Twelve for dinner... it must be simple...no last minute cooking...what to do? My table seats 8...need 4 more seats...dining room is too small...what to do? Everyone bringing a dish...how to set it up...what to do? Tablesetting...simple. What to do?
These were my chaotic thoughts this past week. We were the hosts for our monthly small group dinner and discussion. (We're discussing Crazy Love by Frances Chen...interesting perspective.) Twelve adults were coming for dinner and I had a lot of organizing to do.
The first question...what to serve? Hmmmm...Out come my favorite cookbooks... The Gasparilla Cookbook and Clarita's Cocina. (both local to Tampa). I decided to prepare a dish from my childhood... Pollo Cacerola (Chicken Casserole). Most Sundays, after church, my dad would take the family to a Spanish cafeteria in Ybor City, the Latin area of Tampa, FL. To my young eyes, Mercedes was a beautiful place ...not much to see on the outside, but inside there were Moraccan tiles, murals of the Spanish countryside, gorgeous antiques from Spain. The decor always made my childish fantasies soar...I was a Spanish senorita with a black lace mantilla draped over my long blonde hair... OK, enough about that!
My favorite dish, Pollo Caserola, was baked chicken with little round potatoes, diced ham, onions, garlic, and petit pois. (It had chopped chicken liver, too, but I never ate that!!!) The server, Henri, always insisted that I order my meal in Spanish...pollo caserola y pappas fritas. Even now, as I write this, I can smell the redolent spices of Mercedes. ( I was so sad that this was another memory I could not share with my kids...the restaurant burned down long before they were born.) The main course is decided...now to call the others and arrange for them to bring the rest of the menu... black beans, yellow rice, crusty bread, preferably Cuban bread, and a salad, plus dessert.
Next question... Where to seat 12 people? My dining room is one of those standard-sized rooms, designed for a 6- 8 person table. Well...time to flip the rooms. Our little used living room is BIG...
So, I moved the furniture around, added books to the built-ins, and made the dining room into a cozy sitting area....and the living room is now my dining room. I like this so much more that I am shopping for a BIG table to use in this space... For now I'll use the table for 8...plus a card table for 4. It works!
How to serve? Buffet style works best. We have a long counter in the kitchen...perfect for a buffet. Set up three stations...food, cold drinks, coffee bar. Three locations. It works!
Now for the fun! The tablescape....
With this many people, I decided to keep it very simple...black and white, basic flatware, and a simple centerpiece of small vases with 1 flower, each and flat tealight candles. Done!
At the last minute. we had a cancellation...only 6 at the main table...This view is looking toward the front door...you can see the new "sitting room" to the upper right.
Gerber Daisies are the perfect single flower arrangement. The vases are a mixture of tiny vases from Crate and Barrel and spice jars from Pier 1 imports. The pale green tealight holders are from Crate and Barrel...only $.95!
The napkins were recently purchased at Home Goods. The tablecloth is a length of upholstery fabric from JoAnns. (I should have ironed the folds out, but I was too tired...Hey, it was a casual night with friends! ) I like using fabric because there are so many more choices in patterns and colors. Sometimes, I finish the edges, sometimes I don't. The woven chargers are from WalMart. They look just like the more expensive chargers I have found in other home stores...and MUCH less money! The white plates (Pfaltzgraft) are some I have had for 20+ years. The flatware is Reed and Barton stainless. The glassware is Libby (don't know the pattern) purchased at Target.The card table was also dressed with upholstery fabric. The chargers were too big for the table, so I used one in the center. The vase was on the clearance rack at TJ Maxx for only $3. The small apples were rescued from a branch found in the trash at JoAnn's. The red tealight holders are from Crate and Barrel.
The tables were pretty...and simple! The food was delicious. The conversation was lively. Wish you could have joined us... Maybe next time!
Crazy Love photo: Amazon.com
Senorita Photo on Flickr: Jacqueline Roberts (artist)
Be sure to stop by Susan's at Between Naps on the Porch for a list of all the fabulous table designs. It's always inspiring!