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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

Lemon and Basil Crème Brulee Tart Taste Test

Happy Foodie Friday! This recipe review and taste test come courtesy of Penny and Eleazar Martinez.

Each of our Taste Test Reviews comes with the original recipe and the tester's notes/changes listed with the ingredient list in blue. We hope you enjoy!

There's nothing I love more than a tangy, sweet treat at the end of a fantastic meal. I am very rarely someone to skip dessert after dinner. As my husband and his family always say, "There's always room in the hotel for dessert!" I truly do not remember the last time I baked before trying out this recipe. My sister turned out to be the baker of the family, so when I'm with her, I never have to worry about one of the rooms in my hotel being vacant. After baking the Lemon and Basil Creme Brulee Tart, I have realized she might have some competition! This recipe was a breeze to make using two ingredients I have never tried together before: lemon and basil. They compliment each other beautifully to create a fluffy, tangy, creamy treat. In the beginning I found myself a bit intimidated since I have mostly only baked brownies out of a box, but then I realized how simple it really was. If you are an inexperienced baker like I am, I would recommend going over the recipe a few times to understand the steps so you can execute it without a hitch.

Download PDF • 1.59MB

Makes 8 Servings

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Bake/Cool Time: 35 minutes

Cost: About $15.00


*Pre-baked graham cracker pie crust/shell

*1 1/2 cups heavy cream

*1 bunch of basil, chopped

*4 egg yolks, plus one whole egg

*Zest of two lemons

*Pinch of salt

*3 lemons, juiced

*1/2 cup sugar, plus 3 tablespoons sugar


*Heat the cream with the basil over medium heat until hot but not boiling.

*Let the basil steep in the cream for 20 minutes, then discard basil and set aside to cool.

*Meanwhile, whisk together yolks, whole egg, 1/2 cup of sugar, then lemon zest and salt in a quart measuring cup.

*Whisk the mixture from the quart measuring cup into the basil cream until smooth.

*Strain through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any lumps.

*Place tart shell in a 4 sided sheet pan. Then pour custard into shell. Now add water to the sheet pan (1 inch high).

*Bake until just set but still slightly wobbly in center, 30 to 35 minutes. (I baked it at 350F for 35 minutes)

*Remove tart from sheet pan and set aside to cool.

*Prior to serving, sprinkle 3 remaining tablespoons sugar evenly over top of tart.

*With a culinary torch, evenly distribute heat until sugar is caramelized. (If you do not have a torch, you can broil in oven or just skip this step).

Recipe and Taste Tester - Cecelia Zook