I LOVE hosting dinner parties. But lately, I have been less than great about doing this. Things get in the way. Midterms. And I lacked the perfect table linens. Or more accurately, I lacked any table linens. Excuses, excuses.
And then, the other day, I realized that I had committed one of my biggest etiquette faux pas: I had enjoyed a lovely evening at a friend’s house for dinner, but had failed to reciprocate. When I realized I was guilty of this sin, I was mortified. I am serious. I. was. mortified. My parents had always told me that when someone invites you over for dinner, it’s bad manners not to invite them to your house at some point. They often talked about which couples “reciprocated” and which couples “never reciprocated.” Even at five years old, I wasn’t quite certain what it meant to “reciprocate” or more specifically, “not reciprocate,” but I knew it was something that I never wanted to do. (Note: This is not a blog post trying to pressure or guilt my friends into inviting me over to dinner. But, you know, a girl’s gotta eat… I kid! I kid! No pressure. Seriously!)
In addition to this tremendous guilt and fear that I would forever be labeled “selfish guest who doesn’t return the favor of inviting friends over for dinner,” I really like the people who had me over for dinner. I didn’t want to slight them. I hoped it wasn’t too late, and extended a dinner invitation ASAP. With a promise of chocolate pecan pie, it was not long before the invitation was accepted. (Although, when I talked about not making the pie but still having the dinner, the response I got from the invitee was: “No pie, no deal.” I am 100% serious. I have the text message as proof. So, I definitely made the pie).
And one more thing: when I had dinner at these people’s lovely apartment, there was not only warm-from-the-oven homemade bread, but there was also homemade mozzarella cheese! Are you kidding me? How could it take me so long to invite them over to dinner to insure that I get more homemade bread and homemade cheese in the future?! Furthermore, they encouraged me to put both butter AND cheese on the same piece of the bread at the same time! And this was a weekly tradition of theirs?!?! I had finally died and gone to heaven. Why did I ever jeopardize a spot at this future table by being so lazy/unthoughtful?
So what did I do? Once the invitation had been accepted, I went out and bought me some table linens. It was something that I had put off for months. I kept looking and never found anything in my price range that spoke to me. So I bought something a little outside of my price range, but that I LOVE. They were on sale. And only about $20 more in total than the set of six place mats that I just liked. I think it was worth it. To make up for the pricier place mats, I bought the napkins at HomeGoods. For $17, I got a set of 12 machine washable napkins. Which is great because now even when I have 6 napkins in the wash, I will still have some clean napkins.
Side note: prior to buying these napkins, I only had two cloth napkins that I used to make my boyfriend dinner on “fancy” occasions. I was able to use them twice. Then everytime I wanted to make him dinner, the napkins were unusable because they were in the laundry. You make ask, “But Rachel, why didn’t you just wash the napkins?” And I may reply by punching you in the face, Mr. Smarty-Pants-I-Do-My-Laundry-Every-Week-And-Never-Forget-To-Wash-Any-Of-The-Table-Linens.
Back to the story: I got the place mats and the napkins. I got the recipes all picked out. I bought an excessive amount of wine. I made the focaccia and pizza dough the night before. I made pie crust. I even laid out the table and played around with the center piece in advance (you know, to see how it looked with my awesome new place mats). I made sure everything also coordinated with my blue dining room chairs.
And then I had a wonderful dinner party with some lovely friends. And played hostess (I adore being hostess – I think it’s because 1. I love feeding people. 2. I love cooking. And 3. I love it when people tell me how lovely my home/place mat/homemade pizza/focaccia/chocolate pecan pie is and gush over how I have my life so together and should give Martha Stewart a run for her money). Regardless of whether all those things are true (doubtful), it still is nice to hear them. While eating chocolate pecan pie.
But, I have to apologize though to my fans: I didn’t take great pictures of the pizza or focaccia because everyone was hungry, and we wanted to eat.
I made three types of pizza. The recipes for all the food and more food
porn pictures will follow in later posts. The first pizza was the best: caramelized onions and fontina. To die for. I literally could die happy if this was my last meal. I also made a white pizza with fresh mozzarella and ricotta. Pretty yummy, and despite my love of ricotta, nothing to write home about. I will play with this pizza a little and get back to you. Maybe it just need some rosemary-infused olive oil, or something like that. It was so close, but didn’t quite hit that “stellar” mark that I was aiming for.
The third pizza was a simple margarita pizza with fresh mozzarella and tomato sauce. I couldn’t find any fresh basil in season (because it’s not basil season and I guess we should eat things out of season anyway), so I had to just use dried.
I only hope this dinner party was enough to earn me another seat at the table with the homemade bread and cheese with butter. And I hope that I can get my act together enough to never again be close to being on the doesn’t-reciprocate list.
Recipes will follow in future blog posts.
Now – go buy some table linens and make your friends dinner: you won’t regret it! Or make them dinner without the tables linens: Unless they are avid followers of this blog (highly likely), they won’t even notice.
* “Epic” was the adjective used to describe this dinner party in a thank-you email from the guests. I’m not that braggy to call my own party “epic” unless someone else thinks I should, in which case, this dinner party was “epic.” Another thing that is mostly likely epic: my ego.