Category

Adventures in Eating and Drinking

How to host a simple fall dinner party

Guys! I have this secret obsession with starting a dinner club. It’s not a secret anymore since I just told you about it, ha. Seriously, anyone who knows me, knows I love to host gatherings. I mostly love hosting when it involves food (which is always). Also, you probably know I have an obsession with all things fall. So, of course I had to put those two things together! Recently, I co-hosted a fall inspired dinner party with my co-worker and I think it was a huge success. Here are some of our tips and pics!

Our guests enjoying their dinner on a crisp fall night
Our guests enjoying their dinner on a crisp fall night
  • Pick a location – We wanted to have the party outside so we had to decide between backyards. When doing a party outside make sure you have a fairly flat yard if you want to put a table on the grass. Know where your electrical outlets are if you want to use any sort of lighting or music. HAVE A RAIN PLAN! We live in Pittsburgh and we have our fair share of rain, make sure your location allows for flexibility if you have rain or snow. (It did start pouring an hour before our dinner but we waited it out and luckily our guests were more than happy to help us get things set up when it was dry.)

    Simple can still be elegant! Candles and flowers go a long way.
    Simple can still be elegant! Candles and flowers go a long way.
  • Sketch out a menu before you send the invite – This was a really crucial step. We actually made some pretty good decisions on the theme of the menu and number of dishes before we sent out the invite. We decided to focus on a Mediterranean feeling menu but wanted to make sure there were fall elements in each dish. We also decided on our protein early on because we knew that would drive a lot of the expense. Chicken is always a cost-effective way to go and there are plenty of ways to make it sexy! Also – remember your veg friends; they appreciate you thinking of them and making sure they don’t have to just eat salad.

    Carrots are a great side dish for any fall dinner! We found this recipe on Pinterest which includes a lemon tahini sauce!
    Carrots are a great side dish for any fall dinner! We found this recipe on Pinterest which includes a lemon tahini sauce!
  • Make a Pinterest board – Shortly after menu planning we set up a Pinterest board where we could both pin things that inspired us and dishes that looked yummy. Ultimately, most of the recipes we chose came from Pinterest. This is also a good way to focus in on specific elements of the party that you want to make sure you capture (i.e., I was committed to having a blanket bench and luckily she had a bench so I brought the blankets!)

    Appetizers can be simple - bread with different olive oils, olives, and cheese!
    Appetizers can be simple – bread with different olive oils, olives, and cheese!
  • When it comes to decor, simple can still be elegant – I subscribe to the notion that when you want something to look really classy, just add candles! We kept the decor very simple, the tables were covered in butcher paper (a roll from Michaels cost $7.00) and we used mason jars with tea lights as decoration along with two vases of dried flowers (see picture below). A simple accent of burlap and twine helped to keep the rustic fall look. The food was all served family style which means you need plenty of room for your dishes on the table. A strand or two of lights can also make a huge difference. Don’t fuss with fancy dishes or glassware! If you want to spend money, spend it on more candles!!!! Fun platters can also serve as a great way to bring color or detail to your table.

    A simple centerpiece with dried flowers, burlap, twine, and mason jars.
    A simple centerpiece with dried flowers, burlap, twine, and mason jars.
  • Buy in bulk – We made a Costco run a week before the dinner to pick up ingredients that were non-perishable or had a long shelf life (nuts, cheeses, dried fruits). Buying in bulk can be a great way to save on the cost, we had also planned dishes that had similar ingredients so things could be used in multiple dishes.

    Appetizers can be as simples as dried fruits, nuts, and cheese. Filling your platter to the brim can make an impressive statement.
    Appetizers can be as simples as dried fruits, nuts, and cheese. Filling your platter to the brim can make an impressive statement.
  • Full bar vs. wine or beer – We talked about this a good deal. Do you go with specialty cocktails? Do you get a bunch of wine and beer? Ultimately, you should do whatever you think your guests will like. We had a feeling a lot of our guests would bring some wine so we decided it would be easier to just have wine (we ended up going through lots of wine!!). To save on money, encourage your guests to bring their favorite wine or beer. Most people want to bring something as a token of appreciation so let them!
  • Time out cooking so that you don’t have to stand in the kitchen the whole time – We did some prep work the night before (mostly sauces and cutting). Make sure you pick recipes that are simple enough that you can execute in a few hours. Time everything out based on prep time and cook time. If you want to pre-bake anything make sure you don’t overcook it. Your guests wont know what things are supposed to look like so you get to be the judge before things go out!

    Chicken can be sexy! We served a simple roasted chicken with a series of fun sauces (pesto, harissa, hummus). This allowed our guest the option to jazz up their chicken however they wanted!
    Chicken can be sexy! We served a simple roasted chicken with some fun sauces (pesto, harissa, hummus). This allowed our guests the option to jazz up their chicken however they wanted!
  • Don’t Stress! – I have had my fair share of kitchen meltdowns but I have learned that the biggest part of entertaining is the time spent with your guests. Unlike a restaurant, your guests usually don’t come in with a lot of expectations (unless you have hosted before and then of course, you have to live up that haha) so just roll with it! If it rains, it rains. As long as you have plenty of wine I am sure it will still be a great time!

 

July-August Instagram Bites

Where have I been?!?!

You are probably wondering why it has been so quiet over here at HPB. I wish I had a super exciting reason for being MIA but the reality is far less interesting. It just seemed so busy lately. I was just busy. Busy means a lot of things I suppose. More nights out with friends and co-workers, weekend excursions, networking events and building an organization with 5 badass ladies! I mean, this is like a legit kind of busy right? I totally ate at all the places and took pictures of all the things. If you follow me on Insta then you know I might be obsessed with the new “snapchat” thing since I clearly don’t get snapchat (still trying…) and you have probably seen more pics of me being a total goofball then you had ever wanted to see but I feel like it’s important you get to see the real me. Turns out the real me is really into selfies and photos of Mr. JD. But anyway, here are some of the things I ate and drank in July and August. Sorry it has been so long. hope you forgive me!

 

  1. Spicy Mango Margarita – Sancho Pistola’s 
  2. Roast Pork Sandwich – DiNic’s Roast Pork 
  3. Cochinita Pibil – Las Bugambilias 
  4. Toasted Pecan Old Fashioned – The Pines Tavern 
  5. Tacos Al Pastor and Chorizo – Bea Taco Town
  6. Lavender and Vanilla Ice Cream – Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream 
  7. Pork Belly Taco – Craftwork Kitchen 
  8. Latke Rachel – Smallman St. Deli 
  9. Halibut Piccata – The Carlton
  10. Pork with Soba Noodles (and other goodness) – Cure
  11. Apple Cider Donut – Commonplace Coffee 

Ok, I promise recipes are coming soon!

June Instagram Bites

Summer greetings friends! So far July is living up to its reputation. There have been muggy days and nights, also some amazing days and nights. I am not complaining! The 4th came and went. Hopefully you saw some pretty cool fireworks. We didn’t actually watch the fireworks this year so I need to find me some of those before the summer ends. Guys, guess who is turning 30 in 6 days?! I am actually very excited about it, I am ready to be out of the 20’s. Also, after 25 I basically forgot how old I was every time someone asked me. Whenever someone asks me how old I am now I tell them 30 (I have been telling people that for like the last 3 months haha). Anyway, my next post will probably feature highlights from my birthday celebrations and all sorts of wise things I automatically picked up after turning 30.

Here are things I ate and drank in June. It was a pretty delicious month!

 

  1. Giant Pretzel – Biergarten at Hotel Monaco
  2. Pork Buns – Momofuku DC 
  3. Momofuku Ramen – Momofuku DC 
  4. Lentil Salad with Cauliflower – Bistro Bohem
  5. Pineapple Wheat Beer – Biergarten at Hotel Monaco
  6. Brunch Salad – The Vandal 
  7. Tacos – Craftwork Kitchen
  8. Tako (Octopus) Taco – Tako 

May Instagram Bites

Oh boy it has been busy! So many things going on and so many things to do. It’s June already. I am counting down to the big 3-0, kind of excited to be out of my 20’s (does that make me crazy?!?). Here are some other things…

  1. The Penguins won the Stanley Cup
  2. I need to be swimming right now
  3. The weather has been amazing and I don’t want to jinx it
  4. I have the most amazing views from my office and it makes it hard to focus
  5. I am a new auntie to an adorable little lab – cuteness
  6. I ate many delicious things in May (see below)
  7. Start following me on Instagram so you can stay in the loop, duh!
  1. Shrimp and Grits – Revel + Roost 
  2. Avocado Omelet – Coca Cafe 
  3. Mint Julep – Independent Brewing Company 
  4. Orange Carrot Karma – Jamba Juice 
  5. Black Bean Burger – Bill’s Bar and Burger 
  6. Duck – Casbah
  7. Thai Iced Tea Ice Cream – Millie’s Homemade 
  8. Flank Steak w/ Chimi – Gaucho Parrilla Argentina
  9. Chilled Pea Soup – Habitat 

March-April Instagram Bites

Hey, you! Yes, you! Are you following me on Instagram yet? If not you should be. I take hilarious pictures of Mr. JD and sometimes even of myself. I am still trying to get used to taking selfies. I may be the worst at those. When I first started using Instagram I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. I didn’t know if I cared enough to post pictures of things and hope that maybe someone other than my friends would notice. Turns out, I actually care and love posting pictures of things. I also love stumbling upon other people who like to post random things happening in their lives. The more random, the better!

On this Tuesday I bring to you another installment of the things I ate and where you can find them. Sometimes these pics don’t make it on to Instagram but they are definitely Insta worthy.

Now that I figured out Instagram can someone please explain Snapchat to me? I seriously have zero clue how that works and it only continues to baffle me.

  1. Fire Kiss Sushi – No. 1 Sushi Sushi 
  2. Fish Tacos – Las Velas
  3. Gail’s Favorite Eggs – Pamela’s Diner 
  4. Orange Marmalade Poppy Seed Ice Cream – Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream
  5. Chicken Taco Salad – Tavern 245 
  6. Some Delicious Purple Drink – Scratch Food & Beverage 

Ok now go and follow me and you’ll get to see more amazing dishes the moment I eat them…ok, not the very moment cause, gross!