I love having company over in the fall.  Here are two ways to have a dinner party this fall.  One requires some forethought and cooking while the other can be planned at the last minute.  Both promise great results:

Option #1: when you have time to plan

Sometimes you just want to have people over with a beautiful table, fresh flowers, homemade cocktails and a delicious home-cooked meal.

Last weekend, we had five couples over.  We ate outside on an eight foot long folding table.  My table is only 30″ wide, so I needed to be creative with my centerpiece:

A $28 box of fresh moss allowed me to create this centerpiece as well as refresh all the moss around my potted plants.  The tablecloth is faux leather which was placed on top of to-the-floor ecru lace.

Individual salt and pepper shakers are a fun touch to the table.

I added some more fresh flowers to our porch:

I used some fresh moss in this pot with a white pumpkin (mine is fake!) and fresh sunflowers.

My homemade cocktails were Whiskey Sours.  I simply follow the Barefoot Contessa recipe (click here for recipe) and they are always well received:

Photo from the Food Network

As I ran out of time to cook the intended appetizers, I picked up some Ezme and grilled pita at Anatolia’s (Thank you, Paula!). I added grapes, olives and cashews to the mix:

For the fillet, I used a recipe from Epicurious that I highly recommend (although I forgot to salt the steaks….for everyone reading, remember to salt the steaks!).  This is super simple: buy some dried porcini mushrooms in the produce section of the grocery store.  Grind them up in your food processor until a powder is formed.  After salting your fillet steaks, dredge them through the porcini powder and cook them in a skillet with herb butter (you can make your own herb butter or use the Garlic Herb Irish Butter sticks available in the gourmet cheese section at Harris Teeter.)  Click here for the recipe.

Picture from Epicurious. Sorry – I was having a great time and forgot to take my own pictures!

I cooked Havarti Cheese Stone Ground Grits, using this recipe from Emeril Lagasse for inspiration.  I substituted 16 ounces of Havarti cheese in this recipe.  Next time I will also use 1/3 water, 1/3 chicken stock and 1/3 cream  as I think that would make this recipe even more divine.  And, do use Stone Ground Grits – it makes a differenceClick here for recipe.

The salad I made was straight from the September issue of Southern Living:

So yummy. I added Gorgonzola cheese to this salad.

This Fennel-Apple Arugula salad was so good.  I could have eaten just this salad and been happy.  Click here for the recipe.

For dessert, I followed a shortbread recipe that Megan Williams, the pastry chef at Provence shared with me.  Megan also showed me how to make a quick sour whipped cream, which I added to the top along with some freshly cut pears:

Finally, my own picture of my food!

Shortcakes from Dorrie Greenspan (Megan highly recommends Dorrie’s cookbook “Baking From My Home to Yours” from where this recipe comes):

  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 t salt
  • 6 T granulated sugar
  • 6 ounces (12 T) cold, unsalted butter, cut in small cubes
  • 1 and 1/2 cups buttermilk

Combine all dry ingredients. Add butter cubes (as cold as possible–freezing for ten minutes is a good trick) and cut the butter in with your hands or a biscuit cutter until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is broken into pea-sized or smaller pieces. Add buttermilk and toss with your hands or a fork until a dough forms. Under-mixing is better than over-mixing. Turn dough onto a floured surface, press to 1″ thick, and cut out into circles with a 2″ cutter. Bake at 400 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. Serve warm.

For the Sour Whipped Cream, combine 1 cup sour cream with 1 cup of heavy whipping cream and 2 tbs of powdered sugar.  Whisk.

A shout out to Megan – Thank you, girl!!!

Option #2:  Super Easy Fall Dinner Party

1) Pick up sushi from your favorite Japanese restaurant as an appetizer.  To lower the cost, choose a couple of vegetable sushi varieties.  Personally, I love the vegetable rolls at Zumi.

2) Order a catering-sized Grilled Vegetable Salad from California Pizza Kitchen (you can even order online).  The salad is $46 and will come with the lettuce and avocado together and with the grilled vegetables in a separate container.  Combine the two on a large platter.  You can add some goat cheese – which pairs nicely.  Bread and dressing come with the salad.

The grilled vegetables from CPK

Lettuce and Avocado, from CPK. Put the grilled vegetables on top for a simply wonderful salad.

3) Grill your fillet with salt, pepper, garlic and soy sauce.

4) Pick up some local chocolate and put on a wooden cutting board to pass as dessert.

Picture courtesy of Olive and Sinclair, a fabulous Nashville Chocolate company.

So, don’t hold back!  Invite some friends over and enjoy the beautiful fall weather!