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Some dinner parties require a more formal protocol. For example, a military dinner will have strict guidelines as to where personnel will sit. If you are hosting a client dinner, you might also prefer a more formal arrangement. Even in a casual setting, you can choose to follow protocol to honor a special guest. The below description is based on a social party (vs. business), a rectangular table, and includes both men and women:

When hosting a dinner party, where you place your guests around the table is a crucial element for the success of your event. You presumably put thought into who you invited to the gathering. Do not stop there. The placement of each person around the table is something that should not be thrown together at the last minute.

I love entertaining friends and family in my home, especially during the holidays. But I must admit, it can be a bit overwhelming hosting a dinner party in the stage of life with little ones running around. The cooperation I receive from my toddlers is a significant factor in how efficient I am on a daily basis. Add in hosting a party, and it can be overwhelming. If you find yourself wanting to gather friends for a festive evening, here are my tried-and-true tips for entertaining with young children:

Planning a party can be fun, but do you know the best way to ensure everything runs smoothly? Have a rehearsal for your party. Yes, you heard correctly. You have spent a great deal of time planning your theme, creating your guestlist, and delivering your invitations. Now is the time to do a mock rehearsal which will allow you to create an action list of outstanding items around your home that might need attention. It also helps solidify any last-minute details.

These thirteen tips will get your through any dinner party. Here is a quick refresher. 

1. Leave The Cocktail Glass Behind:

If you are attending a dinner party, there may be cocktails offered before the meal begins. When the hostess signals it is time to head to the dining room, leave your drink behind. Why? The dining table has been pre-set with the glasses you will need and adding another to your place setting will only clutter the minimal real estate in front of you. Your palate is another reason to leave the cocktail behind. Many hostesses go to great lengths to pare wine with the food being served. Once seated at the table it is time to switch to wine or water.

You just received an invitation to a party, and the attire says: Shabby Chic; Razzle Dazzle; Cowboy Couture. What??? Word to hostesses: when listing the attire on the invitation for a party, make it clear. We do not want our guests to solve a riddle to understand what is expected of them. There is a phrase I like to quote, “To be unclear is to be unkind.”

Table manners are the area in which I receive the most questions, but it is introductions that have people the most baffled. After I explain the correct way to conduct an introduction, I often get that starry-eyed stare that tells me, “I really don’t understand what you just said.” To help all of us, I have broken down the process into a simple format. Before I proceed, let me say this. Do not let a lack of confidence in managing an introduction keep you from DOING an introduction. Even if you are unsure, most people do not care.

When attending a party, there are certain expectations we have of our hostess. We appreciate everything she has done, but we do assume there will be food, drinks, a clean bathroom, and a home that does not smell like the local pet store. What some people forget is there are also expectations of the guest. When a hostess plans a party, a great deal of time is spent deciding who she will invite. What group of friends go well together?

Have you ever seen someone walk into a party looking scared, so unsure of themselves, and then watched them slink off to an obscure corner? Their body language screamed, “I wish I was anywhere but here!”

You are invited!!! There is something special we feel when we receive an invitation. It is the anticipation of a celebration, the excitement of choosing what to wear, but more importantly, it is the affirmation that tells us, “I was chosen!” We know a hostess has responsibilities to ensure her party is a success, but did you know there are expectations of the guests? And your first job begins when you receive an invitation that says RSVP. Follow the six steps below and the hostess will be singing your praises!

  • Cecelia Zook

Braised Short Ribs Taste Test

Happy Foodie Friday! This recipe comes courtesy of Penny and Eleazar Martinez.

We hope you enjoy!

I have one word to describe this recipe: WOW! My husband got home while the ribs were cooking in the oven. He was on the phone with someone, but right when he walked through the door, he stopped in mid sentence and his jaw dropped because the house was filled with the smell of ribs!

I can confidently say that the braised short ribs is the best meal I have ever cooked. I have never made ribs before, and I have to admit, I was a little intimidated before going into this recipe. Not only were the ribs incredibly delicious, but it turned out to be very simple to make. If you're not very experienced with chopping, I do recommend giving yourself a bit of time before to get all of your ingredients together. That way when it's time for you to start, everything is ready to go!

Braised Short Ribs
Download PDF • 2.49MB

Makes 16 servings

Preparation Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 2.5 hours


*5 pounds bone-in beef short ribs, cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces

*Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

*3 tablespoons vegetable oil

*3 medium onions, chopped

*3 medium carrots, peeled, chopped

*2 celery stalks, chopped

*3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

*1 (750 ml) bottle dry red wine (preferably Cabernet Sauvignon)

*1 tablespoon tomato paste

*10 sprigs parsley

*8 sprigs thyme

*4 sprigs oregano

*2 sprigs rosemary

*2 fresh or dried bay leaves

*1 head of garlic, halved crosswise

*4 cups low-salt beef stock


*Preheat oven to 350F.

*Season short ribs with salt and pepper.

*Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high.

*Working in 2 batches, brown short ribs on all sides, about 8 minutes per batch.

*Transfer short ribs to a plate and pour off all but 3 tablespoons drippings from pot.

*Add onions, carrots, and celery to pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until onions are browned, about 5 minutes.

*Add flour and tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until well combined and deep red. About 2-3 minutes.

*Stir in wine, then add short ribs back in the pot with all those good juices!

*Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium and simmer until wine is reduced by half, about 25 minutes.

*Add all herbs to pot along with garlic.

*Stir in beef stock.

*Bring to a boil, cover and transfer to oven.

*Cook until short ribs are tender, 2–2½ hours.

*Transfer short ribs to a platter.

*Strain sauce from pot into a measuring cup.

*Spoon fat from surface of sauce and discard.

*Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

*Serve in shallow bowls.

Recipe and Taste Tester - Cecelia Zook