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What is your style of entertaining?

I think most people entertain guests from time to time, even if it's just inviting friends to watch the super bowl and eat nachos. What is your style of entertaining? Elegant soirée? Backyard barbecue? Just call a friend and say, "Hey, come on over" and figure out what to eat when you get hungry? How many people do you like to have over? How planned is it? Do you ask people to bring food or do you prefer to prepare it yourself? Is food an important component of entertaining guests to you? Do you serve courses? A buffet? Family style? Is the food you serve guests different from what you eat ordinarily?

Maybe tell us an example of a party or casual gathering you've had recently.

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  1. One/some of the kids come over during the week for dinner. I asked in advance what they'd like: Pasta/'meat and potatoes/'Chinese/ Curry. Whatever. They arrive about 5:00-6:00. Dinner ready to serve. Sit down. Glass of wine/beer. Visit and eat till about 7:00-8:00. They have to work the next day normally. I always make enough to send the left-overs home with them.
    I get a lot of enjoyment being asked to make this or that type of food.
    One of everyones all time favorites is fettucini served with thin slices of smoked salmon with a creamy lemon and tarragon sauce.

    1. We usually have a couple large-ish gatherings (30 people or so?, seems large in our smallish house haha!), usually centered around a sporting event (ie Super Bowl, or Univ of Wyoming football). I prepare a few things like a main course type thing (pulled pork, tri tip, something like that), and also ask people to bring apps and desserts. We now have a kegerator so we offer beer and sodas, and let people know it's BYOB for anything other than that.

      The food I serve is different... basically a lot of it is not that healthy and I try to eat healthier during the week. Also vegetables never go over that well, so I don't bother with more than a crudite platter.

      I would love to have smaller dinner parties but we live pretty far out of town and it's hard to get people to come over more than a couple times a year haha!

      1. mine swings wildly --

        from someone is over and we decide to have dinner, to group outings that end up at our house, to planned sitdown dinners for anywhere from 4 to 25 people.

        I tend to keep a lot of pantry items on hand -- appetizers and nibbles, pantry staples to throw together a meal, etc.

        1. We regularly have friends over for informal dinners. Often they are outside, centered around our outdoor kitchen and dining area.

          We always have a theme, and friends like to bring something to contribute to the theme (wine, a special chocolate, or something from their travels). Not a pot luck, but we have friends that cook and they love to share something unique or interesting. I have had friends bring grappa, a special cheese to share, a new favorite apple they discovered to slice and share, or a unique item from their garden or honey from a local bee hive. I love that about my friends and family. Relaxed and no pressures about this style of entertaining.

          More formal dinner parties are rare anymore, but the last one I hosted in 2013 was for 6 guests, invitations, (2 would be considered friends, 4 were colleagues) we all had a thread of connection through our work. cocktails and apps in the smaller, intimate room off the kitchen so people could get comfortable with each other and develop flow. Dinner in the formal dining room (a plated salad, then family style main) then coffee and drinks in the living room with desserts. More work and pressure to host this way, but it is very cool when it goes really well and people make new friendships.

          1. It basically boils down to the overarching notion that "nothing exceeds like excess"!

            1. For small dinner parties (4-6 people) that are planned, I like to really take some time to plan a menu. Always courses, usually family-style
              --something to snack on with a drink when people first come over, then a soup or salad (or both), a main course, then dessert, then more drinks until whenever. I don't cook particularly fussy food and I'm certainly not "formal", but for me, this is the time to pull out some stops and get the best quality ingredients I can.

              For a "regular party (my last Christmas party was about 50 people) I make a lot of food but take a lot of store-bought help, too. I used to kill myself making everything but at the end of the day, no one cares if the hummus is homemade or not. I want to make things people will like, but at a big party, the focus is less on the food. I like to pick one kind of food and make a lot of variations (meatballs or sliders, for example), both meat and vegetarian, and a lot of condiments. I have one main table of food and then bowls of snacks placed in other areas. My parties tend to go pretty late, so I like to have some frozen stuff I can pop into the oven as a "round 2", when some drunken munchies kick in.

              For casual, spur-of-the moment weeknight meals with a friend, I usually just say "I'm making ____, wanna come over and watch the Real Housewives?"

              1. We don't entertain a lot any more. Had a lot of cocktail parties when we were younger and I really enjoy cooking/preparing these types of one-bite small dishes and hors d'oeuvre... we still eat this way a few times a month playing a board game or watching TV without guests.

                In our heyday we hosted mulit-course dinner parties with up to 12 (our seating max). Those were sometimes a carry-in meal and sometimes something that I made all on my own. We had seated and buffet-style dinner parties. Had a period of time where we did a supper club and that was in rotation. But anymore we just usually invite one couple at a time, often with kids involved. A cookout or board game night. Very low brow and casual. It's food I cook as a norm... which is usually ethnic (Turkish, Indian, Mexican, North African). Sometimes just a steak or seafood kabob on the grill.

                Last guests over were our friends for a German breakfast. We had brötchen, pretzels, croissants, hard-boiled eggs, jams, cheeses, salamis and other meats, cornichon, yogurt, fruits, and an assortment of beverages, including apfelschorle, coffee, and tea. Other things I'm sure I'm not remembering, as well, but I really enjoy these types of themed, more casual breakfasts. Especially with kids.

                1. I haven't entertained in my current house other than just have one person out at a time, and its more of ... I just found a couple of great steaks, come out and let's grill. I live out in the country so they usually ask if there's anything they can bring, like a side or wine and we cook together.

                  I'm planning my first party here, and most of the people will have to drive 30-35 miles away. I have a very small kitchen and small farmhouse, so it will be on a day with good weather, casual and outside. Probably centered around the grill and the smoker, I'll provide the meats, beer, tea and pop, and people can bring sides. Since they will be coming quite a way, I'll plan activities to do while waiting on the food, like bocce ball and croquet, time with the horses, and fishing down at the river.

                  1. At casa lingua, we keep things fairly casual. No fine linens, china, centerpieces or what have you. I do use my silver for larger groups (although over the years, my set of 8 has had some losses, sadly -- I am now down to 5 forks and simply can't afford to replace them... so I generally give my man and me the "regular" cutlery), simply because I don't have enough of our regular stuff for 8 or more.

                    We do spontaneous "hey, wanna come over and watch The Walking Dead with us over pizza (usually homemade)" as well as RSVP events like my massive smoked pork shoulder.

                    Sometimes we ask people to contribute a side dish or dessert, but *always* a bottle to share. Not that we have to, everybody does so anyway.

                    Usually everything is served at the same time (so no multiple courses), or buffet-style. Our table really only seats 8-10 people comfortably -- 10 is pushing it already, so when we have larger gatherings, people just grab a plate and serve themselves and sit down wherever.

                    Everybody seems to be pretty happy with how we do things.... they keep showing up :-)

                    1. Superbowl Sunday we had a football game with all the neighbors then took turns hosting a portion of the overall Sunday menu. My house was appetizers and cocktails in the snow covered side porch, my one neighbor roasted lamb and porcetta, another had a dessert buffet and so on; six families got involved. And the party was a good deal more fun than the game. :)

                      Prior to that we had a brunch for 25 people that involved the garage band playing, a jazz trumpeter arrived later and the women and a handfull of strapping college kids helped put together the brunch. Very casual assortment of all the usual breakfast favorites.

                      Prior to that book club night. The theme was sleeping with the fishes and we had 4 diff fish dishes and some cocktails.

                      In warmer weather BBQ's and backyard parties; small to large happen frequently. Sometimes we take on the entire menu but more times than not we encourage participation and creativity. It doesn't matter to me (anymore anyway) if the elements of the meal match or not. Upscale potluck works and everyone has a great time. Family style (meaning any combination of house guests) is my preferred and far more casual these days preference. The biggest change is the return to interesting and challenging recipes by all my family & friends. We really enjoy trying out new recipes on each other.

                      1. I'm a planner. Even for small, casual gatherings, I still make lists of what I'm going to serve, when I need to go buy stuff, and when I need to prep stuff. The lists just keep me calm and sane when entertaining.

                        The primary reason we entertain is to enjoy the company of our friends, but food is definitely the foundation of any gathering.

                        I always find out about allergies and food aversions and do everything I can to accommodate.

                        For dinners of 10 or less, I usually serve courses, but sometimes serve family style. I always serve hors d'oeuvres before dinner, so we can all just chill in the living room for a while before sitting down to dinner.

                        Our last party was a U.S. Thanksgiving party. 31 people, multiple hors d'oeuvres, full turkey dinner with all the trimmings (with a separate main, dressing and gravy for the vegetarians), and a serious dessert spread that my friends contributed. Dinner was served buffet style, but there was table seating for everyone. Other than the desserts, I made everything.

                        Our next gathering is small and simple: another couple and their two teenage kids. We're doing Chinese hot pot. Dinner is next week, but I've already started my lists. :0)

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: TorontoJo

                          I jot lists -- backs of envelopes, etc. -- but I try to always post a list of the full menu, so I don't forget something (yes, that lesson was hard-learned - it's a running joke amongst my friends as to which dish I'll manage to leave in the refrigerator)

                          1. re: TorontoJo

                            I'm also a dedicated list-maker. Not just because it helps keep me organized, but also because I genuinely enjoy the planning process; tweaking menus and thinking of cocktails and researching which wine to serve.

                            To me, it's sort of like travel, where planning is half the fun.

                            1. re: TorontoJo

                              Also a big list maker. For a complex menu, and to be sure I have all the ingredients on hand, I'll make a grid with dishes across the top of the page, ingredients down the left column, the the amt needed for each item under that column. That way, I'll see that I need 2 onions for the biryani, 3 more for the brinjal or 2 tsp of shah jeera for the chutney and another 1 tsp for the dal--this helps to know the quantities to buy (I total 'em up). Voila--have the detailed shopping list ready-made. Sounds a little OCD, but I don't have a last minute "OMG, I needed more cumin" either!

                              While I'm very informal in style, I'm like the proverbial duck: calm on the surface, paddling like hell unseen. I like control in my kitchen.

                              1. re: pine time

                                Your last sentence is SO me! Great description.

                                1. re: TorontoJo

                                  Yeah, it's also why I prohibit guests from "helping." One of the doors directly to the kitchen from the dining room used to have a baby gate to keep our kitties out of the main area. I loved it because it also keep guests out! I called it the "drive-up window"--guests could hand me stuff from the drive-up while I was in the kitchen, but it kept them out from under my feet. Don't mean to derail the thread, 'cause that's been a long discussion elsewhere.

                            2. Informal...usually centered around a sporting even on TV. Generally something like ribs, mac & cheese, green beans...group friendly food where people make their plates in the kitchen and sit wherever their heart desires.

                              1. We are all over the map on this. We (I) love company and I feel like when I have company over, they should not want for anything before they leave so we stock up on food and drinks. Since I upgraded the kitchen and we've changed over to a much healthier style of eating, we're getting into the habit of having friends come over for dinner and then hanging out afterwards. We always host a super bowl party for about 15, and we'll have 1-2 "big" cookouts after the weather turns. Those usually bring in about 40 guests and is more often than not something BBQ related - beef, brats, pulled pork, grilled chicken, last year we did a Mexican themed cookout and it was a huge hit.

                                With that said, we often ask guests to either BYOB or bring a dish to pass at the larger events. We do the same when someone else hosts and it's never been a problem.

                                1. What is your style of entertaining? ~~ Causal
                                  Elegant soirée? ~~ No
                                  Backyard barbecue? ~~ Sometimes
                                  Just call a friend and say, "Hey, come on over" and figure out what to eat when you get hungry? ~~ No
                                  How many people do you like to have over? ~~ 6-8 Somtimes 20+
                                  How planned is it? ~~ Well planned.
                                  Do you ask people to bring food or do you prefer to prepare it yourself? ~~ Very rarely ask.
                                  Is food an important component of entertaining guests to you? ~~ Most of the time.
                                  Do you serve courses? ~~ Sometimes
                                  A buffet? ~~ Frequently.
                                  Family style? ~~ Rarely
                                  Is the food you serve guests different from what you eat ordinarily? ~~ Not really

                                  Maybe tell us an example of a party or casual gathering you've had recently.

                                  3 Couples, after Church. Soup, Chili, Condiments, 2 kinds of Cornbread. Pecan pie, Frozen Strawberry Pie, Fresh Fruit (berries) Pie, Assorted Sugar Free candy. Coffee. ~ We had a blast!!!

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Uncle Bob

                                    While only slightly different than my own hosting style, I'd love to be a guest! And that's the point for me. If we all entertained the exact same way it would be dull and boring. There's no secret formula or one way to host any gathering just keep it friendly and inviting!

                                    1. re: HillJ

                                      And on top of that, you get that warm southern hospitality. ;)

                                      1. re: Uncle Bob

                                        Bonus! Not at all lost on me :)

                                  2. I'm not sure if my online persona has led on to this fact, but I like to have fun. Fun, fun, fun fun.......that's what I like and I enjoy to sharing whatever fun I might be able to create with both friends and family.

                                    Depending on the scenario dinner at the Jr. house can consist of anything, formal sit down dinners, with courses and served plates at your table or holiday buffet's with a dozen different chaffing dishes set up on the kitchen center island. During the summer I can routinely go through a tank of gas for the grill every two weeks. I love outside cooking on the grill and I love the challenge of seeing just how many things I can actually cook on the grill. It truly is endless if you try hard enough.

                                    We entertain friends or family at the house at least 2-3 times per month. That's not including just immediate family members who might be over for Sunday dinner etc.

                                    When I was a bit younger and had more energy and ambition we had started a New Years Day tradition at our home. It grew into 125+ people coming over for all day dinner that included Filet Mignon and Lobster Tails for all. All food 6+ appetizers and 10+ entree's served buffet style all cooked by myself. It started as just immediate family but it kept growing each year......eventually we had to hire some help for busing and cleaning up etc. but it was an extravaganza which I truly enjoyed hosting. Life has been very good to me and I wanted to share that with my family and friends to start the new year.

                                    One other thing you can be sure of with a Jr. party, the bar is always OPEN and well stocked !!

                                    I never ask anyone to bring anything......except a bottle or deserts are always welcome.

                                    1. I think the most important trait of a gracious, unflappable host is flexibility. You need to be if you're to grapple with the last minute surprises of broken glasses, unexpected cancellations and the dreaded surprise babies who show up with new parents.

                                      So how I entertain is really dependent on whom I'm entertaining and what I'm trying to accomplish. I recently hosted a last-minute wine and charcuterie party for 6 folks that I wanted to get to know better after meeting them as guests of guests at my 40 person Christmas cocktail party where I spent as much time working on painstakingly-prepared hors d'oeuvres as I did meeting new faces. In the upcoming weeks I'm planning a casual potluck through a group email circulating amongst mutual friends, but I also have a much larger Mardi Gras masquerade planned for the end of the month requiring guests to RSVP. Though the vibe will be much more casual than Christmas, most of the food will be served buffet style with a small selection of passed hors d'oeuvres, it's only to encourage people to give into the Carnivale spirit of conviviality and excess. Which is why we have confetti cannons set to go off sporadically throughout the evening. There's nothing more excessive than having to clean up an apartmentful of confetti when you're hungover.

                                      If I were to try and search for a common theme in my entertaining, it's that preparing food that nourishes, surprises and entertains my guests is almost as important as making them feel welcome in my home. In fact it's how I try to make them feel welcome in my own way and out of my own efforts. I do keep snacks and wine on hand for the occasional surprise visitor, but it's far more rewarding to know your guests are happy and full because of something only you could give them.

                                      1. Depends on who I am inviting.
                                        I have two friends in town that I can very much call spur of the moment and say, "I am making x for dinner, want to join us". We will likely sit at the table, use the Corelle (which looks as fancy as my bone china because I insist on white patterns for both), drink non-alcholic beverages out of everyday glasses, serve out of the kitchen where everyone grabs what they want or family style. Probably end the evening watching TV or a movie and playing with the children.

                                        I have a friend who comes over early to learn how to cook something. Typically this is for a theme movie night or a game night. We cook dinner/dessert, eat in front of the TV while watching our movie. If it is game night we might order food in and eat before playing several games.

                                        Then there are the friends who host us at more formal dinner parties. I have not hosted one yet because we just got a table this year but they do snacks/cocktails in the parlor, then four course dinner including dessert in the formal dining room. I am supposed to host one this month and I will if I ever get over laryngitis.

                                        Plus everything in between.

                                        12 Replies
                                        1. re: melpy

                                          I live in a vintage home and many of the homes in my area were built circa 1920's but what is a parlor? I have yet to see a parlor in any home I have been in. What exactly is it?

                                          1. re: MamasCooking

                                            a parlor is a living room to some non-US cultures. It's a sitting room in other places...but it's the common room in which people sit and socialize.

                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                              No wonder I have not encountered anyone here in the states referring to it as their parlor.

                                              1. re: MamasCooking

                                                you have, you just called it a living room or family room.

                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                  How does a sun room or Florida room differ?

                                                  1. re: HillJ

                                                    a sun room or a Florida room (or a lanai) is basically an enclosed porch or patio. Although it's attached to the house, it's not structurally a part of the house -- the exterior walls of the house are the interior walls of the sun room/Florida room/lanai.

                                                    A Florida room is also usually marked by some sort of window -- glass windows with screens, vinyl windows, etc) that makes it possible to close it off and use when the weather would make sitting outside unpleasant. Many are heated or cooled in temperature extremes.

                                                    A parlor/salon/sitting room is inside the structure of the house - a family room, living room, front room, etc...

                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                      I love these definitions! That's why I asked.

                                                      We call the front of the house the entry and beyond maybe 4 feet the great room and the sun room is an enclosed porch; used year round off my kitchen one flight of stairs down and attached to the house. That's besides the LR, DR and our sitting room would be called THE DEN :)

                                                      So interesting!

                                            2. re: MamasCooking

                                              I guess I meant living room. My grandma always had a parlor and a back room. I don't use my living room really as that but more as a library. I think of it more as function than architecture. We had one room that went from playroom to den to office in the five years we lived there.

                                              1. re: MamasCooking

                                                The parlor was commonly used in the 19th century for a formal sitting room, one that was usually reserved for entertaining guests. The parlor as common usage largely died out around 1900 even though the function of the room continued to exist under other names. The living room was the replacement for the parlor as people grew less interested in having a separate room designated for formal socialization. But ironically, the living room eventually became the equivalent of the 19th century parlor as people have now moved on to the family room or great room or den. Someday, I'm sure, the "family room" will be seen as the formal entertainment room while the family now hangs out in whatever the latest terminology will be.

                                                By the way, my first house was an old Victorian row house that had a formal front parlor and a "back parlor," which would have been used as the family sitting room. We always called it the front room and the den. Parlor just doesn't sit comfortably on modern tongues anymore.

                                                1. re: Roland Parker

                                                  Thanks Roland. I love the thought of sitting in the parlor or back parlor of a beautiful old Victorian. Feeds right into my love of luxurious things.

                                                2. re: MamasCooking

                                                  Many older (as in 1920 and before) have rooms originally called parlors. As mentioned, pretty much like a formal living room. Usually only used when guests came to visit. Often there were two... front parlor and back parlor, especially in the narrow "row home" style homes.

                                                  Here's a few links to show:




                                                  1. re: juliejulez

                                                    I grew up in a one story Queen Anne style in Petaluma Ca. on the west side built circa 1900-1910. I am pretty sure the huge room with bay windows in the front was built as a parlor. There was a front room with 12 foot ceilings, a built in curio cabinet, beautiful bay windows and a separate door from the huge front porch that wrapped around. No wonder I refuse to buy anything other than a vintage home. I am actually surrounded by vintage mansions of every architectural style here in my gorgeous old University Of The Pacific neighborhood. Mine is a modest two bedroom but as cute as hell. I love it! Your in real estate so I am sure you already know about the beautiful preserved expensive homes here and in Petaluma. Some of the old Victorians are on a par with many of the Victorians in San Francisco. They are that beloved cared for and pristine. Thanks for the links. I visited Mass. in the early 2000's (beautiful place) and I was just astounded at all of those huge two and three story homes back there in little towns like N. Uxbridge and the row homes in Boston are pure 150% class!

                                              2. My entertaining style is much like my mom's. Both spontaneous and planned. Spontaneous is friends and co-workers over at the house after work on a Friday, with snacks and drinks. Sometimes it evolves into dinner for some want to hang around and cook. It's a weekly occurrence. Planned is the annual Christmas Eve open house, with planning starting in November. Huge buffet, with me providing the main dishes and some will bring sides. Everyone brings the cookie tin that they received at the last Christmas Eve gathering, now empty, and the tin is refilled with cookies that me and the family has been making for the last week or so. No tin, no cookies!

                                                1. Geez, I have no style. I really like a good party, but we just don't do that as much as we should.

                                                  One of the very best parties we had was a Julia Child theam dinner. It was just after the movie came out and her books were everywhere. We hosted and provided the rules as well as drinks, wine, soup, and the beef. The rules were simple, bring a dish from one of Julia's cookbooks. There were 5 couples and it was a blast, everyone had fun making one of Julia's recipes and the beef bourguignon was spectacular.

                                                  If I had any style it would be that.

                                                  1. What is your style of entertaining? ~~ Causal
                                                    Elegant soirée? ~~ Never
                                                    Backyard barbecue? ~~ Very frequently. Well, actually grilling most of the time, barbecue some of the time.
                                                    Just call a friend and say, "Hey, come on over" and figure out what to eat when you get hungry? ~~ sometimes
                                                    How many people do you like to have over? ~~ 4 is often enough, occasionally a dozen or more.
                                                    How planned is it? ~~ Often not planned sooner than the day before.
                                                    Do you ask people to bring food or do you prefer to prepare it yourself? ~~ Our "every weekend" friends (one other couple) often bring something, occasionally most of it.
                                                    Is food an important component of entertaining guests to you? ~~ Usually.
                                                    Do you serve courses? ~~ Very rarely
                                                    A buffet? ~~ Often.
                                                    Family style? ~~ Rarely
                                                    Is the food you serve guests different from what you eat ordinarily? ~~ Not often

                                                    Maybe tell us an example of a party or casual gathering you've had recently.

                                                    The Super Bowl. I barbecued - two chuck roasts low 'n slow for pulled beef sandwiches, and pork back ribs - and also grilled 10 lbs. of wings. Some friends brought some other appetizer/finger food type things, we also had the usual cheese, sausage, crackers, etc. We had a dozen people here for most of the evening. Of course, that was for a game where no one in attendance really cared who might win. If it had been important, I'd have done a bit more, and probably had more guests.
                                                    Most common here is a summer evening on the deck with a few friends. At least one of the grills or smoker are at work, and the tiki torches are lit. Dinner can range from burgers to grilled pizzas to barbecue. If we're lucky, it's cool enough to sit around the fire as well. We have an almost standing weekend date with some friends (best friend from high school and his wife), and they are almost always part of whatever I mentioned above. If they are not here on a Saturday night, one of us probably is on vacation, had a wedding to attend, or some such thing.

                                                    1. What is your style of entertaining? usually pretty casual

                                                      Elegant soirée?nope ... maybe someday but we're juggling 3 young kids so that makes things tough

                                                      Backyard barbecue? - mostly at the cottage - nightly, in fact!

                                                      Just call a friend and say, "Hey, come on over" and figure out what to eat when you get hungry? sometimes but I don't call that 'entertaining'

                                                      How many people do you like to have over? anywhere from 2-10, depending on where (cottage or home) holiday, etc.

                                                      How planned is it? usually very planned because if we're entertaining at the cottage we need supplies to be handy, not 15 minutes down a winding road. At home we always host for holiday so have to factor in that the stores are open limited hours on certain holidays. Booze, too - we go through a lot!

                                                      Do you ask people to bring food or do you prefer to prepare it yourself? depends ... if we're hosting at our cottage I often ask people (another family with kids) to bring one meal of the weekend and maybe some of their favorite snacks or an appy

                                                      Is food an important component of entertaining guests to you? absolutely

                                                      Do you serve courses? not usually

                                                      A buffet? not usually

                                                      Family style? yup

                                                      Is the food you serve guests different from what you eat ordinarily? no... usually there's just more of it!

                                                      Maybe tell us an example of a party or casual gathering you've had recently: mostly just family and friends at our cottage in the summer - we host 4-5 weekends/summer. Also, we tend to host all family holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter) since we have a larger house. Meals are traditional but always fresh - I don't usually do pot luck or ask for contributions to holiday meals. We also do some brunches which can be simple bagels, lox, eggs or more complex with quiches, pastry, a roast. Again, 3 young kids (5, 3, 1) we do our best. I could see in the future having more lavish, larger parties when the kids are more self sufficient and no one will kill themselves on a wayward toy or piece of lego!

                                                      1. It varies. We rarely have people over for spur of the moment, super casual gatherings, with the exception of family. More often than not, the invitation is extended by email. Our house is 100+ years old with formal separate living room, dining room, kitchen (modernized of course), and a fabulous screened-in side porch. We generally have a sit-down dinner either on the porch (in summer) or in dining room, preceded by drinks on the porch or living room -- assuming we can shoo people out of the kitchen, which sometimes is hard.

                                                        Sometimes I pull out the good china & silver, other times it's everyday dishes and stainless flatware. Cloth napkins always. There are always at least 2 courses -- main and dessert. Sometimes we plate in the kitchen, sometimes we serve family style at the table, sometimes buffet, and often a combination approach -- e.g., if we barbecue steaks, they are plated in the kitchen, with sides served either family style at the table or buffet-style at a separate table. (Both our dining room and porch have an auxiliary table over on the side that we use either for additional seating when we have a crowd or as a staging area for buffet service.)

                                                        We don't typically plan on a potluck but often a guest will offer to bring a dish and we will accept the offer -- usually dessert or an app.

                                                        Most recent party: NYE dinner party for 9 (including ourselves, one-half of one couple got ill & did not attend), consisting of 5 "courses" -- (a) preprandial nibbles served in the living room, followed by a sit-down dinner in the dining room of (b) soup, (c) salad, (d) main course, and (e) dessert. Used the good china and silver but stemless wine glasses because the good crystal doesn't go in the DW. The soup, salad and dessert courses were plated in the kitchen. The main course was steak, plated in the kitchen, with guests helping themselves to sides served buffet style in the dining room.

                                                        Another example: Barbecue for 18 last summer. We had 3 tables set up on our porch. Dinner was served in 2 courses: a main course buffet laid out in the dining room, including a selection of 3 mains and a variety of salads. Doing it buffet style from the dining room was pretty much dictated by the lack of space on the tables on the porch to serve the meal family style. Dessert (home-baked chocolate chip cookies and brownies) was subsequently passed among the guests on the porch.

                                                        1. We're expats living in the Middle East. Because the weather is so nice for much of the year the most popular style of entertaining is an outdoor barbecue/grill.

                                                          Every now and then I'll have a more formal dinner indoors, as do our friends. But people generally save dressing up for balls, which happen frequently because of the dominant English nature of the expat community. We'll go to 2-3 balls a year. Long gowns are a must.

                                                          1. Ours is BBQ. We have a ceramic cooker that turns out great Pulled Pork(the real kind cooked low and slow overnight) Ribs to die for, and steak cooked at 600 - 700 degrees. Various salads to compliment: Potato, Waldorf(esp good with Pork) Mac & tuna, Onion tomato, garlic& cuke, and Brocolli Reunion. And fresh fruit for dessert. It always goes over very well.
                                                            We need to do one as soon as the weather cooperates. And the summer ones we add a pool also!!

                                                            1. I love to serve buffet-style. I've done this for large and small groups, dinner or lunch or brunch. I did it when I had a large house and luckily it's my favorite way to serve as I am now retired in an apartment and it's the only way I CAN conveniently serve. Recent example, Middle Eastern lunch for eight people. On dining room table, all the usual---hummos, pita, mini-spinach pies, cheeses, baba ganooj, tabbouleh, fatoosh, cucumbers in yogurt with mint, Kalamata olives, sliced tomatoes etc etc. On kitchen stove: moussaka and spanakorizo. Later on table: homemade baklava, date cake, fruit sorbet. Wine. Coffee.