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can anyone tell me about this dinner party activity??

I am planning a dinner party for Valentine's day... with 5 couples... i heard about an activity that sounds like a fun way to shake things up... but i can't remember the exact particulars... something like.. you choose 2 cards when you arrive and then later when dinner is served your two cards designate the silverware and plate you will be using... for instance you may get cards that have you eat your salad on a platter with only a knife... or your main course in a bowl with a spoon... does anyone have any info on how this is played? ... being middle aged i thought what fun it would be to have us step out of our comfort zones and maybe be able to discuss something other than golf... thanks for any help!

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  1. I've never heard of this and I am all for anything that moves the conversation away from golf, but I have the feeling that this might be a bit awkward unless plentiful alcohol is provided before the dinner. If I had to eat a salad with a knife in front of other dinner guests--even those I know reasonably well--I'd find it a bit off-putting. But if you'd like to ensure a better conversation mix, why not try Table Topics (there are several different kinds). I did this at my family's Christmas dinner last year and we loved it! Plus, my dad IS the kind of person who talks a lot about golf!

    Here's a link:


    1 Reply
    1. re: nofunlatte

      I can assure you, were I a guest at a home where this kind of activity accompanied dinner, it would be the very last time I ever accepted an invitation there. Even spewing football all night long would be preferable to that.

      Edited to add: I meant this as a reply to the OP. I just ended up clicking the wrong Reply button.

    2. Cards??? .....I thought that's what they made Bourbon, Scotch, and Vodka for!! LOL

      1. tell you what's fun but don't know if this game is available in the US but in the UK you can buy a boxed game called something like Murder at the Dinner Party. It comes with invitations telling the guest what character they are going to play, what to wear, what props to bring (nothing special maybe a pair of glasses, a watch, a scarf etc). The menu is even suggested in the box.
        You read the cards, act out the murder (one of the guests is murdered) then you all do a Sherlock Holmes type whodunnit.
        I have played it twice and it's a fun idea. There are about 6 different murder boxed sets.

        9 Replies
        1. re: smartie

          I have to be a spoil sport but "murder at the dinner party"- really? Solving a hypothetical violent crime over dinner? Somehow this is more acceptable than a "rape at the dinner party" theme? Much as I enjoy being a dinner guest as well as a host, I'd boycott any of this.

          1. re: janeh

            janeh, please lighten up. murder mystery dinners are well-known, and popularly enjoyed. the rape comparison is so off-base. maybe you've been watching too much law and order SVU.

            ps, it needn't be a "violent" murder..... ;-). think of all the poisonings miss marple has solved.

            1. re: alkapal

              Actually, I work with victims of violent crime and sometimes get a bit touchy about this stuff. My husband watches the crime shows, I watch the "Friends" reruns. And, yeah, I did grow up playing "Clue".

              1. re: janeh

                Good for you, janeh. You're doing great work.

          2. re: smartie

            Years ago I went to a couple of murder mystery dinners in a friend's home. I thought it was fun but totally distracted from the food. I could just have easily been eating chips and dip for all the focus on food. For me, dinner is one event and games (watching or playing) are another.

            1. re: c oliver

              As an avowed chowhound, I apologize for this in advance, but sometimes it's not the food that is the star of the show. I've had great evenings when the food was only ok, but the company or the activity was what made the evening.

              1. re: chicgail

                +1 chicgail, and not many people are a whole lot more enthusiastic about food than I am, either! :) No apologies necessary in my book.

                1. re: chicgail

                  I think the company should ALWAYS be the star of the show!!! But OP is talking about a Valentine's dinner party so I went in a different direction. But as someone here pointed out, she wasn't asking our opinion about whether or not but rather does anyone know how to play this game. So I'll offer MY apology for not honoring that.

              2. re: smartie

                I've gone to a party like this before and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

              3. I think this game is best played by the people remaining at a dinner party that you have just abruptly left. Leaving may be impolite, but think of it as a last chance to get off the Titanic before they remove the gangplank.

                2 Replies
                  1. re: wayne keyser

                    oh gosh, wayne keyser, you are spot on! LOL

                  2. I am middle-aged. I despise golf with a vengeance.

                    I would prefer to listen to someone recount their last three games, ball by ball, than play this game.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Harters

                      thanks for the honest input... possibly after further consideration this isn't a good idea.. i will try to find something less... uh.. unsettling!

                    2. The best thing is to make sure couples don't sit next to each other.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Karl S

                        Absolutely. Sometimes I use place cards but mostly I just tell people where to sit. After the first time here, they all know the drill :)

                        Please no games.

                      2. Unless your guests are 10 year olds, please, please do not subject them to this.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: chow_gal

                          Ha, the only time I ever played this game I was 10, at a friend's church youth group, and I hated it then, too.

                        2. I'm all for playing the game...that is assuming your goal is never to host a dinner party again.

                          1. The OP lost me at the part where the cards dictate that a guest is going to eat salad with a knife...

                            If you're a golfing bunch perhaps card games, played after dinner with some nice cordials and some coffee, is a better bet.

                            When we *intend* to be entertained at dinner, we've had a whole lot of fun at those "murder mystery" dinners. The best was held during a winter weekend in Newport, Rhode Island. It was expensive but the surroundings were priceless, the dinner was black tie (and rather good compared to most dinner-theatre fare). The accomodations were first-rate. But I'm getting off-topic.

                            It just occurred to me that the OP is a 'hound. Are his guests going to be as interested in food as he? If so, cooking together, either in the kitchen or doing table-side things on the sideboard in the dining room, over a chafing dish, could be a superb activity. It's how I entertain often.

                            1. I once went to a dinner party where you weren't allowed talk or to feed yourself. We fed each other and did a lot of pantomiming of what we wanted. It was fun, but not something I would want to do often.

                              5 Replies
                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    I know how weird this sounds, but it was actually kind of fun. I have no idea what we ate and I'm sure it wasn't great, but the evening was certainly memorable for the interactions.

                                1. re: chicgail

                                  That sounds like my personal nightmare. I agree with shaogo that murder mystery dinners are fun. I went to one that was in a small apartment and took about 4 hours, so you don't need to put a lot of money into it.

                                  If you don't want to talk about golf, you can just create some sort of game related to something you have to do after dinner if someone brings up a taboo topic.

                                  1. re: queencru

                                    May or may not be fun, but please let your guests know ahead of time you're planning on this game. I'd cancel. I just wouldn't enjoy something like that.
                                    I went to a dinner once and the host surprised us by announcing that we were now going to have conga (or something like it) dance lessons. He had a dance instructor there. I just left.

                                2. Dinner party games? The lowest.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: beevod

                                    Well, it depends on the quality of the games and the players. A classic study of the problem of games-filled social gatherings:


                                  2. In a story by the early 20th century English writer Saki, one of the characters suggests that, instead of celebrating St. Valentine's Day by remembering our friends and loved ones with flowers and cards, we observe the Feast of St. Nemesis. That would be a day "set apart for the paying off of old scores and grudges, a day when one could lay oneself out to be gracefully vindictive." This particular dinner party activity sounds perfect for St. Nemesis Day.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: mandycat

                                      St. Nemesis Day sounds a lot like the Festivus "Airing of Grievances" on Seinfeld.

                                      1. re: mandycat

                                        Sounds to me like a recipe for heartburn and a potentially sleepless night. Not a great idea for friends over good food.

                                      2. To the OP-I think you can see that many responders feel this game could turn into an embarassing situation for you and your guests.
                                        I can envision stained tablecloths, stained clothes, food missing the mouth etc.
                                        I think your heart's in the right place.
                                        Perhaps you can pass a hat and pick questions about how the couples met, how long they dated, when they first knew they were in love.
                                        Set an elegant and properly appointed table, eat good food, and regale each other with stories and enjoy.
                                        Your first job as host and hostess is to put your guests at ease.

                                        9 Replies
                                        1. re: monavano

                                          oh, a little newlywed game after dinner, when the couples are all liquored up? that'd be fun to watch -- like a train wreck fascinates.....

                                          no...really, once the questioning and revelations begin, either the couples are horny or one partner is royally ticked off with his or her significant other.

                                          hmmmm...maybe pictionary might be better. what happened to good old charades?
                                          ;-)). i guess it does depend on how provocative are the questions.

                                          ps, i'd bet 98% (probably 100%) of men NEVER want to play any type of these games. i think women enjoy them more. i guess we'd have to get into a sociology discussion to understand that phenomena. i enjoy taboo -- and charades. nobody wants to do these anymore... ;-(.

                                          1. re: alkapal

                                            Taboo is my favorite (and my friends are uninspired, too, don't feel bad). I get overly enthusiastic with the buzzer and sometimes ring it for a good answer! But yes, AFTER dinner, not during. ;) I miss our old game nights. No recollection of what we ate at the time, but lots of good memories of playing.

                                            1. re: kattyeyes

                                              cranium is fun, too! it's like the best of many games, all rolled into one.

                                              1. re: alkapal

                                                Cranium is one of my favorites, but one round resulted in my getting banned from any of the singing-related questions. I can't say I was too sad about it.

                                            2. re: alkapal

                                              Alka, have you played Ultimate Charades? I lump myself in with the men - I only play games under duress as a general rule. I only genuinely enjoy a couple (Taboo is one), but I always have fun playing Ultimate Charades. It's a rare party game in that the rules are simple, and it's equally fun in a group that knows each other and one that doesn't at all.

                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                  First, everybody gets three slips of paper. On each one, you write a person/place/thing/concept/whatever. They all get thrown in a bowl. You divide into teams. Now, there are three rounds. All are played the same way - one person from Team 1 gets the bowl, and tries to get their team to guess as many of the answers as they can in 1 minute, then the bowl gets passed to the next team...the bowl keeps going around until it is empty. Then all of the points are tallied up, the papers returned to the bowl, and the next round starts.

                                                  Round 1: Taboo. You can say anything except for the words written on the paper in order to get your team to guess.

                                                  Round 2: Regular charades. No noises, just gestures. The difference is, at this point, everyone playing has heard all of the possible answers in Round 1.

                                                  Round 3: One word. You can give only one word as a clue. If you make a mistake and say the wrong word, then you just have to stand there silently until the time runs out while your team runs through all of the answers they can remember from the previous rounds.

                                                  I have one group of friends that plays this pretty much any time they get together, and some of them are very...um...creative with what they write. Always entertaining.

                                                  1. re: Wahooty

                                                    you, me, sista-kat, & queencru need to get together for food and games!

                                                    questions re ultimate charades:
                                                    always two teams?
                                                    each "up" in a round is only one minute per team until the paper slips are gone?
                                                    who "polices" the taboo?

                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                      food - absolutely, darling. I'll have to let you know the next time I'm in NoVA. Games - only under duress, remember? :)

                                                      Okay, fine, you can ply me with wine.

                                                      1. No, as many teams as make sense with the size of the crowd. Minimum team size would have to be 3 I would think, my group usually plays with 3 or 4 teams of 4-5 people each. More teams make it harder to pay attention to catch all of the answers, and fewer people per team makes for a spottier collective memory. Two big teams would make the game go much faster, and be less chaotic, so some might prefer it. :)

                                                      2. That's how we play - the short "ups" mean the bowl gets passed more during the round, and by the end of the game every player has usually been up at least twice. Of course, you can make each up as long as you want. :)

                                                      3. It's self-policed - since it's not like regular taboo (the only thing you can't say is the answer), it's pretty obvious when you screw up, and the other teams will notice if you say "the guy who hosts the Jerry Springer show" and your team guesses "Jerry Springer!"

                                                      The odder the suggestions are, the more fun the game, I find. I once put in "a hamster that's fallen off its wheel" and the player who pulled it in round 1 (not on my team) cursed me for it as I giggled hysterically in the corner. Oddly enough, I pulled it in round 2 and had no problem pantomiming it, and the person who pulled it in round 3 just said my name as their one word. :)

                                          2. What a bunch of party poopers. I think it sounds like fun--I am always up for something different.

                                            1. While I would cringe at the thought of eating my entire dinner this way, the idea of doing it for one course--apps or dessert--might work. It also depends on your relationship with the other couples. I *might* do this with my brother and sis in law, but never with my husband's boss and his partner.

                                              1. I am with the crowd that believes that this is a good way to make sure that no one ever accepts an invitation to your house again. Besides, after getting all this food prepared, do you really want to subject your guests to this? Chances are, someone will drop their food on a shirt or your carpet, and no one will be able to enjoy their dinner. If these were eight year olds and the food was chicken nuggets and pizza, maybe, but this is extremely childlike for even the most fun loving adults I know.

                                                Why don't you host a game night instead? Food can be buffet and light hearted, like sandwiches and pasta salad, and you can have a Monopoly, Scene it or, if you want golf to be totally forgotten, Texas Holdem party. That sounds much more appealing to me.,

                                                7 Replies
                                                1. re: RGC1982

                                                  i like a game night idea! poker...yeah, baby.

                                                  strip poker!

                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                    Or maybe Twister? With the requisite EVOO.

                                                    1. re: huckfinn

                                                      That's priceless. I re-visited this thread intending to be entertained. The dialogue here is far more entertaining than the game that was initially mentioned... Thanks, fellow hounds (of both "game" and "non-game" persuasions) for a great laugh when I could use one! I'm dabbing tears from my eyes right now, and a moment ago some of my drink came out of my nose (the EVOO Twister game did it).

                                                  2. re: RGC1982

                                                    I've had some brutally competitive game nights that are a lot of fun. Sometimes we'll all get takeout and it's just a fun experience for all. I might add that none of the games require revealing any embarrassing personal information or anything like that.

                                                    1. re: queencru

                                                      If you MUST play a game at a dinner party, it should be Foodie Fight, a board game simlar to Trivial Pursuit. I saw it at SurLaTable recently and it IS fun, unlike the game the OP is suggesting.

                                                      1. re: Cheflambo

                                                        One comment about my game night suggestion. I realize that this is a Valentine's Dinner, and I acknowledge that my suggestions are very, well -- un-Valentine like. I answered this way in spite of that knowledge, mostly because I believe that men, on some level, would rather have root canal than play cutesy couples games that get people talking about their personal, and maybe even intimate lives. On the assumption that these are hetero couples, and that they might be a lot like my friends, I suggested Texas holdem'. You would probably find that this would make even the most squeamish guy feel like the night won't be pure torture. There is not a chance in hell DH would willingly submit to passing a hat around so that we may take turns telling stories about how we met, fell in love, or anything else along those lines. What can I say? It's ben 28 years, so something must be working.

                                                        (Maybe it's a Texas thing).

                                                        1. re: RGC1982

                                                          I'm female and mentioned no personal information because I hate games like that with a passion. I can honestly say that in my 30something years of live that as an adult I've only ever had one (coed, interestingly enough) group of friends who thought talking about personal details in a group setting without some pressing emergency demanding it was a "fun" activity. Usually with that group I just gave them the death glare or suddenly felt the urge to go to the bathroom for 10 minutes.

                                                  3. I'm kinda bummed out at some of the responses you've gotten. My usual 'dinner parties' are pretty casual affairs, with family and really close friends, and what you've described seems like it would be a lot of fun. Why cook for people who might be uptight with the food and atmosphere? The 'dinner party' threads on here sometimes give me the willies. Do what you love, invite people you love or want to learn to love. Anything else is just wasted time.

                                                    You sound like a great host. Think about your dinner guests and their 'levity' level. If you think it would be fun for them, go for it! I would relish an invitation to your dinner.

                                                    8 Replies
                                                    1. re: southern_expat

                                                      <The 'dinner party' threads on here sometimes give me the willies.>

                                                      Agreed. They often remind me of a junior high school cafeteria, when the "cool kids" gang up on the poor, clueless dweebs who dare to ask the wrong question. "Ewww! You want to do WHAT? You are such a LOSER!" It's depressing.

                                                      1. re: small h

                                                        you callin' the poor OP a dweeb? for shame!!! ;-))

                                                        come on, small h, lighten up. would you want to eat your salad with a knife? better yet, drink your wine while pinching your nose?

                                                        1. re: alkapal

                                                          No, I would not have fun playing that game. But there are tons of things I read about on Chowhound that I'd never do in a million years - like refuse to serve wine someone brought to my house. I still try not to throw virtual rocks at people who behave differently than I do (although I don't always succeed).

                                                          This is the OP's first & only post. I'm guessing s/he fled Chowhound in horror after reading the responses, and I'm not a bit surprised.

                                                          1. re: small h

                                                            The OP post again on this thread thanking others for their input


                                                            1. re: KTinNYC

                                                              I stand corrected. In penance, I will eat a bowl of soup with a safety pin.

                                                              1. re: small h

                                                                "" I will eat a bowl of soup with a safety pin."""

                                                                LOL -- good one!

                                                            2. re: small h

                                                              I take a different approach: many many dweebs aren't looking for reassurance that whatever goes is OK, but want to gauge whether there are social standards that they are not aware of (or are not aware of certain details of). Chowhound is actually a pretty safe place to learn that. An "anything goes" approach to manners over the long term benefits the cool kids with power, who will feel justified in changing the rules as they will. It's usually the powerless who suffer under the "changing the rules" scenario; especially in America, where very few of our social dining rules revolve around issues that are much more volatile in other cultures, especially precedence (most Americans outside the military and government event planners don't have to give the slightest thought to precedence). Many of the attempts to come up with new rules on the spot are abject failures, as countless threads on Chowhound demonstrate.

                                                              1. re: Karl S

                                                                That's a valid point, except that this thread didn't start out as a request for clarification of the rules for social dining. It started when someone asked for information about an activity, and a bunch of people screamed "OMG that is SO STUPID!" If this were one of the zillions of Chowhound threads that are some variation on "Please tell me I'm normal/right/a good person," then I would be with you 100%.

                                                      2. Let us assume you are younger than most posters here and that these are long-time high-spirited good friends. You could make it slightly less 'formal'. Just place an article beside the knives and ask that sometime during the meal they have to use the item to feed themselves. Things that spring to mind are:

                                                        A chopstick
                                                        Dough scraper

                                                        Bring a camera.

                                                          1. re: Dagney

                                                            But alas, the world we live in now is post-Emily.