Great Dinner Party 12:27 a.m. 2004-01-04

I so very much rock in the party department! I just hosted a dinner party for twelve, and it went off fairly smoothly! Yes, there were guest list annoyances, and last minute cancellations and additions, but at least I didn't end up with the unlucky number of 13!

I called up and invited 14 people last weekend. We invited four known couples (where we knew both people)-and only one declined. I had two gentleman friends who wanted to bring dates - that was fine with me - except one of them wanted to bring his son with him. That is where I drew the line! I also invited a female colleague from work, and my really cool male friend who is not currently dating anyone.

After I thought I had everything ironed out, I receive a blithe e-mail from my female colleague, saying that she had a lot of work to do, and wouldn't be able to make it. She was the first to say she would definitely be there - she said so two weeks ago! Oy vay. I barraged her with guilt-inducing e-mails and left messages on both her cellular and her home machines. I even said in my e-mail that I expected my Russian couple to flake out on me - not her. I haven't heard a peep from her.

So, I put plan B into effect. I called a couple of female friends, and one was sick. The other agreed to come - which was really decent of her, since it was on two days notice!

I cleaned the house, and finished putting up the Christmas decorations in preparation for the party. I tried out my recipe. I was planning to do something I had never done before - cook a formal dinner party recipe in a crock pot! I was going for the super-easy, but classy approach! Here is the menu I planned:

Hors d'oeuvres: Chicken Liver Pate (homemade) with crackers, Cream Cheese Terrines with Pesto and Sun-Dried Tomatoes (Costco) with crackers, and Stuffed Mushrooms (Provided by my sister-in-law)

Cocktails: Lemonade Caipirinhas (from the latest Martha Stewart), Kirs aux Murs, and other wines and champagnes.

Salad Course: Spring Mix Greens with minced herbs and Olive Oil Dijon Vinaigrette.

Dinner: Chicken Cordon Bleu (made in the crock pot), Wild and Long-Grain White Rice (Uncle Ben's without the spice packet!), gravy from the chicken, and roasted vegetables.

Dessert: Mini Cakes (I have 5" Wilton Cake pans) - Snickerdoodle (cinnamon), Chocolate Buttermilk Cake with Crushed Toffee and Sour Cream Chocolate Icing, and Uber-Lemon Cake (soaked with limoncello liqueur, with lemon curd and lemon icing).

In addition to this, I also made a different entree for my Jewish friends (the Chicken Cordon Bleu had pork in it, so I made a smaller crock pot with turkey ham), and made a chicken breast cutlet without cream of mushroom soup for my brother-in-law, as he is gluten-free! It worked out for his dessert, as I had baked some apples the day before - I just served it with ice cream!

I spent 6 hours last night, watching my new Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVD on my laptop while baking and icing my six mini cakes (if you plan it right, you can get two small cakes from one cake mix) and cooking and pureeing for my chicken liver pate.

This morning, I woke up at a leisurely 10:00 AM and began to work on my main courses. I roasted my vegetables, then rolled my chicken and filling and made my sauce, and got my crockpots going.

The most difficult part was setting the tables and ironing the linens - I think. While I was doing this, my husband cleaned all four bathrooms, vaccuumed, and mopped the floors. He also patiently moved the dining room table, and my auxiliary table into one configuration, only to have me suddenly decide (after checking Weather.com) to take advantage of the freakishly warm weather and to situate one table and the bar out on the deck. It was an inspired idea!

Early in the afternoon, one of my guy friends who has asked to bring a date called to ask if it would throw our numbers off if he came alone. I bluntly asked if he had broken up with his girlfriend as my husband looked on in disapproval. He had. I immediately called another girl friend, but she was sick. Instead, we called my husband's best friend - a guy - to even out our numbers. So what if I didn't have even boy/girl ratio!

I was determined to make use of all of the fancy china and two sets of silver that we now possess, as well as the silver serving pieces. The tables looked fabulous, but we didn't take time to photograph them - oh well!

Things got a little tense toward showtime, but it all turned out fine. Was it perfect? Of course not! I didn't have time to put on makeup. I had to ask a complete stranger to throw flowers into vases. I overcooked my brother-in-law's entree, and the roasted veggies - although they were still edible. The Russians stood us up (as they had the last party). Hardly anyone ate my chicken liver pate.

But that's okay! We had a super time. My husband sat at the outside table during the meal, and I sat there for dessert, so we both got a chance to socialize with everyone. The dinner was a hit - as were the desserts.

Now, I am going to bed. I have put one load of dishes in the dishwasher, and will worry about the rest tomorrow. I may also go and see a movie!

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Tiedyefor 2003