Savor Your Dinner Party

This easy dinner-party menu and simple prep timeline are the perfect ingredients for your next stress-free gathering.

Variety of dishes for a dinner party

Picture this: You’ve invited some friends over for dinner. You dreamed up a menu, composed a playlist, and imagined a flawless evening. The company will be delightful, the vibe relaxed, the food unforgettable.

You thought you’d planned the perfect amount of time to pull it off — and yet as your guests arrive, you’re still stuck in the kitchen, sweating over a sauce that won’t thicken, with fresh burns on your forearms, pawing through the fridge for the block of pecorino that you swear you remembered to buy. And — oh, is that the smoke alarm?

It’s time for a dinner-party intervention.

The real key to hosting and enjoying yourself? Prep as much as you can ahead of time so you can be relaxed and present once your guests come knocking.

With that in mind, we planned this menu’s make-ahead elements and the accompanying timeline to restore some sanity to your next soiree. Your friends will be able to enjoy more of what they really came for — time with you.


Lemon-Thyme Spritzer

lemon thyme spritzer

Makes 4 cups syrup
Prep time: one hour, plus 24 hours to infuse

Lemon-Thyme Syrup
3 cups water
1 cup organic sugar
1 large lemon, zest pared off in a strip
3/4 oz. fresh thyme, leaves and stems
1 ½ cups fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup mineral water
1.5 oz. vodka or 1/4 cup Chardonnay
Lemon-Thyme syrup, to taste
Fresh thyme stems for garnish

Two days before: In a small pot, combine the water and sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and add the lemon-zest strip.

Place the thyme in a quart-size, wide-mouth canning jar. Pour the hot syrup over the thyme. Let the syrup cool uncovered until it reaches room temperature, then cover and let steep at room temperature for 24 hours.

The day before: Place a fine-mesh strainer over a pitcher or bowl and pour the syrup through it. Use a large spoon to press on the contents of the strainer and get as much syrup out of it as possible. Stir in the lemon juice. Place in a quart-size canning jar and refrigerate until time to serve.

To serve: For each spritzer, measure ½ cup mineral water, 1.5 ounces vodka or ¼ cup Chardonnay, and thyme-lemon syrup to taste over ice. Stir and garnish with fresh thyme stems.

is a Minneapolis-based recipe developer and cookbook author.

Photography by: Andrea D’Agosto; Prop Styling: Alicia Buszczak; Food Stylist: Paul Jackman

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