We all have a vision of the perfect dinner party of friends gathered around the candlelit table, never-ending festive conversation, and boisterous laughter filling the room. The night flies by, and before you know it, it's after midnight and everyone is wondering, “When did it get so late?” With the right mix of guests, this can happen spontaneously; with some experience in entertaining, this perfect mix can be also be planned and created.
After dinner, I encourage my guests to leave their plates right where they are — “Don’t worry about the dishes, let’s have dessert!” — and we move into the most comfortable room in the house. I always pre-set this chosen, comfortable area with coffee or a fun after-dinner cocktail and dessert. I typically serve a casual dessert, or at least one that is easy to manage on the sofa. If I want the evening to last forever, I’ll put a big platter on the coffee table that is full of chocolate-covered fruit, cookies, candies, and caramels that can be continuously nibbled on as the evening goes late into the night. This open-ended dessert invites my guests to get comfortable and help themselves. Easy conversation and stories are certain to follow.
If you have a group that is ready for some fun, I like to play old-fashioned games that we all remember from when we were kids. “Spoons” is one of our group’s favorites. It is a game that can be taught in 10 seconds and it brings out the playful side of everyone. I especially try not to introduce any activity that requires too much skill or encourages too much competition. Die-hard competitors can dampen the evening!
If your group is more sophisticated, shake up the mood by serving a hands-on or make-it-your-self dessert that can be entertainment all its own. S’mores in the fireplace or fire pit can be a great post-dinner activity. You can use classic Hershey bars or make your own special chocolate bark with nuts and dried fruit.
By Jenny Steffens Hobick. Jenny lives in Concord, Massachusetts, and is an event and lifestyle expert. Visit her site at Everyday Occasions.
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