With their easygoing attitudes and charming candor, Neil Patrick Harris and his husband, chef David Burtka (who recently authored the cookbook Life Is a Party), are natural hosts. But that doesn’t mean that plenty of planning doesn’t go into their frequent dinner parties. Their get-togethers always seem to strike the perfect balance of spontaneity and structure, formality and nonchalance, so we simply had to know: What are their secrets?
Luckily, at KitchenAid’s Culinary Playground, open now through the weekend for the brand’s centennial, they clued us in on their entertaining must-haves—and faced off in a round of this-or-that. Trust us, you’re going to want to try their tricks at your next bash (while dreaming of an invite to one of their shindigs).
Burtka and Harris’s go-to…
Neil Patrick Harris: We like Celebrity—everyone gets 10 small, blank pieces of paper, writes the name of a celebrity on each of them, folds them up, and puts it into a bowl. Then you divide into teams. In round one, you have a minute to try to get your team to guess who the celebrity is with three words. In round two, you can only use two words. In round three, one word, and then no words.
David Burtka: A great table game is Table Topics—they’re cards that have interesting talking points. I like to slide those under the placemats in case there’s a lull in conversation or things get political or weird. You can just pull one out and say something like, “What superpower would you want to have?”
Burtka: Take a fig and carve it out. Mix the center with goat cheese, some salt and honey, and then pipe that back into the fig. Drizzle more honey on it, sprinkle some black pepper, and then add an almond sliver.
Burtka: My “Fancy Cue” Spotify playlist—with my book, there’s a playlist for all the chapters. You can find them on Spotify, each with about 80 songs for three hours of awesome stuff. This one is very summery—there are chill-out jams but also ambient, cool lounge-y songs thrown in with some ’40s jazz standards.
Harris: We do an easy gin punch—add some Aperol, some juices, and plenty of carbonated water. You don’t want to make a big-batch drink that is too potent, lest you end up with a lot of really sloppy people in three hours.
Burtka: I make my own shortcakes—it’s so easy. It’s basically just flour, cream, and baking soda. You whip it up and make rounds with a biscuit cutter, then you put turbinado sugar on them. Next, you slice them and put macerated strawberries with a lot of vanilla whipped cream on top.
Burtka: I like the big stand mixer because it’s so versatile. I’ve ground my own sausages—there are so many attachments! It has a juicer; it has a sifter. They’re all easy to use, and they’re easy to clean. We have the silver one.
And now, a quick game of would you rather…
Casual cocktails or seated dinner party?
Burtka: Seated dinner party.
Harris: Casual cocktail party.
Theme or no theme?
Burtka: Theme, always.
Formal invite or casual text?
Burtka: Formal invite.
Harris: Formal invite—very prepared.
Expansive guest list or intimate gathering?
Harris: Intimate gathering.
Burtka: Intimate gathering—I like to talk to everyone.
Seating chart or anything goes?
Harris and Burtka: Seating chart.
Mellow music or pump-up jams?
Burtka: Mellow music.
Cheese plate or sweet treat?
Harris: Cheese plate.
Burtka: No, for dessert? Sweet treat.
Weekend or weekday?
Harris: There’s too much expectation when it’s a bunch of people on the weekend. Everyone’s planned it for so long. We always seem like we have the most unique fun—
Burtka: —on a random day. I always felt like going out on a Monday is way more fun than going out on a Friday. Amateur night.