Don't Call It Entertaining! And Other Dinner Party Tips

Anna Watson Carl is the author of the cookbook The Yellow Table: A Celebration of Everyday Gatherings: 110 Simple & Seasonal Recipes. She joins the Clever Cookstr to tell the story of her yellow table, share tips for celebratory meals, and explain why she hates the concept of "entertaining."



Kara Rota
2-minute read
Episode #61

Anna Watson Carl's yellow table was gifted to her by her mother, who had purchased it in the 1970s. She describes her mother's stress-free and welcoming approach to feeding friends and family as "you can always pull up a chair." Now, Anna's table is the namesake of both her blog and cookbook. She joined the Clever Cookstr to share her tips for successful dinner parties.

1) Don't call it entertaining! The drive to perfectionism or concern about others' judgment can take all the fun out of feeding people in your home. Remember that guests are coming over because they like you and want to spend time with you. The food is important, but it's secondary to creating a warm atmosphere. Your stress can be contagious.

2) Have a good game plan. Plan out the menu a week in advance. It's not a great idea to try to create five complicated dishes you've never tried to make before. Choose the starring role and keep everything else extremely simple. If you're making a pizza from scratch, serve it with a simple salad and a cheese course for dessert. There's no need to make everything complicated!

3) When people arrive, have something out to nibble on. That will keep you from feeling rushed as people enjoy hors d'oeuvres while you put the finishing touches on the meal. 

4) Don't be afraid to ask for help! Let people bring wine or flowers. If you have a friend who loves baking, take them up on their offer to bring dessert! Giving guests ownership over part of the meals allows them to feel like they're contributing.

5) Don't clean all through dinner. You might want everything to look perfect, but you don't want your guests to feel that they're being served in a restaurant. It's OK if dishes pile up during the meal. 

6) For summertime dinner parties, lean on no-cook dishes. Buckets of ice with wine or beer, a punch-style cold cocktail, cold hors d'oeuvres, chilled grain salads, and gazpacho are all perfect. If you're grilling, plan the main course around the grill, with proteins marinated in advance. 

And this week, we have bonus recipes for Roasted Vegetable Ratatouille and Mini Frittatas with Spinach, Goat Cheese, and Roasted Tomatoes.

About the Author

Kara Rota

Kara Rota headed children’s programming at Chicago’s Green City Market and studied food politics at Sarah Lawrence College. Kara has been a featured speaker at numerous venues including Food Book Fair, the Roger Smith Food Conference, and the Brooklyn Food Conference. She has written about food for Irish America Magazine, West Side Rag, Recipe Relay, and Food + Tech Connect, and is the former Director of Editorial & Partnerships at Cookstr.com.