No matter the season or occasion, at the heart of exquisite entertainment is simplicity. The illusion of effortlessness is what sets the table for guests to enjoy the evening—untroubled and inspired.
All preparation should be complete long before guests arrive—the table set and candles lit—and you as the host should be prepared to be the evening’s guiding undercurrent. Remember these rules as you host dinner guests in your home.
1. Keep the menu simple, but balanced
Entertaining is not the time to try a new recipe. Unless you have enough lead time to really master a new one, stick to tried and true. Keep the menu simple and serve what you know how to prepare well.
My personal favorite is herb-crusted chicken, crispy Brussels sprouts, and arugula topped with lemon juice and olive oil. Don’t forget a plate of olives, mustard, cheese, honey, and crusty bread. Always balance sweet with acid, heavy with bright, starch with green.
Two types of alcohol is enough. A good wine on the table and accoutrement on a bar cart, for example, and let guests mix their own.
2. Set the table, forget the decorations
Your menu—light or otherwise—paired with simple, well-manicured table settings should do the decorating for you. If you do choose to include decorations specifically for the party, stick to simple classics—a few candles and flowers placed discerningly on the table will suffice.
Choose simple, mood-setting music set softly in the background, away from where guests can interfere. I hide speakers in the living room credenza to keep sound nearby but unobtrusive.