Sit Down Dinner for 18

October 22, 2012

Our knitting group and spouses were treated to a sit down dinner recently.  We are a group of friends who have known each other for many years and meet downtown for coffee every Monday morning; some of us knit, some of us quilt, and some of us just come to chat.  It's a fun group, and when someone wants to throw a party, we are all for it!

Norma and Geoff are our hosts this evening.  It was early October and our weather here in Northern California hadn't quite turned yet so we started with drinks and appetizers on the patio.   Just as it started to get chilly we were invited indoors to their family room where they had pushed the furniture to the walls and replaced it with banquet seating down the middle of the room.

The cheery fall table setting starts with a neutral plummy colored tablecloth paired with hot pink and hot orange napkins from Norma's collection of Le Jacquard Francais linens, the French company that produces gorgeous damask linens.  Napkins rings are vintage Bakelite, an early plastic popular in the 40's.  Bunnies and chickies and elephants, oh my!  Such a sweet collection is fun to have on the table.

Also on the table was our hostess's collection of Japanese Imari porcelain plates, many of them different, but all coordinated.  Not many people have matching stemware for a crowd, but our hostess has a large set of pink mold blown glass goblets so we could quench our thirst in style!  Orange frosted glass votives were placed down the center.  The effect was stunning.

So really, how does one actually pull off a sit down dinner for 18?  It seems impossible I know, but our hosts seemed to pull it off with relative ease, at least that's what it looked like to their guests.  Besides being fearless ;^) many things need to come together to make that happen, such as being uber-organized,  keeping the menu relatively simple and doing as much as possible ahead of time.  Know that your guests will love an evening out no matter if some itty bitty thing goes wrong, they'll never know or care, it's all about getting together and having fun.

Party details:  Our hosts act as a team when getting the food on the table.  They had one helper in the kitchen and waited until we were all seated before plating and serving the first course soup.  With the 3 of them working together like this the main course was also easily plated in the kitchen and served at the table.  This ensured that all 18 of us started our main course at the same time, nothing short of a miracle!

A complicated menu would have never worked that evening.  They chose simple, elegant and gourmet recipes that could be done ahead.


Deep Fried Artichoke Hearts*
Fresh Salmon Mousse 

Cream of Cauliflower Soup with Crystallized Ginger (recipe below)
French Bread

Gourmet Shepherd's Pie
Shredded Brussels Sprouts

Greek Lemon and Coconut Cake

*A short drive from us in Monterey County is the the little farm community of Castroville, the "Artichoke Capital of the World".  Road side stands sell bags of locally made frozen deep fried artichokes hearts which are heated in the oven at home, a Northern California specialty.

Cream of Cauliflower Soup with Crystallized Ginger

The soup has the daring combination of the humble cauliflower and spicy sweet candied ginger.  This received rave reviews.

2 leeks, trimmed
1 T olive oil
2 T butter
1 celery rib with leaves, chopped
2 T minced garlic
2 t. curry powder
1 t. ground ginger
6 C or more chicken or vegetable broth
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 head cauliflower, cored and broken into florets
1 C half and half*
salt and pepper to taste
3 T finely chopped crystallized ginger, for garnish

1.  Slice leeks lengthwise and wash well.  Pat dry and thinly slice.
2.  Melt butter and oil, add leeks and celery and cook for 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook another 5 minutes.
3.  Stir in curry and ground ginger, cook over very low heat for one minute.
4.  Add broth, lemon juice and cauliflower.  Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until the cauliflower is tender, about 15 minutes.  Cool slightly.
5.  Purr soup in food processor until very smooth.  Add half and half through feed tube and more broth if the soup seems too thick.  Season with salt and pepper.
6.  Serve hot and garnish each portion of soup with a teaspoon of the candied ginger before serving.
*When I made it I substituted fat free milk and the recipe didn't suffer.

Do you want to poke around their pretty home?  I was certain you would so I took some pictures!

Built in dining room hutch painted pale lime.

Living room wall color is Artichoke Hearts by Benjamin Moore with a pair of velvet eggplant sofas.

The end of the hall leads to the well used open library with the pool beyond the French doors.

That's it for the parties, it was fun while it lasted!  I hope all the knitters are still with me and sincerely hope you have enjoyed these parties as much as I've enjoyed sharing them.  Thank you to all the hosts who have been so generous with me, so much inspiration and creativity is out there, I love that I get to share some of it in my blog.  Thank you for stopping by, next time it's knitting.
A very fun night!
Rene wore her lace shrug knit in Rowan Linen Limpur.

Linked to Open House Party with No Minimalist Here
and Tabletop Tuesday.


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  1. Your blog is an oasis of pretty -- thanks for everything that you share! :)

  2. Party for 18! Wow! It definitely looked so peaceful. I wouldn't have been able to pull it off. Thanks for the beautiful photos!! Love the table setting.

  3. I WANT those fabulous built-ins in the dining room and library!!!!! I MUST have them! Wow!!! What a pretty house! And I know it's no easy thing to seat and serve 18. I applaud the hosts for their sense of organization AND style. That table is set so nicely!!! I love the color scheme! I have never seen Bakelite napkin rings before. Cute...and all the colors are perfect with the plates!

  4. Wow! Another amazing setting for dinner. I always want to do sit-down for Thanksgiving, but we usually end up with 16-18 people. Makes it too hard to "pass the potatoes". You're right about keeping the menu simple for this many at a table.
    I'm going to bookmark that soup recipe. I love cauliflower anything!

  5. I have really enjoyed your party posts as much as the knitting. Thanks so much for sharing. I am local too, and love to see how/where you see the city too. Thanks again!

  6. What beautiful photos and those recipes are fabulous! It is fun to see people putting real effort into creating a wonderful dining experience for friends. Those experiences are priceless!

  7. What a lovely dinner with your friends! Thanks so much for sneaking some photos for us, their home is beautifully decorated!

  8. Such a lovely home and what a fabulous dinner party. Thanks for joining TTT. Hugs, Marty


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