The Progressive Dinner Party

The holidays tend to leave many of us vowing to stay indoors until spring, hibernating under the umbrella of party burnout.  However with a little help from your friends, you can continue to entertain all winter long with a party style that allows everyone to share in the preparation. 

The progressive dinner is a winter favorite of mine because it carries little expense, requires very little planning and allows everyone involved to share in the hosting responsibilities.

The concept for a progressive dinner is simple: You eat and drink your way from house to house of each person “attending” the dinner.

House A: Appetizers and cocktails are served.

House B: The entrée is served.

House C: The dessert (and optional digestifs) is served.


Planning the Party

When planning your progressive party, be mindful of the following:

1. Keep an eye on location, trying to avoid spreading yourself across town (or using cars). This party style works especially well for friends who live close to one another either in a neighborhood or an apartment building. 

2. If driving is necessary, plan your transportation in advance by booking taxis or agreeing on a designated driver.

3. Try to keep to a schedule of one hour per course, with the lingering taking place at the last venue. Once you get off schedule, it is nearly impossible to get back on track, leaving all the subsequent courses paying the price.

4. There is no time to fuss about in the kitchen with this party, so be sure to set your menu around recipes that will not suffer if you are delayed in arriving for your next course, and that can be served upon arrival.

5. Set your table before you leave, as this will allow you to arrive ready for service. 

6. The most challenging spot to host is the entrée (as it is likely served warm), so be sure to assign this role to a motivated host.

7. Keep it relaxed, engaging and fun. The progressive dinner is casual entertaining at its best. 


A Progressive Dinner Menu

Progressive menu planning is simpler than you may think. Here are some fabulous menu ideas that have been showstoppers for us, and that we will be featuring again on our next progressive evening out.


House A:  Cocktails & Appetizers

You can make both of these appetizers ahead; one sits warming on the stove, while the other can be assembled in advance.

Christmas Bliss Toast served with a  Parsnip Soup, or Alice Waters’ simple Goat Cheese Salad.


House B:  Entrée

Your main dish need not be meat-centered, or large. Either of these warm dishes are good options for wintertime entertaining (especially when paired with a full-bodied red that will help keep you warm).

A hearty Ratatouille , or for bigger appetites, a Hedgehog Mushroom and Turkey Pot Pie, served with a hearty red wine.


House C:  Dessert & After-Dinner Drinks

Keep the dessert simple, yet delicious. Because this is the last stop off of the night, lingering is guaranteed, so be sure to have tea and coffee available, as well as two stronger alternatives, like these below.

Peruvian Pear Cobbler Cocktails, or for something warm, spiked Mountaineer's Spiced Cocoa, paired with a Hazelnut Tart with Espresso Cream