Lightened-Up Girls' Night Dinner Party

It's time to press the "refresh" button on the typical dinner party. In this girls' night version, stuffiness has no place at the table, and neither does feeling stuffed!
  • Share
  • Print
lighten up Dinner

The food on this menu is deceptively light, the vibe is chill yet chic, and the host is having as much fun as the guests. So c'mon, kick off your shoes, pull up a chair and let Manhattan restaurateur and chef Donatella Arpaia, author of Donatella Cooks: Simple Food Made Glamorous, show you how it's done.

recipes

 

extras

 
tips + how-tos
lighten up Dinner
lighten up Dinner

TIPS + TRICKS

KICK THINGS OFF IN THE KITCHEN

Donatella serves her lightly spiked Basil-Gin Lemonade (already mixed, of course!) while guests are trickling in, then sets out ingredients so everyone can assemble the appetizers together. "It sends formality packing -- I like everyone to feel welcome to dive in and help."

To keep a seated dinner ultracasual, she later pulls in cushy armchairs from the living room to use as dining chairs, then grabs some pillows from the couch to soften up ordinary kitchen chairs. Everyone can choose the seat that looks coziest to them.

CREATE A BEAUTIFUL CENTERPIECE

No woman can resist flowers. But when food is your focus, other aromas can compete for your nose's attention. "I can't throw a party without gardenias -- they're so relaxing and make the room feel special," says Donatella, who arranges them in floating water. Just shift the arrangements off the table during mealtime, then bring them back around to help clear the air when the meal is over.

 
lighten up Dinner

SERVE ON WHITE PLATTERS

One thing Donatella loves about restaurant dining: the simple white plates. She likes them best against a brightly colored tablecloth for even more eye-catching appeal.

SET UP MISE EN PLACE

This is chef-speak for putting everything in place before cooking dinner and serving it. Prepare ingredients in advance -- chop, measure and clean -- then do the same with bowls of grated cheese, salt and pepper, and ice, so everything is within arm's reach at the table.

lighten up Dinner

SERVE FAMILY-STYLE

"I don't believe in buffets for just a few guests," says Donatella. "But I do believe everyone should feel free to help themselves," especially when eating healthfully is one of the goals of the night. Place the food in big platters in the center of the table, and encourage reaching!

HOUSE PARTY MUST-DOS

Have a no-shoes-allowed policy. Let the girls kick back barefoot.

Crank up the tunes. "We like upbeat old-school hits--perfect for dancing!"

Crank up the tunes. "We like upbeat old-school hits--perfect for dancing!"

Leave out some blankets for post-dinnertime.

USE YOUR LEFTOVER INGREDIENTS

Donatella's menu contains four indulgent ingredients. Here's what to do with the leftovers:

Chocolate: Melt a little in a double boiler the next night and serve warm as a dip with sliced fruit.

 

Pancetta: Toss a few cubes into an egg-white omelet. You won't miss the yolks with the added flavor boost from the salty ham.

 

Pine nuts: Toast a few in a dry skillet and sprinkle into any cold salad to add a satisfying crunch.

 

Mascarpone: "I don't trust myself with this one around! Hand it over to a consenting guest to take home."

 

 

Comments