For Xan’s birthday my parents got him the brand new cookbook from our favorite chef in Raleigh, Ashley Christensen. It’s called Poole’s Diner, named after her original restaurant (she now has 5 restaurants, a speakeasy style liquor bar, and an event space). Her food is amazing and Poole’s Diner was one of our very favorite restaurants when we lived in Raleigh. We loved going and sitting at the bar, eating delicious food, and just being together. So, this one was extra special. When I found out that she was doing a book signing in San Francisco I was so excited! I’d been seeing posts all over social media of people at her signings in the southeast and feeling pretty jealous, so this was the best news ever!
In preparation we figured it would be a good time to make something from the book. We decided on the mussels and of course we couldn’t forget the infamous macaroni and cheese. We won’t even talk about how many calories are it, we’ll just think about how so delicious it is. We knew we’d need a little help finishing all this so we invited some friends over and we had a spur of the moment dinner party. We kept things pretty casual because it was so last minute, but I thought it turned out really well. So, I thought I’d share my five simple tips for last minute entertaining.
1. Clean the house. This is one we know we should do, but it’s so important it’s worth repeating. Before your guests arrive take a few minutes to put everything away, wipe down the bathroom and dusty areas of the house, and run the vacuum. Really, it won’t take you more than 30 minutes and the difference it makes is huge!
2. Candles. Candles. Candles. I really can’t say it enough. Candlelight makes everything better. It’s casts this beautiful soft glow that really helps set the mood. The brilliant thing about candles is that they’re so inexpensive. Just throw some tea lights in a mason jar and you’ve got mood lighting! I’ve been collecting different candlestick holders and mixing and matching for an eclectic look.
3. Use a tablecloth. If you’re not dining in a formal dining room a tablecloth can work wonders. For starters, it protects your table, but more importantly it instantly elevates the setting. I recommend using an inexpensive one because in my experience they get stained quickly and you don’t want to be worried about that when friends are over. It’s much better to be the gracious host who doesn’t mind stray drops of wine and crumbs one bit. Mine is actually a piece of muslin that I made when learning how to sew.
4. Set the table! When you set the table everything feels fancier. It doesn’t have to be your fine china and it doesn’t even have to match. But, take a few minutes to put out some nice dishes, glasses, and serving ware and you’ll be glad you did.
5. Music! This is last, but certainly not least. It’s amazing how much the right music can do for the atmosphere (that and the aforementioned lighting). One of my go-to’s for a dinner party is Harry Belafonte radio on Pandora. It keeps the mood fun and warm. Just what you want in a party!
Ps – go buy Ashely’s book and make the mussels and the mac (and probably everything else). This is not sponsored I just love her food and it’s shockingly simple!