Posts Tagged ‘Dinner Party’

Berlin Dinner Party


My mom took these pictures of the dinner party Buck hosted for her visit to Berlin last month. He is in grad school in Frankfurt but lives most of the time in Berlin while running a company based in New York. Brother Buck is so cosmopolitan.

How darling is the presentation? If you don’t have platters just lay some parchment on the table and go to town.

A spartan student budget doesn’t mean you can’t entertain with style. A cluster of votive candles in a white dish is always elegant.

Looks delicious!



Dinner Party Cooking Lesson


Had SO much fun last night doing a dinner party cooking lesson with some friends. The whole group decided on the menu and the hostess bought all the ingredients. The rest of us brought wine, cutting boards and knives. I talked the group through the steps to make each dish and then we shared a beautiful meal together. A prefect summer evening, this what I always hoped my 30’s would be like.

a well set table

nectarine, heirloom tomato, prosciutto and burrata salad artfully arranged by Ian


and the spinach risotto stirred with lots of love.



Here is the whole menu:


Nectarine, prosciutto and tomato salad with burrata cheese and mint

Grilled Steak and arugula salad with pine nuts, Parmesan and lemon vinaigrette

Fresh Spinach-Pesto Risotto

Affogato- vanilla gelato topped with hot espresso

Hope you have a chance to gather your friends and do something similar before summer slips away into a busy fall.


Tapas Party by La Femme Epicure & Smitten on Paper


Don’t you love to see how other people entertain? When the newest edition to our chef team, the darling Sarah Simms of La Femme Epicure, told me she was hosting a tapas party with her friend from Smitten on Paper, I had the voyeuristic urge to be a fly on the wall for the evening. White Wine Sangria with local fruit! A selection of 8 homemade tapas + dessert! Stylish paper goods in cool fonts! Oh my.

Sarah Simms Dinner Party

Well my wish has come true, all the pictures from what must have been a magical evening are up here! Don’t miss Sarah’s expert advice for how to plan a tres chic dinner party of any size or theme on your own. All photos taken by RW Simms & Paige Johnson.



SL: Top 5 (highly debatable) Entertaining Rules



Did you see Lydia’s Top 5 entertaining rules?  Numbers 1 and 3 are rules to live by!  Here are my additions …

1. Plan a menu that can be done almost entirely ahead of time.  Bonus: less kitchen clean-up on party night.

2. Light lots of candles. None of them scented.

3. Cook according to the season.

This should be obvious, but hosts repeat dishes they’re comfortable making even when they are a gross mismatch with the season.  A good air conditioner does not make July a prime time to serve chicken with morels.  Sure, it happens.  But it shouldn’t.  Bonus: your food will taste better, guaranteed.

4. Buy ice and lots of it.  Buy twice as much as you think you need. Then add a bag.  You’ll go through half a bag per person at least.

5. Give yourself time to apply lipstick and mascara and turn the music up before your friends arrive.  Doing a little boogie in front of the mirror starts the night right!

Fun entertaining fact: MFK Fisher hung a mirror and kept lipstick in her kitchen so she’d always be ready to join the crowd.

What are your “rules”?  The rest of our A & O team will be sharing theirs soon.

Fun with rules-who knew?!


Dinner Party Games





We LOVE to play games at a dinner party. In fact, Lydia’s husband has to give her a talk before guests come to dinner to remind her not to “force” friends to play Trivial Pursuit if they don’t want too. Games can break the ice between a group of new acquaintances or be a bonding element between the oldest friends and family. Here are some great party games for grown ups.

Tip: serve dessert and coffee as the game gets going
Trivial Pursuit (get a fun modern version or one you know your particular group will love.  Here’s a list of ones you might be able to find on eBay or elsewhere )
Apples to Apples-If you’re not yet familiar with this game, please trust us.  It’s a classic in the making.

This is an involved game that needs some space as the version we prefer- the “alternative” version-  involves pantomime. Everybody, and we mean everybody, does a good pantomime after a drink or two.   Wikipedia has the best instructions for playing.  A great game for a BBQ or cocktail party

Who am I…? (the famous person game)
Write the name of a different famous or historical person on a post-it, one for each guest, and place one on each guest’s forehead.   Using the 20 questions format, each person tries to figure out their celebrity identity.  The person who guesses with the fewest questions wins.

I Never…
Drinking isn’t a necessary part of this adult version, but that doesn’t mean you can’t drink while playing.  Have each guest write down a secret act they committed in the past, beginning the confession with “I never…”.  Put the secrets in bowl and let everyone take turns reading one secret aloud. After each secret is read, try and guess whose secret it is.  Guaranteed you’ll know one another by the end of the night!

The Secret Message (also known as the Phrase Game)
This is for word nerds like Sarah.  Write a different sentence on pieces of paper you slip under each person’s plate. Try for phrases that sound odd in adult conversation, such as “I want a pony” or “I find kittens terrifying.”  When your guests sit down, ask them to read their phrase to themselves.  They each must then incorporate their phrase into the conversation at some point in the evening.  If the person they are talking to calls them on it, the clumsy phrase-maker is out of the game.  The guest who first uses his phrase without being found out wins.

Fortune Telling Fish
Ok, so this isn’t a game per say, but fortune telling fish are as fun to play with now as they were when you were kids.  Write each guest’s name on a fortune fish box and set one in the center of their plate as a place card then watch your guests giggle as their fortunes change throughout the night.  And yes, good food and wine as well as warm conversation do affect how that little fish curls and flips.  We’ve tested.

Other fun table favors:

Heart holograph glasses

Googly nerd glasses

Vintage gum or after-dinner mints

Game on.


Dinner Party Snaps



I woke up one morning with an itch to entertain


Summer Table

Food + Friends + Games


Summer Table Close


I served skirt steak, green salad and potato salad, simple


Steak and Potato Salad Gribiche


then balsamic berries with basil and marscapone


Balsamic Berries with Basil and Marscapone


So fun, I wish I could have a dinner party every night




Plates- Heath Ceramics, Napkins- Anthropologie, Bud Vases- Kate Spade for Lennox, Glasses- Napa Style

Dinner Party Playlist


Image: Strollers

Are we excited about this one!  Many of you have asked about dinner party playlists.  Sadly, neither Lydia nor I is very skilled in that department (our iPods flash words like Hogwarts).  So you can imagine how happy we were to hear from the talented Julia Trainor, tastemaker behind My Music Concierge.  Julia has spent year supervising scores for movie trailers and helping create streaming internet radio stations (Rhapsody, anyone?).  Recently, her mixes have set the mood in several LA restaurants, including The Cliff’s Edge in Silverlake, one of our favorite hideaways for brunch and cocktails.  As a music concierge, Julia sifts through the tunes for you, crafting custom playlists to enhance intimate dinner parties, big birthdays bashes, weddings and everything in between.

Here’s Julia on the her creative process, the power of the perfect playlist AND the dinner party set she’s sharing with us today— you can even listen while you read!

Julia Trainor

I meet with clients to determine their small party or big event needs.  We work out any specific musical likes/dislikes or requirements and I provide an iPod pre-loaded with as much music as they need.  The songs are sequenced in order of the party’s agenda, which guarantees a good flow.

For instance, this is a sampling of a 4-hour playlist created for a dinner party for 30 people.  There was music for cocktails (1 hour), dinner (1 hour), after-dinner fun and more drinks (about 2 hours).  The hostess was 28 years-old, throwing “a hip cocktail and dinner hang for my friends in the architecture and design worlds. ” (Listen to sample playlist here).

Cocktail Hour

We did jazz remixes like Nat King Cole’s “More And More Of Your Amor” to kick off cocktail hour, adding in cool electro-indie songs by artists like Miss Li and Bittersweet, keeping it fun, bouncy and frivolous.


To make a quieter backdrop to the dinner conversation, we bring the tempo down a bit but still keeping  movement with songs like “Waltz” by Koop and instrumentals like “Chamber 14” by Wingmaker.  This section would fill out with light, enjoyable down tempo electronica. Toward the end, we shifted the grooves with Mark Farina’s “Cali Spaces” which has a tinge of funk to it and some RJD2 which transitions us into the next phase of fun.

After-Dinner Fun

The hostess definitely wanted to stay away from the Ke$ha/Gaga dance pop, as well as harder hip hop, but still wanted the music to inject some energy into the guests.  We carefully picked a mix of unknown but fun artists (“Don’t Call Me Baby” by Kreesha Turner and “The Ills” by Mayor Hawthorne were up-tempo party pleasers) and the cooler of the crop of Top 40 offerings from the past few years.  Craig David’s “Hot Stuff (Let’s Dance)” has that familiar Bowie sample and “Boom Boom Pow” by the Black Eyed Peas is a radio staple that’s not too overplayed and brings in some hip-shaking bass.

Thanks, Julia!  If you need music for your next party, contact Julia directly through her website.


Chinese New Year Dinner Party


CNY table decor

Dearest Readers,

In celebration of our new service A & O Dinner Party Blueprints being featured on Daily Candy today we are sharing all the recipes from this beautiful dinner. Please try them, they are a true taste of entertaining the Apples & Onions way.



PS- Our friend Beth Liebetrau took ALL these beautiful pictures!

PPS- Thanks so much to the Daily Candy team for their support of A & O!

Dished served family style

Chinese New Year Dinner Party Menu

Mandarin Orange Fizz made with mandarin orange sorbet and prosseco and chilled TsingTao beers

Baked vegetable egg rolls with sweet soy dipping sauce and seasoned rice cracker mix

Whole leaf salad with radishes and sugar snap peas matchsticks with rice wine vinaigrette


Soy-ginger glazed short ribs with scallion crema, cilantro white rice and steamed baby bok choy

Szechuan Sundaes–good vanilla ice cream, orange-infused dark chocolate sauce and crushed szechuan pink peppercorns

Ice bucket of beers and prosecco

Mandarin Fizz
Makes 1 cocktail

One small scoop of Mandarin Orange Sorbet (or any citrus sorbet)
Chilled prosecco or champagne

Chill champagne flutes in freezer 15 minutes before serving.

Fill champagne flute ¾ of the way full of chilled prosecco. Add a tiny ice cream scoop or tablespoon full of sorbet to the glass. Enjoy immediately. The sorbet keeps your cocktail chilled as you drink it!

vegetable spring rolls

Dipping Sauce
For store-bought eggrolls or dumplings

½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
¼ teaspoon sesame oil
1 scallion, thinly sliced

Whisk together soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and sesame oil.  Pour into decorative dipping bowl and sprinkle with thinly sliced scallions.

Salad with snap peas and radishes

Whole leaf salad with radishes and sugar snap peas matchsticks with rice wine vinaigrette
Serves 6

rice wine vinaigrette
4 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon agave nectar or honey
scant ¼ cup grapeseed oil (or canola oil)
black pepper to taster

1 large head butter lettuce
1 cup snap peas thinly sliced on the bias
¾ cup red radishes thinly sliced on the bias

Make dressing: whisk together rice wine vinegar, salt and agave.  Still whisking, add oil in a slow continuous stream until dressing is emulsified.  Season to taste with pepper and more salt as needed.

Arrange lettuce in serving bowl and top with snap peas and radishes.  Add dressing to taste just before serving or serve dressing on the side in a pretty bowl with a spoon so guests can help themselves.

CNY dinner

Soy-Ginger Glazed Shortribs
Serves 6

6 beef short ribs or about 4lbs of short ribs
1 onion, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
1-½ inch knob of ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
⅓ cup mirin
⅓ cup soy sauce (low- sodium)
¼ cup brown sugar
4 cups beef stock
pinch of red pepper flakes
6 springs fresh cilantro

Note: this recipe calls for cooking the ribs the day before your party.  To do in one day, cook your ribs in the morning so you have time to cool and strain the sauce before serving.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a deep,  heavy-bottomed pot (Dutch ovens work beautifully) over medium-high heat, sear the beef in batches until golden brown on all sides. Set browned ribs aside on a platter.

Add the vegetables (onion through garlic) to the pot with the heat on medium and saute until just soft, about 5 minutes. Add the liquids and brown sugar (mirin through stock) to deglaze the pan and bring to a boil.  Add red pepper flakes and cilantro.

Add the beef back to the liquid and cover with a lid. Place in 325 degree oven for 2.5-3 hours.   Allow to cool completely and then store in fridge overnight.

Next day remove the ribs from the pan and strain the sauce through a fine sieve to catch any congealed fat.   Place the ribs and sauce back in the pot and boil on high, uncovered, until the ribs are warmed through and the sauce is reduced to a shiny glaze, about 5-10 minutes.

Serve over white rice tossed with chopped fresh cilantro and topped with cold scallion crema.

scallion crema

Scallion Crema
Serves 6

1-½ cups sour cream
6 scallions, thinly sliced (white and light green parts only)
½ teaspoon of salt
black pepper to taste

Note: scallion crema is even better when made the day before

Mix sour cream and scallions.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Refrigerate until dinner.

cilantro rice

Steamed White Rice with Cilantro
Serves 6

2 cups dry jasmine rice
4 cups cold water
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Wash rice in several changes of cold water in a bowl until water is clear, then drain in a sieve. Combine with water, olive oil and salt in a 1-1/2- to 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cook, covered, until rice is tender and water is absorbed, 10 to 12 minutes.

Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.  Stir in half the cilantro then spoon rice into serving dish and sprinkle with remaining cilantro.  Serve immediately.

Easy Braised Bok Choy
Serves 6

6-8 bulbs baby bok choy

Slice each bulb in half the long way.   Place greens on top of hot shortribs in pot just before serving.  Cover pot with lid and steam for 3-4 minutes.

Remove bok choy and serve immediately.

satsumas, candies annd flowers in tea tins

Chocolate Orange Sauce
serves 6
3/4 cups heavy cream
4 oz. good-quality semi sweet chocolate
4 oz. good-quality bittersweet chocolate
1 tsp fresh orange zest (zest of one small orange)
1-1/2 teaspoons warm water

In a small pot, warm the cream over medium-low heat.  Stir in the orange zest.  Break the chocolate into small pieces and add in all together,  stirring continuously into a smooth sauce.  Keep refrigerated and warm in pot over low heat just before serving.

szechuan sundae

Szechuan Sundaes
Serves 6

1 quart good vanilla ice cream
Chocolate Orange Sauce
Freshly ground or well crushed Szechuan Peppercorns and/or pink peppercorns

Scoop the ice cream into your favorite bowls.  Spoon warm orange chocolate sauce over ice cream and top with a sprinkle of crushed peppercorns.  Serve immediately.


For more information or to start planning your next fabulous Dinner Party, email us at!


A & O Dinner Party Blueprints


We hinted at some exciting news yesterday…. we are thrilled to share with you that we are offering a new service, A & O Dinner Party Blueprints. Now you can entertain the Apples & Onions way!

CNY Dessert

photo by Beth Liebetrau

We’ve done weddings, Christmas parties, bridal showers, baby showers, Fourth of July Barbecues and fundraisers for 200+.

But what we love most is a dinner party among friends, the pause in a busy week to share delicious food and even more delicious conversation.  A moment to feel pretty and witty by candlelight. To feed and be fed, love and be loved, even on a week night.

If only you had time to plan the perfect menu, research great recipes, come up with chic decor and the perfect signature cocktail to set the tone of your fabulous dinner party.


We’re available to do all that for you!

Tell us who you’re having and why plus any dietary restrictions or food allergies and then share an inspiration with us–a favorite dish, photo, movie, book, memory—whatever you have in mind for your ideal soiree.

We’ll blueprint the party ASAP and it’ll be yours to throw.

Fabulous guests not included.

The Blueprint kit includes:

1 signature cocktail recipe OR suggested wines for pairing
1 custom 3-course menu (one course will be entirely store bought, a cardinal rule of calm hosts everywhere)
3 recipes to help you execute your menu
3 simple decor ideas to transform your space (may include floral arrangements, centerpiece ideas, music suggestions, party favors, DIY decor project, etc.)
1 timeline–detailing when to shop, when to prep and when to preheat your oven

Cost: $100

To start planning your next party email us at!



Lydia’s Dinner Party Advice


by Lydia Ellison


Got this question yesterday from a dear friend…

“So I have 5 women coming over (in their 50’s, 40’s and 30’s) and I want to really do it up. Something impressive, but also, not terribly hard to make as I am an amateur.”

This was my response…

Ok this is my advice on entertaining, much of it I learned from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa books and cooking show. Her two biggest rules are…

1. Only serve 3 dishes for dinner and a dessert and only cook 2 of the dishes (i.e. a store bought dessert, or one dish a green salad.) Trust me, cooking is fun but tiring and you have to shop and get the house ready so don’t over do it. Just make 2 really yummy dishes and simplify the other dishes.

2. NEVER make a dish that requires lots of last minute work, you won’t be able to hang out with your guests if you are stirring risotto during cocktails!

So for your party based on that above advice these are my suggestions…

Do 1 store bought appetizers and a signature drink (the sig. drink adds the “wow” factor)
Appetizers ideas-
soft goat cheese drizzled with honey, wafer crackers or bread and walnuts
proscuitto wrapped around bread sticks
sliced cucumber and pita bread with store bought taziki
sliced baguette topped with blue cheese, melt in the oven and then top with a drizzle of honey
olive tapenade and bread and mini mozzeralla balls

Signature Drinks-
prosecco with a spoonful of lemon or raspberry sorbet mixed in the glass
Gwyneth’s dirty martinis
white wine sangria- fruity Savingon Blanc with sliced citrus fruit and a cup of lemonade all mixed in a pitcher
bottle of rose champagne (so chic)

Salad Course– (you  must make your own dressing, this one is good)
grilled eggplant with goat cheese
mixed greens with a round of goat cheese on a baguette round toasted in the oven
butter lettuce with a creamy vinaigrette
roast butternut squash salad

Dinner Course-
Vegetable Lasagna this recipe is SO GOOD and you can make it in advance warm it up during cocktails
Indonesia Ginger chicken with garlic smashed potatoes (so so yum)
Baked Shrimp Scampi– incredible!! serve with white wine, french bread and this

Dessert course- no bake ideas
store bought pound cake served with fresh berries and lemon yogurt sauce
good chocolate cookies (from a bakery) and fresh strawberries
good brownies (from a bakery) warmed slightly topped with vanilla ice cream
chocolate sorbet with this raspberry sauce (very light which is good for women)

Thought this might be helpful to some of you out there!



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