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Time for Dinner

by By Karon Warren | Jezebel magazine | March 4, 2011

Weekends mean relaxation, and what better way to relax than to have some friends over for dinner? Maybe you want to go beyond the usual hamburgers and beers on the back porch. To help you elevate your next get-together, JEZ sought out tips and advice from Atlanta party and entertaining experts on how to throw an upscale dinner party—from casual chinos and a polo to dressed-to-the-nines high style.

Set the scene

Hosting a dinner party doesn’t have to mean a full-scale approach; you can have an upscale affair with a few simple touches. First, Rob Goldstein, regional director of marketing and special events for the Gerber Group, suggests low-key lighting such as lamps and lots of candles. Second, Amanda Evans of ALA Styles recommends putting out fresh flowers in all your entertaining spaces, including the kitchen and the guest bathroom. While a big extravagant centerpiece is a great idea, Evans says to put it anywhere but on the dinner table. “At the table, use low-range pieces so people can talk to one another over the flowers,” she says.
Third, consider your music. “How much energy do you want to infuse into the event?” Goldstein asks. “It’s more about creating a cool atmosphere where people can enjoy themselves.” Tony Conway of A Legendary Event suggests classy, Frank Sinatra-style music for a really dressy party. If you’re going for a summer theme, Evans thinks beach music (think Jimmy Buffett) is a good fit. Whatever you select, Evans says to choose something that makes conversation easy for you and your guests.

Prepare the menu

When it comes to the food, Todd Annis, executive chef with Bold American, says to choose dishes that you can prep ahead of time. For instance, a day before the party, cook braised short ribs, and then stuff the meat in piquillo peppers. “The flavors are tremendous, and it looks a little more elegant than traditional bell peppers,” he says. Plus, it can be prepared in advance, then heated up right before dinner.
Another easy dish that can be prepared early is seared tuna over Asian noodle salad. Annis says to sear the tuna and then refrigerate. Once you are ready to seat your guests for dinner, simply slice the tuna and serve over the salad.
For dessert, Annis recommends easy dishes served up in elegant containers. Suggestions include chocolate mousse layered with peanut butter served in a martini glass, or tangerine sorbet served with champagne in a flute.

Dress to impress

The right attire for your dinner party should reflect your tone or theme. If it’s a casual affair, guys can go with linen pants and a button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up, while women can opt for white jeans paired with a colorful tunic, Evans says. “You look stylish, but also comfortable,” she says.
If you want a dressier event, Evans suggests suits with a loose skinny tie for the gents and a fun, playful cocktail dress for the ladies.
Themed events also lend themselves to certain clothing choices. For a cohesive look, you may suggest a monochromatic theme. Or perhaps you plan to host a Mad Men-themed party. If so, Conway says to dress in that era—1960s New York.

Whether you go casual or opt for high style, keep one thing in mind: It’s all about enjoying your friends’ company, so do as much of the work as possible beforehand so you don’t miss the party!