M Loves M’s Tips to Throw a Last-Minute Dinner Party

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Summer is full of opportunities to entertain and Style Society blogger Mara Ferreira of M Loves M offers her tips to make your next impromptu dinner party as easy as it is elegant.


1.     Start Simple – Don’t feel like you need to make every single thing on the menu. There are plenty of appetizers that are easy to put together straight from their packaging – like cheese and crackers for example. When it comes to the main, pick a protein that will be easy to cook!

2.     Shop Fresh & Local, if you can – Quality always outshines on a table. Fresh summer berries will be incredibly impressive, as will a locally caught fish. Invest in something that has a story too! We love to buy our fish from these guys at the farmers market that catch their fish in Santa Barbara. They always have the best stories of their trips.

3.     Meal Prep – Do as much as you can before guests arrive. Make/assemble your appetizers, make the salad but don’t toss with dressing, prep the fish in the fridge so it’s ready to go, and have all your dishware and serving utensils ready to go. The last thing you want is to be hunting for a salad tongs while the fish is getting cold on the table.

4.     Enlist a Friend – Having friends that know how to set a table, pick a playlist, or make a great cocktail, always come in handy! They can help with entertaining while you’re finishing up the meal.

5.     Delegate – If someone asks to help with something let them if it means it will take something off your plate. Whenever someone asks to do something, I’ll let them take out the wine glasses, or let everyone know dinner is ready.

6.     Stress-Free Seating – A Good Rule of Thumb when seating guests is to put the more talkative ones in the middle and the more reserved guests by the hosts. When Matthew and I have friends over, we usually are on opposite sides of the table, and then will switch at dessert. It’s a great way to catch up with everyone!

7.     Leave with Something Sweet – People always love dessert so I can never forget it. When I’m putting together a party and don’t have much time, I like to take advantage of the hot grill. I’ll grab some peaches, cut them in half, brush with a little coconut oil, and grill cut-side down for 3 to 4 minutes until grill marks appear. Then I’ll brush the tops, turn over and move to indirect heat and grill for about 10 minutes until warm and tender. I’ll serve with a big scoop of French Vanilla ice cream and a few sprigs of mint. The peaches are sweet enough but if you wanted to add a drizzle of honey that’s always good too!

8.     When in doubt, have wine! Pick wine that you know everyone will love. Since dinner parties can go into the wee hours of the morning, I always stock up on my go-to delicious wine from Ecco Domani. Their Pinot Grigio is my favorite in the summertime- crisp, floral and so refreshing!