I'm not gonna lie...when I first thought about planning and preparing food for 10 to 15 people, I threw back my first glass of wine and quickly moved on to the second (...and probably a third, but who's counting?). Anyone who has hosted always wants everything to be perfect, I know I do. But anyone who's ever hosted also knows that isn't reality. Everything won't always turn out as planned, but that doesn't mean you can't be prepared in your pursuit of perfection. With this beautiful Harvest Celebration behind me, I wanted to share some of the details with you and tips for your next dinner party or get-together. I think there's some national holiday where a turkey is typically served, in a few weeks?
This Harvest celebration was born while enjoying dinner and wine with two close friends, also my soon-to-be co-hosts, Chuck & Blake. Blake suggested we do a dinner of sorts to celebrate fall. Blake loves all things fall. The first day the temperature dropped below 60 degrees, the scarf and jacket were out in full force and he was hitting every pumpkin patch in the area.
Of course my first thought was, if we're going to do this, we should REALLY do this. So we started with the guest list, trying to figure out how many people we could invite and successfully prepare enough food for. From there, we began brainstorming menu options. And as a designer, naturally I wanted to design an official invite that we could physically MAIL (no Facebook Event needed here!). In addition, I created a proper menu card, for every place setting. Below is the menu we landed on complete with an appetizer, entrée and dessert! And not to worry, you can find the RECIPES AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST. :)
Guests arrived, using the side entrance, leading them to the lush backyard where our table was set. We used lanterns hanging from shepherd hooks to light and guide the way, so the table was the center of attention. To add character and ambience, we suspended single-pendant filament bulbs overhead. It provided just the right amount of light and since the air was cool, we didn't have to worry about pesky bugs. Sometimes things DO work out perfectly!
We had a mixed group of friends attending that didn't all know each other, so we felt assigned seating, using place cards would be a perfect way to break the ice. This worked out really well and everyone had a great time (some good ole fashioned liquid courage probably helped a little too).
I used blank craft tags (You can find these on Amazon, Etsy or your local Crafts Store), and a white paint marker to write everyone's names. I tried 3 different napkin folds and decided on this one so we could insert the menu card, and because we were doing a rosemary pork tenderloin, I thought the added sprig of rosemary was the perfect, finishing touch.
Since we were officially welcoming Fall, we used a warm palette, with ornate candelabras, a moss table runner, various pumpkins and this beautiful Spode China. I loved the addition of these gold rimmed water and wine glasses that matched the flatware. We would not have had such a beautiful tablescape without the guidance and generousity of Randal Wright of Eventures Party Rentals.
As dusk started to fall, I turned the camera duties over to the very talented Casey Mayer of Greyline Creative, and headed to the kitchen. Casey and I were introduced by a mutual friend who suggested we work together on something. I already LOVED her fine art photography (you must check her site out), and was so happy and thankful that she was able to capture this night! I would not have been able to cook, entertain, enjoy myself AND take photos, so THANK YOU, CASEY!
The KEY TO THIS DINNER'S SUCCESS, was not only sharing hosting duties, but dividing up the appetizer, entrée and dessert amongst the three of us. I was on soup duty, which I was able to make (minus the puff pastry), the day before. Chuck had the bulk, cooking the pork, green beens and the roasted butternut squash and apples. Blake was able to make the pumpkin tarts ahead of time so that he could greet and mingle with guests. This approach took a LOT of stress off each of us, so that one person wasn't completely overwhelmed.
TIP: When cooking for a large group or making a dish you've never made before, ALWAYS do a test run. We made the full course dinner a week before to ensure we had our portions, timing and flavors correct.
Above, Chuck brings out the tomato soup so that we can cut and place puff pastry tops on each of them. Once they turned golden brown and puffed up, they were ready to go!
TIP: Have a backup plan. I made a few extra soups just in case my little puff pasty friends decided to collapse and fall in the oven and guess what? One did! Luckily I had an extra, so no teary scenes ensued.
TIP: Start out with full place settings and take away each dish as you serve (shown at top of post). Once all the guests were seated, we began serving the soup, using the salad plate to rest the hot lion's head bowls on, and then removed the dinner plates so that we could begin plating the main course. Later, we repurposed the salad plate to serve the Bourbon Pumpkin Tarts.
RECIPES: Tomato Soup in Puff Pastry | Roasted Butternut Squash & Apples | Bourbon & Pumpkin Tart (Tart Recipe Here & Bourbon Pumpkin Filling Recipe Here) Go ahead, add a little more bourbon, we did. :)
This amazing night could not have happened without the generosity and talents of Randal Wright, Casey Mayer, my co-hosts, Chuck Simmons & Blake McGilton, and of course, ALL OF OUR WONDERFUL GUESTS! Thank you all SO much. I can't wait to do it again!
All photos ©2015 The Stiers Aesthetic | Photographed by Jonathan Stiers & Casey Mayer of Greyline Creative