Tuesday, 5 April 2011

In which I plan dinner parties

With a house of a size not well-suited to vast parties (and, if I’m honest, a colour scheme that could be described as “impracticality neutral”), the dinner party is the preferred form of entertaining at Blonde Towers.

Combine a small group of people; a lot of food; enough booze to disguise any mistakes I’ve made with aforementioned lot of food; low lighting; and plenty of conversation of the sort you wouldn’t want taped by an undercover News of the World reporter, and in my book you’ve the recipe for a damned good night.

Happening on a semi-regular basis, Blonde Towers’ dinners tend to be fairly boozy affairs. A recent number saw The Medic turn up at the front door clutching a magnum of Veuve, declaring that it seemed foolish to start with anything smaller. On that occasion, we polished off almost a bottle of wine per person; raspberry gin digestifs with pudding; port with cheese; and a round of whiskies with coffee. You get the picture (if anyone has a well-kept liver going spare, do get in touch).

Of course, because the dinners are relatively alcoholic events for which I drag everyone out - shock horror - past Zone 6 (here be monsters) no one tends to leave the same evening. Forget three-course affairs: dinners chez Blonde seem to have turned into three-meal numbers, with guests never leaving before breakfast, and rarely before lunch. I still can’t work out whether people don’t leave because they know they’ll be fed, or that I feed them because they don’t leave.

But for a dinner party to be successful, a little planning needs to go into the mix as well as all that booze.

Most important of all, far more so than the food, is the guest list. With the right people round the table, a few boxes from Domino’s would do the trick. Get the company wrong and not even soufflé Suissesse will save you.

My rule is never to have a table full of people who already know each other - just one new voice will spice things up with new topics of conversation and previously unheard anecdotes.

Singletons should be prepared to sing for their supper in the form of stories about recent dates - the more horrific the better.

Too many people from any one sector are banned: they’ll inevitably talk shop. I love my lawyers, but not when they’re all talking caseloads at each other over the crabcakes. Ditto medics, who’re terrible for fiendishly gruesome stories whilst people are eating.

And I’ve found it’s advisable to give a brief thought to politics too. Polite company might not find politics a suitable discussion for the dinner table, but my lot aren’t polite company - and they’re happy to argue. Mercilessly. Watching Boy Whose Job In The City I Don’t Understand, a consummate Champagne Socialist, take on the arch Tory that is PolitiGal on a finer point of policy is a wonder to behold but not entirely conducive to friendly conversation.

Make sure you keep separate the ones who’re likely to hint heavily, and with huge amusement, at your previous indiscretions (Hot Flyer Boy) in front of the person you were indiscreet with (Speckled Lad / Speckled Lad's brother).

Don’t think you can ever over-cater on the cheese front. There’d be a mutiny at my place if there weren’t enough Brie left over for SL to make a sandwich from with the remainder of the breakfast bacon to eat on his drive back to barracks.

Use a table cloth. You can always bleach it to be rid of the red wine, or chuck it out in the case of cigar burns. Such stains are rather harder to remove from the surface of the table.

Along with the ibuprofen, make sure you’re equipped with very large drinking vessels for the ensuing hangovers, or you’ll come downstairs to find HFB drinking squash out of your favourite vase.

Give yourself enough recovery time between one and the next. Your fridge shelves; glassware; and the chap who has to empty your recycling box will thank you.


soupemes said...

We're in the process of organising 'Croy-dine With Me'. While there'll only be five of us, I'll certainly bear some of these tips in mind! :)

nuttycow said...

A good list Miss Blonde. I'm still in the progess of trying to persuade my new Swiss friends that these forms of dinner party are the way forward. I don't think they've quite understood the "I cater for at least a bottle and a half per person so drink up" school of thought that I subscribe to.

Amy said...

Your dinner parties sound fantastic. Most of my friends are still students; dinner parties for us consist of Tesco soup for the starter, beans on toast for the main and us huddling round Ben & Jerry tubs in groups of four with spoons for dessert. Drink is the cheapest we could get; conversation is more likely to revolve around Scrubs and How I Met Your Mother than politics.

Okay, possibly I'm exaggerating. But still. I look forward to the days I can have grown up dinner parties.

Redbookish said...

How many people do you invite? I generally try for 12 for some reason. Probably because my table in my city place only seats 8.

At the weekend place it's weekends and we eat lying down after fell-walking. I think one might call that a sofa party, not a dinner party. But I think the best meals are ones where you can lie down afterwards. They should design restaurants like that.

Brennig said...

Hiyer Blonde! Mwah, mwah. Loving the desc of your dinner parties. And the kip-here-for-the-night-and-have-breakfast-in-the-morning opportunity you give of, gasp, actually having a drink sounds *most* attractive. Keeping numbers manageable is the trick though, or I should think so. You want to retain a degree of intimacy and stop people from sloping off for a crafty bonk behind your back. Erm. But anyway, booze and cheese? What's wrong with a two-course meal such as that?

jman said...

It all sounds so middle aged. Maybe it's the nomenclature of "dinner party" rather than having some people around for a meal, but dinner parties sound so formal, something that has its rules and formulae which seem the antithesis of having people round for a meal. Are people required to "dress"?

Blonde said...

Soupy: Croy-dine with me?!?! Utter genius. I love it. Seriously - enough booze and cheese and you'll win hands down. Let me know if you want me to send you some of my favourite dinner party recipes.

NC: Pffft. Then they're missing out, massively. That, my friend, is the only way to cater.

Amy: But it's rarely the food that makes the night - it's the people. One of the best dinners I did, I halved the number of guests, but got them all to bring a person no one else knew. Really cracking evening. (But I know what you mean - a few extra funds do help. Though what I wouldn't give to be a student again. Grass is greener, huh?!)

Red: Generally eight - sadly many more than that and everyone's eating with their elbows tucked in to their sides! I think if a few places in London had sofas you could lie on after eating, I'd never leave.

Bren: Hiyer! (I'm going to ignore the fact I'm being mocked...) But yes - you're right on the numbers. Too few and there's not quite enough buzz; too many and you invariably find someone passed out in the bath. Tricksy.

Jman; Charming. Maybe it's a UK/US language thing. No, I don't tend to do these things black tie - but people I know do. It adds to the fun of the occasion.

theperpetualspiral said...

They sound like a scream to say the least.

Do you let people smoke cigars too?

Mike said...

The time to throw a black tie party is on Oscar night. It feels better trashing celebrities outfits when you're well-dressed yourself.

Gin Operated said...

They sound epic. But then, given the tales The Architect has to tell about the way you and Best Mate used to throw parties even when you were students - and the couple I got to go to in the lamentably short period between meeting you and you graduating and leaving the 'Burgh - I'm not in the least bit surprised.

As you'll know, I'm with you on catering for breakfast after a DP. I draw the line at lunch, though - that's when living near quite so many cafes comes in handy!

HC said...

It takes a special kind of compulsion to post your blog at 07:00 precisely each time. I will always applaud fastidiousness.

Blonde said...

TPS: When I'm that drunk, I pretty much let people do anything. That includes removing the fridge door. Remind me to tell you about that at some point.

Mike: Ooh, that sounds like fun. Of course, the Oscars are antisocially-timed for us Brits.

G_O: They're not so bad, as these things go. The student parties were characterised by the nudity, as I recall. Oh, and the time that The Medic put the sparkler in the barbecue. Ah, good times.

HC: The beauty of scheduled posts, my friend. (Sorry to disillusion.)

HC said...

Earth-shattering news.

Redbookish said...

>>That includes removing the fridge door. Remind me to tell you about that at some point.<<

Red drums her fingers, waiting ...

I once gave a blue dinner party. We coloured everything blue. Blue tomato soup is quite, er, interesting. And you can get sick of blue curaçao.

cherry21 said...

Can I come to one of these parties please? I've recently been on four dates with four different men. Number 1 I hospitalised, number 2 turned out to be a dwarf, number 3 was perfect but then I found out he was into some extremely kinky stuff, number 4 was "nice" (read: boring). So I have lots of stories to tell. On the downside, I'm a vegetarian.

theperpetualspiral said...

I am sat here patiently waiting for the fridge door story. *drumsfingersondesk*

Anonymous said...

Surely it's not possible for this many cliches to be accommodated in one dinner party..? It all feels a bit Margo from the 'Good Life' circa '75 to me (without an invitation extended to any common neighbours, naturally)

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