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5 Essential Items for the Perfect Dinner Party, and More Things to Buy This Week

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Montenegro amaro, a boba cup, and a slim water jug
Ellie Krupnick is executive director of editorial operations for Vox Media's lifestyle brands, and focuses on keeping Eater running smoothly. She previously edited Eater's shopping content, as well as lifestyle content on Racked, Mic, and HuffPost.

Throwing a dinner party is often framed as an aspirational exercise requiring a certain set of life skills. Especially around holidays, you’re bound to see articles about how to throw a great dinner party, the best foods to serve, the most impressive drinks to concoct, etc. But for those who observe the Jewish Sabbath and whose observance includes regular Shabbat meals with guests, throwing a dinner party is a basic weekly activity — and if you do it as often as my fiance and I do, you can get it down to a science.

He handles most of the cooking, while I handle cleaning duties. We stick with two courses, the first of which is almost always salatim-style dips and salads. He quickly washes the salad plates while I bring out the mains, so we have less to do at the end. We do store- or bakery-bought dessert (or have a guest bring, if we know them to be a strong baker), and tell everyone else to “just bring wine!” And we rely on several essential items that make it all run smoothly…

Things to buy, dinner party edition

  • Serving bowls of every imaginable size, from tiny bowls (great for olives) to massive ones (salads) and dishes of various depths and shapes (finding the perfect dish for serving asparagus, like this one, is one of my proudest achievements). Most of them were purchased at HomeGoods, an underrated godsend for cheap dishes.
  • A slim water pitcher that can be stashed in the fridge before guests come (no one wants tepid tap water) and isn’t too unwieldy to pass once everyone’s around the table. We use a swing-top one so we can store it sideways in the fridge — since hosting a dinner means the fridge is already pretty packed.
  • Disposable bowls and plates for dessert. By that point, no one notices the informality (in fact, it may be appreciated), and it saves you from extra cleanup. These are subtle and don’t scream “backyard barbecue” or “kid’s birthday party.”
  • On the other hand, having small cordial-size glasses for amaro or dessert wine at the end of the meal always feels like a special, unexpected treat, and it means our guests often come away having tried something new. Amaro Montenegro is a crowd-pleaser and not hard to find.

Things to know

  • One of the products caught in the crosshairs of the Great Plastic Straw Reckoning of 2018 was boba, which generally relies on fat plastic straws for sucking up those chewy tapioca bubbles. One alternative is metal straws, like the version created by Boba Guys. Another might be the Float cup, a forthcoming reusable plastic cup with an inner chamber to keep the tapioca balls afloat and a wide-mouth lid that lets you sip sans straw.
  • Shout-out to Bon Appetit’s roundup of restaurant tote bags, which is as thorough as it is insider-y.
  • Want to look into a crystal ball and know what cookbook everyone will be buying next year? Peep this, at the end of Elle.com’s new profile on Alison Roman: “Her next book, like Dining In, will focus on meals to impress and delight dates and friends.”

Update, May 29, 11:58 am: Looks like we won’t have to wait long: Alison Roman tweeted out the name and cover of her new cookbook today, and it arrives October 22, 2019.