Happy In-law Vibes

Last weekend we kicked off four weekends in a row of hosting family from CA by exploring NYC with Rob's parents. We did a lot more than we thought, walking 6 miles each day!    My favorite moment was exchanging stories of how each couple met while we were all drunk, enjoying multiple courses at Roberta's in Bushwick. They met at a summer camp where they were both counselors (Clove & Bubbles forever!). We met being wing people for two of our friends at a bar in San Francsico. 

We had lots of those great moments where I felt like my in-laws and I got to know each other better and it made me even more excited to live in their neck of CA for a while! 

How to Host a Party at a Restaurant

There is nothing more frustrating than when you have an urge to plan a party and your lack of space hinders you from hosting one. I ran into this issue a few times during the four months that we occupied the Mouse House. As I’ve mentioned, party planning is in my blood and even the fact that we couldn’t host parties couldn't quiet that part of me. It just meant that I had to get creative with my party planning. One early idea was to convince a friend to host a party with me so that we could use their larger space. I nixed it almost immediately because it would mean co hosting with someone who might not be as party planning savvy as I like to think I am. Then I thought, why not host a party at a restaurant? This idea stuck and is just what I did for our Christmas party and my birthday party. DSC_0631

The biggest perk of planning a party at a restaurant is that after the initial planning stages, there isn’t much you have to do. The restaurant takes care of almost everything! I followed my usual six guidelines and added a few along the way to tailor it for planning a restaurant party.

1- The Cuisine

Just like when you plan the menu for a party at your home, you need to be aware of the foods that your guests like and dislike. This will help narrow down the search, especially in larger cities with an almost impossible choice of restaurants.

2- Reservations

Right along with the cuisine, picking a place that takes reservations is key. There is no quicker buzz kill to a party than having to wait 45+ minutes to get a table. You want your guests to be able to walk in, sit down and have a cocktail in their hands within minutes of arriving.

3- Payment

Eliminate the confusion and awkwardness at the end of the night as the group hems and haws over the bill and have a plan of action for payment. This could mean that you plan to cover the whole thing, or you plan to take cash from everyone and put it on your credit card, or plan for everyone to pay for their own portion. Bonus points if you let all your guests know before they arrive how payment will be handled so they can be prepared.

4- Personal Touches

Finally, remember that you can still add personal touches to a party at a restaurant. Goodie bags, flower arrangements, seating cards or simple games are all little things that can be done easily to add a bit of you to your party. For our holiday party we had a White Elephant Exchange. For my birthday party I had little goodies that I put at each person’s seat.

Goodies for my birthday guests!

I still prefer hosting parties at my own home, but it is nice to have a break from time to time and let other people do a lot of the work!

6 Steps to Plan the Party of the Century!

Birthday Brunch 2014 Party planning is in my blood. My maternal grandma threw notoriously epic parties in the 50s & 60s. These parties were often written about in our local newspaper, they were so fabulous! Needless to say I have some big shoes to fill.  I didn't tap into this part of my DNA until about a decade ago, and I didn't start hitting my stride until a few years ago. I have planned parties of all sizes and learned a lot through trial and error along the way. But I truly love planning and attending parties. My idea of a perfect party is an impeccable blend of my guests enjoying the party, as well as myself enjoying and participating in the party.

I tried to keep this part of me dormant because we are currently living in such a small space, but I couldn't do it. So this past weekend I hosted my first NYC soiree: a cookie swap. I want to share with you the six steps I followed to ensure that this party went off without a hitch.

First, decide what kind of party you are throwing. Cocktail or dinner. At your home, an event space or a restaurant. If that has you stumped, ask yourself what kind of party you prefer going to. You will have a lot more fun at your own party if it is the kind of party you enjoy going to. I prefer parties at my home. I am more relaxed and there isn't as much pressure for the party to end as when you are at an event space or restaurant.

Second, hash out your guest list. Having an idea of how many people you would like to come helps tremendously in the rest of the planning process. I love parties of all sizes, but I have learned that I thrive as a host when there are 30 or fewer guests. I enjoy being able to have a conversation with everyone that attends during the course of the party. So when there are more than 30 people, I have a harder time balancing it all and remaining calm.

Third, set a budget for yourself. I will admit that this step is often one that I skip because I convince myself that I can throw a fabulous party without spending a ton of money. But almost every time, I am wrong. I end up spending far too much money which leaves me and R stressed out in the days leading up to and after the party. Your budget will depend entirely upon you and how much you can comfortably spend without risking being homeless in the months to come. I suggest coming up with a number that doesn't break your bank and then halving it. That way if you spend a little more, you'll still be within your original budget.

Fourth, pick a venue. By now you should know how many people you are inviting and how much you can afford to spend, so picking a venue should be less of a challenge. If home is where the party is and it can hold your guests comfortably then you're all set! If the party is a bit bigger or you would like to take some of the planning pressure off your own shoulders, then an event space or restaurant might be a good option. I suggest using Google or Yelp to help you find the venue that has the perfect atmosphere for your soiree. While I mostly prefer parties at my home, there are a few times where I have opted for a restaurant. In those cases I chose the cuisine I wanted to enjoy first and then based my Google and Yelp searches on that.

Fifth, plan your menu. Planning the menu, in my opinion, is the most important step in the whole process and it is my favorite part. I can get lost on Pinterest for hours searching for delectable new recipes that no one has tried before. If you have decided to party in a restaurant, then you can probably skip this step.

For cocktail parties, I pick three to five hors d'oeuvres, depending on how many guests are coming. For dinner parties, I prepare three hors d'oeuvres, two to three side dishes, and one main course.

Pro tip: Be sure to choose an array of dishes that will cover all your guests dietary needs. There are delicious recipes out there for your vegan guests, your carnivorous guests and everyone in between. Another rule of thumb I live by is choosing dishes that can be made ahead of time, or at least be prepped ahead of time. If I can be out mingling with my guests more than I am in the kitchen, I have hosted a successful party!

And don't forget about the booze! For cocktail and dinner parties, we usually serve a red & white wine, a bubbly wine/prosecco/champagne, and a signature cocktail. We also ensure that we have a well stocked bar in case anyone wants to try their hand at bartending.

Here's a look at the menu I prepared for my cookie swap:

Cookie Swap 2014

Sixth, plan the execution. To make sure that everything runs smoothly the day of the party, make lists of what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, and who should be in charge of doing it ahead of time. If at all possible, go shopping a few days prior to the party, prep the food and set up the decorations the day before. Aim to have your day of to do list be as short as possible. We use Google Shopping Express (for non perishable items) and Fresh Direct (for almost everything else) to help with our prep.

I picked up a tip from R the first time we coordinated a dinner party together and it has really helped us with parties we have hosted together since. He calls them our recipe worksheets. We combine all the recipes that need to be made into one long list complete with times, down to the minute, of when things need to be done. This helps us multitask without missing a step, or overcooking anything. We've become much more efficient during our cooking and prep phases, and its allowed both of us to mingle with our guests without one of us having to be in the kitchen.

Recipe Worksheet

And with those six steps you can host the party of the century, every time! But do keep in mind that no matter how much you plan there will always be a few hiccups. I've forgotten to turn the oven on, been finishing my makeup as guests arrived, and forgot to put out an appetizer we had spent the whole day before making. Learn to let these little hiccups roll off your back, smile and keep the party going!