wine – Port or Sauternes
                    Brie – soft, cow’s milk                         -------    Full-bodied, round White - Chardonnay
                    Cheddar – firm, cow’s milk -------    Tannic, bold Red – Cabernet Sauvignon
                    Gouda – firm, cow’s milk                     -------     Fruity, balanced Red – Merlot
                    Manchego – firm, sheep’s milk, Spain     -------     Rich, fruity Red – Malbec

Favorite ways for plating:
                    *  On a wooden chopping block             *  On a slate board