When I was invited to attend an intimate dinner party at Thelma on Clinton, I jumped at the opportunity to see how chef Melissa O’Donnell entertains in her small space. Working from a two burner kitchen, she walked us through the making of a multi-course meal as we sat at the bar. In between bites I was able to pick up some solid entertaining tips I can’t wait to put to use in my own (very small) space.
Take stock of the space you have to work with and make the most out of it. Don't let preconceptions of what you "need" to have to make a great meal limit your vision for the menu. Our entire 6 course meal was made and prepared in a kitchen with two burners, a half convection oven, a Crock-Pot (or slow cooker), a blender and a food processor.
Enlist a helper. Unless you’re hosting a college reunion or a perfectly balanced couples dinner party, chances are you may have someone who doesn’t know anybody. If your friend isn’t a natural social butterfly, have them help you out. Many an introvert would happily choose to spend 20 minutes stirring the risotto over chatting about the weather. Even if your kitchen is small you can set your pal up with a workstation that will help you get dinner off without a hitch.
Get creative with presentation. Did you realize the day of the party that you don’t have perfectly matched serving bowls? Not a problem, bust out your Pyrex or Mason jars and make them do double duty as unique serving dishes.
Find inspiration in your surroundings. From menu, to decor, to conversation, you can look to where you live for dinner party inspiration. Thelma’s Fall menu was inspired by the multi-ethnic, ever changing Lower East Side and a love of urban homesteading. From a smoky Mezcal cocktail inspired by the old men on the corner with their cigars, to raw vegan falafel, you can see the imprint of the neighborhood on every dish. Look to your surroundings for a fascinating and organic way to pull your event together.
Surprise your guests with details that reflect your interests. At the end of the night we got to take home some of the hand soap, candles, and preserves made in house. No need to go all out on homemade gifts for your guests (if you do want to, check out this easy soap tutorial), but have nice touches around the space that show off your interests or hobbies. Why not show off that new sassy cross stitch you finished, fill your playlist with the up and coming bands you’ve discovered, or even drop in some unknown facts about what the food you're serving?
Have fun! One of the major benefits of a small kitchen and living space is that you can be present with your guests the entire time. Make the most of the communal space and invite your guests into the entire dinner party experience. Cook food you’re proud of, tell a story, and enjoy the evening to the fullest!