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People Over for Dinner
« on: January 20, 2014, 11:49:45 PM »
My mother and I had an interesting conversation this morning, sparked when I mentioned I was having friends over this evening for supper. She asked what I was serving and was rather surprised to hear it was going to be tomato soup, grilled cheese sandwiches and salad.

In her opinion, inviting somebody for dinner means having a spotless house, using the good china and working all day on having a fancy menu.

In my mind, that level is required for a dinner party, which I reserve for special occasions. But in general, a few times a month I have a friend (or two or three) come over for dinner. I make sure my house is picked up and the bathroom is clean and the meal is balanced. If I have time I'll make something more time consuming, like gumbo or risotto, but if I'm busier, like tonight, the menu is pretty simple.

Anyways, what does having somebody over for dinner for you? Is your entertaining style more formal or casual?

Library Dragon

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Re: People Over for Dinner
« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2014, 12:27:06 AM »
As with so many things...It depends. 

If its a casual get together or I am having people over that would be more comfortable with soup and sandwiches it is fine.

A favorite luncheon is ribolita, baked chicken cutlets, salad, and garlic bread.  So easy and I can enjoy everyone's company.

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Re: People Over for Dinner
« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2014, 02:51:51 AM »
for a casual get together with friends - your menu is fine. who doesn't love tomato soup and grilled cheese? personally, I would do more - but that's because i love to cook and i'm (she said modestly) pretty good at it and i have a fine-tuned repertoire of five minute dishes so it wouldn't take me that much more time to make a chicken/sides/dessert meal than it would to make soup/sandwiches/salad meal so i'd go with the chicken. oh and don't tell your mom but I don't break out the good china. i don't even have good china anymore! last big dinner i had - we served on disposables.

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Re: People Over for Dinner
« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2014, 03:09:07 AM »
It sounds yummy to me!   To be honest, if i had been invited in advance to dinner I would probably be surprised as it is a very simple meal for guests, it just wouldn't be the kind of thing I was expecting.  Whereas if it was a more impromptu dinner it's what I'd expect.  It just feels very simple.  Which is actually smart of course as you can spend time with your guests not hours in the kitchen!  And I would definitely enjoy the meal.   It just feels a bit like a very casual throw together whats in the cupboard type menu!   But if your friends are comfortable with it then no, nothing wrong with what you are serving.

DH and I do have a set of friends with whom we have more casual thrown together meals like this.  Usually though if I'm hosting a dinner I like a casual vibe but a substantial menu.   We often do a roast followed by dessert.
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Re: People Over for Dinner
« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2014, 03:20:45 AM »
I'm with mbbored - I save the "fancy stuff" for dinner parties, but I make sure I have people over for casual meals as well.   I still race through the house before they arrive to get it presentable, but I don't do my usual mad clean; I still set the table but I don't bother with linen (although I have quite the collection of colourful printed paper napkins!) or decorations and I use my everyday cutlery instead of the silver; I serve them good food but it's the sort of thing they might throw together for their own meal instead of a special occasion meal. 

I have to say, it's the latter type of "entertaining" that makes the formal dinner parties great, because I find the more often I do this stuff, the less stressed I get when I do "proper dinner parties" because I've had a lot of practice.  It feels like you're only doing a few extra things in the kitchen, and adding a few pretty touches to the table, and oh just a little extra polish/ cleaning beforehand, instead of the party being some massive production. 


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Re: People Over for Dinner
« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2014, 03:53:41 AM »
It depends on the friends and the occasion, for me.

I have a few friends that we all host a lunch every couple of weeks, and it's very simple food - soup, sandwiches, a quick pasta, etc. But these are very good girlfriends that I see alllll the time, and so this isn't really what I would call hosting - it's just getting together for lunch at someone's house.

With these same girlfriends, we occasionally invite them + husbands to our home for dinner, and then I go all out. It's not a formal dinner party, no, but it's usually a weekend evening and we spend several hours together dining, chatting, playing games or watching movies. For those I always serve a meat dish and a vegetarian dish, plus a few choices of sides and a dessert.

They're both casual occasions, but the menu requirements are different for me - perhaps because it's lunch versus dinner? But then, if it was the same girlfriends for dinner instead of lunch, they would have no problem with soup and sandwiches... so maybe it's just that we have hungry, picky men ;)


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Re: People Over for Dinner
« Reply #6 on: January 21, 2014, 09:12:59 AM »
There's no single answer. Everything depends on what the purpose is, who you're inviting, etc.

I do have nice dinner parties where I serve nicer (nothing super fancy though!) food and we sit at the dining room table which I've set nicely with a centerpiece, etc. I don't have formal china though. I got rid of mine years ago because we never used it so no matter what, it's my everyday dinnerware.

But I also have casual get togethers. For example, we have a couple of friends who we play games with about 10 times a year (we shoot for once a month but life sometimes gets in the way). We switch off houses and it's always pretty casual for dinner. I just cook something I might make for a family dinner. Lasagna & salad, chicken & rice, burgers, etc. Nothing super fancy. Sometimes we even order out. BBQ or Chinese for example.

I have Passover at my house every year and go all out for that. It's a holiday, after all.

Your menu sounds fine for a casual gathering. Really, when I go to a friend's house for dinner, unless it's specifically set up to be formal, whatever they want to serve is fine. If I had to do formal to-the-nines every time I had people over, I wouldn't do it very often!


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Re: People Over for Dinner
« Reply #7 on: January 21, 2014, 09:15:10 AM »
I'm with you--there are different levels.

I used to have the "spotless house, fancy menu" idea, but we hit a stretch where that wasn't going to happen,s o we didn't have people over.

I called up a friend of ours and said, "Would you like to come to a messy Queens apartment for spaghetti with sauce from a jar and grocery-store garlic bread?" He laughed and said, "Only if we get to bring cheap red wine!"

It was probably the most fun evening we ever had. And yes, we ate spaghetti w/ Prego sauce and drank some reasonable-tasting but not expensive wine.

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Re: People Over for Dinner
« Reply #8 on: January 21, 2014, 09:36:16 AM »
As long as all parties know the formality (or lack there of) of the evening's festivities, I think you can serve whatever you like, including leftovers.

Toots, I love your invitation for spaghetti and jarred sauce.  And it was obviously taken in the spirit in which it was intended.

'Hey, friends.  We have a ton of leftovers from X occasion.  Want to come over and help us finish them off tonight?'  Totally fine.  And I probably would pull out the good china to serve them on, since my good china is Denby stoneware, rather than bone china.  I chose it on purpose - it's a bit of a fancier pattern and it means I pull it out just about anytime I have people over.
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Re: People Over for Dinner
« Reply #9 on: January 21, 2014, 09:39:18 AM »
Leftovers - love 'em! A friend's daughter got married recently and a group of us (including her) made plans on the spot at the rehearsal dinner to finish off the leftovers (BBQ chicken & fixings) at one of our houses the following weekend. Each couple added something to the mix, bread, dessert, appetizers, etc. and we had a feast. Nothing wrong with leftovers!!


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Re: People Over for Dinner
« Reply #10 on: January 21, 2014, 10:01:10 AM »
I figure as long as we don't have a dining room, we're exempt from 'dinner parties.' Our kitchenette just has a table with 2 chairs. In turn, I don't expect anything more from my hosts; I'm happy with an invitation to come over for delivery pizza!

We tend to set our coffee table (with the couch on one side, chairs on the other), but I will also serve some pretty decent food. It keeps it casual and everyone goes away full. I will still do salad/starter, entree, dessert.

Last time, I spent the better part of a day making several kinds of sweet and savory empanadas, which are quite casual on the eating end despite all the labor that goes into them. I knew my fellow ex-Texan guests would appreciate the effort.

Previous efforts have included gnocchi, complicated stuffed peppers, homemade gourmet pizzas (and desserts like some unusual brownies, baklava or pie; salads are more than greens + tomatoes, too) -- all sorts of stepped-up simple foods.

I like to host events that say, "We care enough to make some effort for you, but we're not fussy people!"


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Re: People Over for Dinner
« Reply #11 on: January 21, 2014, 10:27:46 AM »
I agree there are different levels.

In my old neighborhood, we had 4 families with elementary age kids and the moms worked out of the house and the dads worked from home. Yep it was weird. We'd often have communal dinners with another family during the week and it would be casual fare.
-burgers by the pool in the summer
-crockpot chili or soup during the winter
-quick pasta meal with salad and bread
-fish tacos

But it seems we seldom to that any more and I miss those really casual entertaining. Now it seems like it's always a big production on the weekend.

Klein Bottle

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Re: People Over for Dinner
« Reply #12 on: January 21, 2014, 10:35:32 AM »
I have casual dinners as you describe once a week, in my new home.  I serve simple but plentiful food, and usually manage to provide some sort of dessert if I have time, too.  Nothing wrong with different levels of formality.  My weekly casual diners are very well attended.  Your meal sounds lovely to me!
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Re: People Over for Dinner
« Reply #13 on: January 21, 2014, 10:52:54 AM »
Well, it depends.  Do the people coming over know it is a simple dinner and what you are planning? 

For me, no problem, because that is one of my favorites!  In fact, that sounds like a great idea for lunch today.

My hubbs, not so much because he cannot have cheese and is not a fan of tomato soup.   Now, we would still not have a problem, because we would just bring something he would eat, because it is more about being with friends and enjoying their company, for us.


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Re: People Over for Dinner
« Reply #14 on: January 21, 2014, 11:13:01 AM »
It depends on the level of friendship. New friend, first time over, I usually work pretty hard all day to make the house extra clean and make a meal with several side dishes. Once I've had someone over a couple of times, or our friendship is pretty comfortable, my house is just normal clean, and I cook what I would for my family anyway that night (usually a protein dish, a salad, and maybe something like rice or bread). If I held myself to new-friend standards every time we had people over, I would become a hermit. It's fun once in a while, but also completely exhausting.

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