Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Casual Weeknight Get Together

Usually blogging is a priority with me, but this week has been a different story. I'm focusing on a few impending deadlines for work as well as a mad rush to get ready for my trip to Brussels next week (more on that later). I was able to take a few hours last night, though, to host a very small dinner party for a few dear friends who I met through my blog: Will Merrill (former design director at Hickory Chair who now designs a great furniture collection for Currey & Co.), Rory Carlton, and Barry Leach (who, by the way, writes a fantastic blog called The Blue Remembered Hills.)

Playing hostess on a weeknight is easy if you remember two things. First, don't wait until the last minute to clean and spruce up your home. And second- and this is key- have someone else prepare your dinner. In fact,
Chris Spitzmiller and I were recently talking about what a shame it is that so few people entertain at home anymore. Chris is super busy making those gorgeous lamps that we all covet, but he doesn't let that stop him from hosting small dinners. He simply picks up the food from a neighborhood restaurant, although he often prepares his own dessert. (Granted, Chris could serve gruel to his guests and they probably wouldn't care; more than likely they would be paying more attention to his gorgeous apartment.)

So for my dinner last night, I had my friend Mattie at
Cafe Lapin make the entree. Mattie will make all kinds of wonderful dishes and casseroles for you if you call ahead of time. I hear Mattie makes a mean seafood lasagna (ordered often by a few of Atlanta's top designers), but I opted for chicken and dumplings. All I had to do was bring in my Apilco white casserole on Monday, and Mattie had the dish ready for me late yesterday afternoon. How easy is that? I did toss a green salad, but obviously I didn't have to exert myself for that chore. Dessert was easy too- store bought Blackberry Cabernet sorbet with some of Mattie's delicious cookies.

Why am I going through my menu for last night? I guess because I realized that I often talk the talk about easy entertaining, but I decided that I should walk the walk. Having a weeknight dinner party is easy...if you have someone like Mattie to make the dinner for you.

If you live in Atlanta, you should definitely visit Cafe Lapin not just for lunch or dinner, but to talk to Mattie about catering. He's the one who made all of that great food for the Summer party I hosted for my sister. I'm ready to host another small dinner just to serve his seafood lasagna. Anyone care to join me?

Mattie can be reached at 404-812-9171 or

I realize that chicken and dumplings is not the world's most beautiful dish, but this one tasted beyond fabulous. We were all spooning up the sauce from our plates.

Mattie's cookies

The image at the very top was my four minute table setting. Nothing fancy here. My bar is always set, so I just had to throw some wine glasses on it and bottles of wine and sparkling water. That was a three minute chore. The only thing that does take a lot of time is laundering the dirty linens, something which I'll worry about tomorrow.


  1. A great post! I have large parties every year at home, but few small dinners... you're putting ideas in my head, and I think I like it!

  2. Chicken and dumplings?! I grew up on that, thanks to a Kentucky grandmother. Oh, I miss that.

  3. Stephanie- Do it! Do it! So easy if someone else prepares the food :)

  4. Aesthete- Mattie's version was delicious. Wish you could have joined us. Maybe on your next trip to Atlanta?

  5. It's always nice to be in someone's home. The dinner looks delicious and you were probably fresh as a daisy for not having slaved over a hot stove.

  6. Love Chicken & dumplings; a southern staple! What a great way to order in; I think I would luv to linger at the bar, how pretty & inviting!
    Enjoy your trip!!

  7. How perfect!
    You made it all look so simple and delicious...yum.



  9. In the past I have hosted dinner parties for 'the girls' or other couples, and I always slaved over the stove. This fall, I had a catered party for the first time - it was SO easy, it truly made entertaining so much nicer. Ordering a great meal from Cafe Lapin is a great idea - I am going to save this post (and somehow find a way to taste that seafood lasagne - is it on the dinner menu?).

  10. Love entertaining at home. So nice to read about a casual easy dinner party with good friends. What life's all about isn't it?
    And, no one could turn down chicken n dumplings...even if we're on a diet. LOL.
    XXOOXX's Marsha

  11. Aww, thanks everybody. When I was working on this post, I kept thinking about how plain- maybe too plain- the table was.

    Holly, call Mattie and see if he'll put the lasagna on the menu one night so that you can try it...and then let me know so that I can try it too :)

  12. Hi Peak of Chic:
    I do live in the Atlanta area & just recently gave a weeknight evening party! My Husband was home to do some of the cooking... so you can only! Next time, I'll be sure to check out Cafe Lapin. Chicken & dumplings - great wintery comfort food to serve. Love your bar as well. After my New Years Day open house,I'm now on a mission for one! And like you, I worry about the dirty linens afterwards. I think I'm going to treat myself & send them out! Really who has the time? Great post!

  13. Lisa- Def. check out Lapin. And good for you to have a weeknight party. Yay! Great idea about the linens; I was thinking the very same thing :)

  14. What I wouldn't give to taste those dumplings and cookies! Great party. Please stop by my blog and visit and sign up.

  15. mmm, even though I have lived in the south my whole life, I have never had Chicken and dumplings, gotta try that.

  16. Jennifer,

    So love Cafe Lapin. The cookies are divine & everything else. I would love to meet you next time I'm in Atlanta. I know you're super busy & my trips there are insane but I would just love to say hi.

    We entertain a lot but haven't done much during the week since school started back. But in the summer that is all we do! And, my husband is a great cook so I'm lucky to have him.

    Hope you are well.

    Gwen Driscoll
    Ragland Hill Social

  17. I must tell you that an evening spent in a beautiful house with an elegantly welcoming hostess, eating good food, drinking good wine and gossiping good gossip is one of the best ways to spend a few hours.

    I can confirm that the chicken and dumplings were probably the best I've ever had, the sorbet delicous as were the cookies - I'm not a cookie eater but I was last night.

  18. Chicken and dumplings!! Oh, I wish we still lived in Atlanta so my husband and I could have dinner there tonight. I'll just have to wait until my next visit!

  19. Clint4:50 PM

    Mattie is the BEST. Makes me want to stop by Cafe Lapin tonight for dinner! I also need a bar--can't decide if i should use my parsons desk as a bar or get a proper bar cart.

  20. I loved this post because I tend to be so all or nothing. We do a lot of casual dinners in the summer or I host luncheons for friends, but like so many of us I tend to hibernate in the colder months. Just this past December the Blizzard of 2009 squashed some very well laid out plans for a large party. It ended up being a few close friends and neighbors.
    The result was a wonderful,very comfortable,intimate evening.

  21. Anonymous6:11 PM

    Bravo! It's a joy to read about anyone having dinner at HOME! We send so much time preparing these beautiful spaces and should enjoy them to the fullest! Your choice of Chicken and Dumplings is perfect! If you insist on making the dinner yourself, make something ahead of time, like a stew which is only improved by a day or two. And, not every table needs to be a master piece. Having good friends around and making them feel comfortable and appreciated is the best, feeling any one can ask for! What a good way to start 2010!

  22. How fun! I am so envious that you got to meet Barry! Looks like a lovely soiree!

  23. Great post ! I love to host parties and to cook but you 're right it is not that easy time I will think about buying things from a chef ...
    Can't wait to read about your trip in Brussels.

  24. MMmm chicken and dumplings, sounds so cozy. I made them from a recipe once, but it was a more of a clear soup broth, not as creamy as yours. Must be a million different versions of this southern staple. The table looks lovely. It sounds like a nice dinner, good job!

  25. Mattie is amazing. His tomatoe tart is to die for...mmmmm. Great job on putting together a quick, casual soiree!