Marisa has been vegan since 2004. She graduated from Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City in 2015. She works with brands to create photos and recipes using their products, she works with restaurants to create vegan dishes for their menus, and she does private dinners and events. She also enjoys hosting pop-ups around the world to spread the vegan love. To find out more about her visit www.marisaford.com and follow her on instagram @marisanate to see her latest creations.
Dinner parties are one of my favorite ways to connect with loved ones. Nourishing friendships over delicious food at a communal table can create a bond like nothing else. Hosting a dinner party can certainly be stressful, but it can also be a very meaningful experience. Here are some tips that I use to make every dinner party fun for all.
For starters, it’s natural and perfectly okay to be stressed. However, that doesn’t mean it has to define the evening for you. Even if stressed, you can chose to also be present, to engage, to laugh, and to connect. It helps tremendously to channel that emotional energy through an intention. An ongoing intention I hold is to nourish both body and mind. I want to prepare delicious, healthy food and enjoy it with others while we connect through a shared experience.
When planning the menu, it is important to have offerings that will wow the senses. Putting together a spread of delicious food with a variety of color and texture can help guests engage with the meal. Further pique your guest’s interests by mixing flavors like sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami. Once your guests take a bite, they will realize all the heart that went into your meal.
Be mindful of allergies and food intolerances of your guests. As a long-time vegan I know what it feels like to be left out of food celebrations and it’s not fun. Make something that everyone can enjoy.
Prepare and make as much food before the big day as you can in order to eliminate stress. Continue to remind yourself of your intention and don’t get too hung up on the details. Most items should be easily thrown together last minute or just need to be reheated so you can enjoy your time with your guests and the lovely evening that you have put together. It’s always fun to have one special dish for the wow factor, but otherwise keep it mostly simple.
On the day of the event, begin prep early so most things are complete before people begin to arrive. This will also make your house smell fab and inviting.
Create atmosphere. It’s all about the lighting but remember you want your house to smell like food when the guests arrive. Unscented votive candles are great on the table because they don’t interrupt anyone’s sight line. And obviously, everyone looks sexier under low light.
Music can set the mood, so think about the emotions you want to ignite and create an appropriate playlist. Click on the link below for one of my favorite playlists to keep a party upbeat and to inspire a little dancing. But conversations are paramount, so keep the volume low.
Once you have chosen a good group of guests come up with seating arrangements. Don't seat spouses and significant others together – boring. Help connect people and their hearts and minds by sprinkling in shy guests with the lively and funny ones.
Set the table before guests arrive. Details like flowers, dishes, and cloth napkins can all make the evening more memorable but don't overthink it. Your food and guests are the true centerpieces of the evening.
Welcome the guests by serving cocktails and hors d’oeuvres as they arrive. It is easiest to have one cocktail for the evening. Choose someone special to make the libation and play bartender. Ask them to arrive early so they can help hand out cocktails as the guests arrive.
Give guests some time to mingle, drink, and nibble on hors d’oeuvres, then begin the meal soon. Plan to serve the first course thirty to forty-five minutes into the evening. Have at least a few courses and plenty of food and drinks for everyone. Leftovers are great for you to have later, and running out of food is not very hospitable. Make enough to serve an extra two or three people, and be flexible in case someone doesn't show or if someone brings a guest.
Before serving the first course, speak to how you put loving energy into the food and describe what your guests will be seeing in front of them. Ask guests to eat with intention and to be grateful to the earth for providing the soil and the rain, the farmer for tending the crops, and all those who brought it to your local market.
Don't rush through courses. Ask certain talented guests if they would like to sing or do a poetry reading or even lead a short meditation between a course. This will make the evening more enjoyable for the guests and also allow time for you to prep the next course in the kitchen.
Relax. If your guests see you laughing and smiling I guarantee they will have a better time. Enjoy your charming guests, engaging dialogue, stunning ambience, and gorgeous food that you worked so hard to prepare.
Make a little takeaway to give to your guests as a memento of the evening. A recipe card from a dish you made or a slice of date nut bread in a pretty little bag shows your appreciation for being able to share such a lovely evening.
This is a great little hors d’oeuvre to serve at your next dinner party. It can be made ahead of time and is best served at room temperature.
Sweet Potato Medallions with Miso Tahini Beets
2 small red beets
3 medium sweet potatoes
2 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1 Tablespoon tahini
1 teaspoon white miso
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
pinch of sea salt
1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Begin by washing the beets and trimming the ends. Place beets in a small pot and cover with cold water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, adding water as necessary to keep beets submerged. Continue to simmer for 45 minutes to an hour or until tender when pierced with a fork. Drain and set aside to cool for five minutes. Peel by rubbing skin off with fingers or rubbing with a paper towel. Dice the beets into small cubes.
While the beets are cooking, wash the sweet potatoes and slice into 3/8-inch rounds. Place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet in a single layer and brush both sides with coconut oil. Bake for 20 minutes or until fork tender.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the tahini, miso, vinegar, 2 Tablespoons of hot water, and a pinch of sea salt. Gently fold in the beets and sesame seeds.
Top the sweet potatoes with the beet mixture and garnish with microgreens. Serve to guests along with a cocktail as they arrive for your next party.