My Secrets to a Low-Stress, Maximum-Fun Dinner Party
The Great Jones cofounder on making guests feel right at home.
Updated Sep 20, 2018 2:03 PM
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This story originally appeared in the Fall 2019 issue of Domino, titled “Party in the House.” Subscribe to be the first to receive each issue.
For the first time in my adult life, I have space for a dining room table. It’s a true luxury, especially in New York City’s West Village. I’ve already used my beloved table to host dinner parties large and small, formal and informal (at one, I served only cake and pie). But my favorite gatherings will always be loose and free-form—allowing people to mingle and stripping away any pressure to make sure a meal is perfectly timed. As much as I appreciate my table, I never want my guests to be confined to it. I want everyone to feel at home.
This outlook guided how my friend and interior designer, Jen Levy, and I furnished my apartment. Since my bedroom leads into the garden, where I like all parties to begin with a bottle of wine, no room is off-limits to guests. I put colorful throws on the bed and encourage people to relax. Basically, friends should feel free to explore and poke through my bookshelves and closet (they’re great conversation starters).
To celebrate the launch of two new Great Jones Dutch oven colors (black and white, which we named Salt and Pepper), I invited my cofounder, Maddy Moelis, and our awesome, hardworking team over for dinner. On the menu: roast chicken; carrots in a tangy tahini-yogurt sauce; a big, fresh green salad inspired by my favorite neighborhood spot, Via Carota; sourdough no-knead bread baked in the Great Jones Dutchess (our Dutch oven); and plenty of preloaded cheese boards. (A sign of a good party: The cheese board moves from room to room.) The eight of us hung out for hours, shedding the stress of startup life to feast, laugh, and swap roast chicken recipes. With these ladies, the conversation always comes back to cooking. And so, here are my top tips for throwing a no-fuss, all-pleasure dinner party.
DIY the Drinks Set up a mix-your-own cocktails spot so guests can help themselves while you focus on finishing whatever you’re cooking. I’m always on the hunt for cool women-led alcohol brands (like Casa Dragones, Ramona, and Yola Mezcal) to introduce to my friends. (And those thoughtfully selected bottles can be bought well in advance.) Also, don’t underestimate the power of having plentiful pitchers of cold water—it will extend the life span of any party by hours.
Serve Things Family-Style Turn your dining room table into a buffet so you can accommodate more people (throw some pillows on the floor around your coffee table for extra seating). This also makes cooking for a group easier—instead of worrying about everything needing to be hot and individually plated, you can serve food that tastes just as good (if not better) at room temperature on a cute, colorful platter. Done and done.
Roast Chicken for the Win My favorite way to roast chicken is to toss in seasonal vegetables—in the fall: fennel, butternut squash, and brussels sprouts—with olive oil in the Great Jones Dutchess. Sprinkle salt and drizzle olive oil or melted butter on all sides of the chicken, then lay it over the vegetables in the pot. You can add lemon slices and fresh or dried herbs (like za’atar), or just keep it simple with some black pepper or paprika. Put the whole Dutchess, uncovered, in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until the vegetables are roasted and the chicken is fully cooked (about 40-ish minutes). To check if it’s done, cut into both the thigh and breast; if the meat is still slightly translucent, pop it back in the oven. Once it’s cooked, let the chicken rest in the pot for 10 minutes before serving it directly in the Dutchess.
Make Every Surface Count Maximize space by turning every room in your home into a hangout zone. Parties often gravitate to my bedroom, where my long, 1980s “bubble dresser” transforms into extra seating or a snack station. In other words, get creative with all available surface areas. If your fridge is starting to fill up fast, you can also keep bottles of wine on ice in your bathtub.
Get the Party To-Go My entertaining nightmare is running out of food, so often I go overboard and cook too much. The classic cardboard Chinese takeout container is an easy way to send home leftovers with friends, and a platter of bite-size mochi is a fun pass-around dessert to wrap up the night.
More Dinner Party Inspo: These Two Spanish Expats Have the Chill Dinner Party Figured Out How to Throw a Dinner Party Like You’re in “the Hamptons of Denmark” How to Create a Charcuterie Board the French Way