Throwing a Dinner Party

Throwing a Dinner Party

As a yacht chef, I learned quickly the importance of being organized and prepared for cooking for a group of people with a specific schedule. It’s sink or swim! Grocery shopping in the Caribbean was challenging on the best of days, and if the yacht was traveling, I never knew if I would even get an opportunity to shop along the way. I had to always be well stocked and have every product needed for my planned menu and some backup plan items as well. Being prepared entailed lots of steps like planning your complete menu, making a complete and comprehensive grocery shopping list by checking all the recipes you plan on making, and then putting together a schedule for the days preceding your event. Being organized and prepared kept me from getting frantic over missing ingredients when I started cooking.

I use this same strategy to this day to plan a dinner party, a holiday dinner, and even for expected visitors staying a few days. I don’t know about you, but I always hope for my meals to be delicious and well planned out, so that I get to enjoy my guests and spend as much time with them having fun rather than having to be in the kitchen the whole time.

With that in mind…

I thought I’d share the schedule, shopping list and menu from my last dinner party. I throw an Annual Winter Dinner Party with Friends, along with a few photos from said party.

Here’s the menu:


Cherry Stone Clams and Mussels en Brodo

Antipasto d’Cortona

Pasta with Sauce Bolognese

Eggplant Rollatini

Garlic Bread Rubbed with Red Wine

Cannoli Cake
(To celebrate David’s 75th Birthday!)

Coffee or Tea, Aperitifs


This year’s dinner party was the day before Valentine’s Day, so I tried to be whimsical and romantic with the table setting. The fresh rosemary sprigs were a nod to the Bolognese.

Dinner Party

Dinner Party

This year’s theme was Italian, with an antipasto inspired by a wonderful dinner I had in Cortona, Italy a few years back. I enjoyed the special treats on that antipasto so much, that I scribbled a lot of the items onto several dinner napkins while I tasted and enjoyed. A lot of those items were incorporated in my Antipasto d’Cortona as a menu item for this dinner party. I hope my menu and preparation schedule will give you some helpful ideas.

Antipasto Plate Dinner Party

Antipasto d’Cortona

Antipasto Plate Dinner Party

You’ll notice on the grocery list there are strikethroughs across many items. You will also notice in my schedule that there are multiple shopping dates. The non-perishables and the items that I can slice and dice ahead are usually purchased and then crossed off after the first grocery store run, so that I don’t purchase them twice! I usually have so much going on at once, that my brain sometimes doesn’t remember what I already have in my larder or I already purchased.

dinner party grocery list

A detailed grocery list really helps keep me sane!

dinner-party-5Pasta with Sauce Bolognese Dinner Party

Pasta with Sauce Bolognese

Eggplant Rollatini Dinner Party

Eggplant Rollatini

So, throw a dinner party, be confident and be the star of the evening and have a blast…



Monday/Tuesday/WednesdayThursdayFridaySaturday/PARTY DAY!
Order mussels and clams (60 each)Roast peppers (salad)Final grocery shopCut and marinate avocados and pack into the serving bowl
Do preliminary grocery shoppingMake barley salad (to stuff tomatoes for salad)Chop plum tomatoes (M&C)Prepare Garlic Bread to bake
Clean houseChop shallots (mussels and clams)Chop canned tomatoes (M&C)Get water ready for pasta
Defrost meats (Bolognese)Chop onions (Bolognese)Slice melon (salad)Sauté mushrooms
Slice fresh garlic (M&C)Make Bolognese (dinner)Set table with glassware, bar & buffet
Make salad dressingRolls meats (salad)Complete the Rollatini and partial-bake
Grate cheeseMix roasted peppers filling (salad)Heat Bolognese
Make first steps of the cakeQuarter mushroom capsGo through duties with helper
Set up patioFinish cake, tent & refrigerateLight candles & turn on background music
Tie napkinsArrange patio and tablesPut ice water & cold Pellegrino on the dinner table
Start table setting
Pull out necessary bowls and platters
Fry eggplant and zucchini (Rollatini)
Mix ricotta Filling (Rollatini)
Make CD selections for background music
dinner party Cannoli Cake

Celebrating David’s Birthday with a decadent Cannoli Cake. Yum!

Please like & share:

Subscribe & Connect

Subscribe to our e-mail newsletter to receive updates.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.