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Fall Dinner Party, Thoughts on Menu?

I'm planning a dinner party for 7 tomorrow night and am finalizing the plan and about to start the do ahead things. I'm a little iffy on the main dish, so any thoughts/suggestions welcome.

Roasted Beet salad with Goat Cheese and Toasted Walnuts

Butternut Squash Soup

Herbed Leg of Lamb*
Fennel & Potato Gratin
Brussel Sprouts with Bacon

Whiskey-soaked Chocolate Cake

Would you do anything different? The Lamb felt like fall to me, but is pricey and other options might be nice to consider. (Everyone coming loves meat.) CH'ers, help a girl out? If I end up sticking with the lamb, any good recipes, I'm not married to one yet.


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  1. I think it sounds delicious, but maybe a little heavy, unless the portions of soup are very small. I'd be inclined to skip the soup, or have either the gratin or the brussel sprouts. Maybe just some simple green beans instead of the sprouts?

    2 Replies
    1. re: MMRuth

      I was going to just do a tiny bit of the soup, but you are right, heavy heavy heavy. I think I get that from my grandfather. Skipping soup!

      1. re: MMRuth

        How about apple and cranberry turnovers instead of the heavy cake? Very good use of fall ingredients.

      2. I agree that it's a little heavy at the moment. I'd do a salad with pears, blue cheese and toasted nuts, as pears are super-seasonal at the moment. Also lamb says spring to me rather than autumn. For me, it has to be game at this time of year but I'm not sure how easily available it will be where you live. I'd do pheasant (cooked in cider with apples is good) or rabbit.

        1. instead of leg, you may be able to get shoulder or shank for less. same goes for a pork shoulder or butt.

          how about a fresh salad with lots of bitter greens, some nuts and maybe diced apple to start?

          1. If you're sticking with lamb, maybe try out seven hour leg of lamb from Saveur- the beans can "help the meat stretch and pick up lovely lamby flavors. I like doing braises for company, since the timing is more forgiving.


            (I did a variation of seven hour leg of lamb for a party a few years ago, before this recipe came out, and it was one of the best received dinners to date!


            On the side, I might do some steamed, lemony green beans to keep things on the lighter side. Or maybe brussel sprout hash (lighter on the butter if you want to keep thing lighter)?


            1. I thought sausage or other pork flavors would go well with your other dishes.

              1. The menu looks great! I sometimes serve soup in miso soup bowls so it is a small serving. This helps it fit into a meal without looking like you are ladling one ladle of soup into a larger bowl. I would keep everything and the only thing I would be tempted to lighten up is the dessert.

                1. Personally, I wouldn't skip the soup...butternut squash soup is perfect for this time of the year; it says Fall (I'm growing some in my garden for this reason). My favorite way to serve this as a soup is to roast the squash with onions and maybe some apple or pears; make a bisque and serve with toasted cornbread croutons..you can make some crispy proscuitto or country ham chips to garnish. You'll have a smooth, sweet, salty combination that is so good...

                  I also disagree about the menu being too heavy, with the exception of maybe the dessert. You may want to go lighter there with perhaps a fruit dessert. About the entree, why not consider a pork or beef loin or tenderloin; your herb crust would go great with these meats as well. Lamb is least expensive in the spring, so you'll pay more now unless you know of a hook up spot to buy your meat, but if you have your heart set on the lamb, you could do chops or even a pasta dish with chunks of lamb. Another thing to consider is if you do get the leg, you will have scraps & maybe a bone for something else, like beans or a soup. Might be worth the cost.

                  There's nothing wrong with having a 4-5 course menu at this time of the year.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Cherylptw

                    thanks for the advice, i think I will be making the dinner as described for the most part, mostly because I got married to it in my mind and didn't realize it, that said now that I am more aware of how heavy it is, I'll be making sure that the portions are realistic so people don't leave thinking they will never eat again.

                    That said, I might indeed make a lighter dessert and the salad. But even if not for tonight, the cake in question is the best cake I've made in quite some time (and will keep on making), so perhaps you all might like the recipe. I came across it through Orangette, who found it in the NYTimes:

                    Whiskey-Soaked Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake:
                    Who can argue with a cake that calls for a whole CUP of whiskey?

                    1. re: likaluca

                      I have had that recipe bookmarked since last year! I'm so glad you reminded me to pull it out of the archives.

                    2. re: Cherylptw

                      Oh and Herbed Pork Loin it is, it is a recession! :)

                    3. Sounds fabulous! I like the idea of pork instead of lamb as well. The beet & goat cheese salad is my favorite. I have made it for dinner parties and it is always a hit, a drizzle of aged balsamic is great with it.

                      1. this menu look different than your op? you now have 3 out 5 savory courses with cream and/or cheese. heavy-going on the palate, especially with a very fatty meat like lamb and that rich dessert.

                        why not a green salad, with assertive greens like arugula, cress, or radicchio, and toasted walnuts? you could put the fennel, shaved and raw, here for more dimension and just make potatoes au gratin, or dauphinoise. or a salad of oranges and black olives? your veggies are all on the sweet side too, so i think a bitter salad might be a nice start.

                        while i love bacon with sprouts, (well, with about anything), maybe lighten up and just do those with lots of lemon? you can steam the sprouts (this can be done ahead) and pull all the leaves off, then quickly saute the leaves in a wee bit of butter with lots of lemon juice and zest, finish with black pepper.

                        1. Am enjoying the ideas on this thread. If your decide to go with an alternate for dessert, apple crisp would be a great option for the season (I like mine crunchy with oatmeal and pecans). In lieu of the whiskey for your cake, maybe you could add some apple brandy to the crisp?

                          1. I love this recipe for dinner guests or even holidays. It's easy, relatively inexpensive, and everyone loves it. Giada's pork loin with fig and port sauce.


                            You are going to want to eat the fig sauce on everything! :-)