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Theme Dinner Party Ideas?

Hello All--
I want to host a fun dinner party with a regional or international theme. It can be era-specific, but it doesn't have to be. Some ideas include Rustic Italian, Istanbul 1960s, New Jersey Mafia, etc. I am not sold on any ideas, so I would love some creative assistance!

It will be for about 15 people, including several vegetarians.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. How about Spanish?

    You could do various tapas for apps, then have two paellas- one veg, one not.
    There are many good spanish wines you could serve.
    Then flan for dessert.


    1. How about 1001 Nights/Arabian Nights?
      You can have lovely veggie mezze...pomegranate cocktails...breezy chiffony costumes.

      1. You could:

        1) Do a Renaissance madrigal style dinner. I started to describe it, but this site does a heckuva better job:

        I have been to two such feasts and they were so much fun. I imagine they are a lot of work and planning though. I have not tried it.

        2) DO a murder mystery dinner

        3) Do a regional or cultural dinner party. It is a fun way to do a potluck. Friends can pick from a hat what course they are to bring and stipulate things like "nothing premade". You could do Indian, Irish, Turkish, Italian... You provide the Ambiance and all the sorts of things needed to round out the meal, everyone brings wine or some other drinkable thing.

        4) Do a season change party. Winter is coming up. You could celebrate it rather than bemoan snow shoveling!

        We like to do some unusual things to snap the party up a notch and to get a few yukks. Like have people know in advance that they are gonna have to spill it on funny stories like family trips, favorite (or more shocking) things done in winter (or whenever). If you have an era party, you could dress like the era and have a karaoke machine. Hoakie, yes, but I swear it is funny.

        OK that is it.

        1. A Bollywood theme could be fun. Get some Bollywood soundtracks for your background music, burn some incense, decorate with saris and jewel-toned silk throws. Serve Indian cuisine, which can include a chicken curry and a veg dish. To start, you can have poppadoms with dips, and vegetable pakora. And have bindis and henna tattoos for your guests to wear.

          1 Reply
          1. re: cackalackie

            Great ideas! I especially like Bollywood, and the idea for a specific potluck. That would be good for my budget!

          2. Russian Zakuski- Blinis and ice cold Vodka

            Yeast leavened buckwheat pancake batter can be made early in the day or the day before. When it's time to eat someone has to hit the griddle now and then to keep up a fresh supply. Everything else is cold buffet - easy if you can get to an eastern European deli and tell them what you want to do.
            Must Haves: Smoked sausage, smoked fish or lox, pickles: cukes, beets, mushrooms; salad, sour cream, chopped dill, chopped scallions. There is nothing like caviar. Salmon roe suffices. Good jams or honey on the blinis make dessert. Anything else you can think of to smear or heap on the pancakes and roll up will be fine!

              1. re: ML8000

                That's hilarious. Although you'd have to decide how authentic you want it to be - I mean, it's one thing to have Salisbury steak, and another to have Salisbury mystery-meat with lumpy canned gravy.

                1. re: piccola

                  I LOVE that idea! Oh the possibilities. Kudos ML8000 and thanks for the laugh!

                  1. re: ML8000

                    I once went to a "white trash" dinner party that could have also been called School Cafeteria! People brought mini hotdogs, tuna casserol w/potato chip crumbles, green beans w/marshmellows (ewwww!), bologna sandwiches on white bread w/Miracle Whip, etc.... it was dreadful, but funny!

                    1. re: HoneybeeSF

                      The best "white-trash"-themed menu item I've ever run across is a "crown roast" involving making a ring of hot dogs (tie with string to hold together) and filling up the middle with Kraft Dinner macaroni. Serve with lots of ketchup. Dessert? Twinkies, of course!

                      1. re: Ginsugirl

                        even better - deep-fried twinkies

                      2. re: HoneybeeSF

                        You know if you wanted irony and some real fun, the menu would be "gourmet interpretations" of school cafeteria food, like:

                        * handmade yukon golds tattertots w/ panko crust
                        * imported Devonshire cheddar grilled cheese w/ Acme bread
                        * Scharfenberger chocolate milk
                        * Sonoma County Liberty duck mini hot dogs
                        * Fresh made fruit cocktail from Frog Hollow fruit
                        * Mac and cheese w/ Devonshire cheddar & Strauss family cream
                        * Meyer lemon popcicles
                        * Bouchon Bakery Ding Dongs and Twinkies

                        The menus would be printed with a mimeographic machine. The hosts would wear hair nets and those weird cafeteria uniforms.

                        "Mixed" seating would be arranged according to school archetype, i.e., the AV club would sit next to the jocks, cheerleader and debate teamers, etc.

                        I'd do if I had a restaurant or if I had more hip friends that wouldn't be repulsed (some have kids).

                    2. One of the most memorable parties we ever held was a multi-ethnic cheese party. One room held Italian cheese dishes and chianti, one German cheeses, sausage, beer and appetizers. Another had Swiss cheeses and fondue, another French dessert cheeses and wine, and a nook had English Stilton, Canadian Cheddar and veggies. We made up limericks humorously describing each offering, provided pads for taking notes and encouraged circulation and discussion of the varieties.

                      The guests were enthusiastic in their response. If we were doing it in our present house, we now have another room handy and would fill it with American goat cheeses that we did not know about at the time.

                      1. How about a backwards party? Every one wears clothes backwards, males as females, gloves on feet, clothes inside out etc. Set the table with plates upside down, reverse forks and knives and spoons. Serve dessert first ( we had upside down cake ), then salad, entree, appetizer; Wine in coffee cups.

                        1. I like doing finger-foods only parties.

                          One of my friends did a "trailer trash" party (yes, I know the theme is slightly offensive) where we brought dishes made with Velveeta, marshmallow fluff, cocktail weenies, etc. We decorated with pink plastic flamingos and bike tires, and wore really skanky clothes with flashy makeup.

                          You could probably do a 1950-1960s suburbia party much in the same way - watch Edward Scissorhands for inspiration.

                          Another idea: an Iron Chef party, where all dishes revolve around a special ingredient. You can even declare a winner at the end.

                          1. From an old thread about foods shaped in balls, how about "Balls around the World?"

                            Or an americanized international foods theme--egg foo young, pizza, french fries,...

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: chowser

                              or a dumpling party. Every country and ethnicity has a prized dumpling. And who does not like to chow on all thinks dough and filled with a surprise??? YUMBA!

                            2. I've always thought it would be fun to host a "Marco Polo" Party, featuring the best of Italian and Chinese food, or even a fusion of the two (Ciao Mein).

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Phaedrus74

                                You know what? That DOES sound like fun. I have a group of friends that enjoy doing themed dinners, 2 of which just got done with a Chinese cookery class and that sounds like a PERFECT idea. Although I was not the original poster... thank you for a fab idea for a fun night with friends and food.

                                1. re: Wanda Fuca

                                  Hey, if you REALLY want something silly, pick any two cuisines that have NEVER been mixed. Mine is Polish and Korean. Use Kolbasa instead of beef in bibimbap. Garnish pierogies with kimchi (this is especially yummy, if you like hot spice). Some combos work well, others are just godawful. Just remember that most foods we associate with any given nation are, in fact, recent-ish arrivals (Potatoes in Ireland, Chilis in Thailand, Tomatoes in Italy)

                              2. some girlfriends and i have a dinner like this once a month. each dinner has a different theme and everyone brings a dish that corresponds to that theme. so far we have done:

                                - mexican
                                - italian
                                - crock pot recipes (everything made in a crock pot)
                                - asian (ended up being all east-asian)
                                - tapas
                                - new england
                                - hawaiian luau
                                - from the garden/farmer's market
                                - thanksgiving (the most recent)

                                the next one is a brunch theme with cocktails.