Everyone deserves star treatment once in a while, and what better way to roll out the red carpet than with a celebrity-approved dinner party?
This past Friday marked Lea Michele's 28th birthday, and the "Glee" star celebrated with a cozy dinner party at home cooked by The Kitchy Kitchen food blogger Claire Thomas.
With a menu of elevated comfort food such as cauliflower brie soup, burrata roasted tomato lasagna and chocolate devil’s food cake, Thomas pulled off a casual chic party that thrilled Michele. Read on for Thomas’ tips and recipes on how you can replicate the glamour at your next dinner party.
Know your limits. "Whenever someone wants to throw a dinner party and impress people, there's this impulse of, 'Oh, I have to do something fancy and new,'" Thomas told ABC News. "But that's one of the worst things you can do."
Instead, Thomas recommends picking the things you love to make and you know you're really good at. That way, the dishes are tested and foolproof.
"When I'm experimenting and trying something new, that's when the kitchen fails happen," she admitted. "So that's why I never do that for a party."
Prepare as much as possible in advance. "I use a rule of three-to-one, so for every one recipe I have to serve hot and a la minute [prepare at the last minute], there are three recipes I can make ahead or serve straight from the fridge that are really basic," Thomas advised.
For Michele's party, Thomas prepared the cauliflower brie soup and crostini the day before, simply having to reheat before to serve.
"I'm also a heavy investor in the cheeseboard. If I want it to feel fancy, I'll take a full bunch of grapes and roast them on the vine with olive oil and salt," Thomas said. "Then, people can pluck a roast grape and eat it with their cheese, and it looks fancy and I didn't do any work."
Thomas also recommends making a big batch of a simple cocktail to easily pour for guests as soon as they walk in.
"If people have something in their hands, it puts them at ease and they can relax and feel like it's a party. It immediately sets the tone," she said.
Accept offered help. Thomas is all for the buddy system. "Ask a girlfriend to come over an hour early to drink a glass of wine and help set up," she recommended. "It makes such a difference, and it's nice to know that when the first guest arrives, having three people will already make it a party."
She also highlighted dessert as an easy course to pass off to friends who offer.
Use plating to elevate the food. "If you ever eat at a restaurant there are a lot of little bits and pieces on a plate. It's very rarely just a pasta," she explained. "It's a pasta with an oil and a fresh herb and a shaving of something. Those little layers of garnishes elevate the plate all of a sudden and make it look extra loved."
For Michele's dinner, Thomas enhanced the simple sautéed mushrooms on crostini with a drizzle of truffle oil, shaved parmesan and some finely-chopped fresh thyme.
As for the actual plates themselves, Thomas recommended unusual elements.
"When the soup course came out, I didn't just put the bowl on the table, I put it on a wooden board with bread and sea salted butter that felt really rustic and pretty,” she said. “It’s the little extra amount of work that typically you wouldn't make for yourself.”
Plan fun party elements. For Michele’s party, Thomas focused on the wine as an opportunity to take the drinking to the next level.
“I thought it would be really cool to have someone pour the wine and walk them through why we’re drinking the wine with this meal. It was sort of a really impromptu, totally casual tasting,” she recounted. “So if you have a friend who’s a bit of a wine nerd or likes wine, ask them, ‘Hey, will you do me a favor and pick out the wine that goes with this meal and then tell us about it?’ It creates this sense of intentional dining, which is what makes it special. It’s really fun to do with super inexpensive wine, too.”
Try Thomas’ recipes from Michele’s birthday at your next dinner party:
Sautéed Mushroom and Herbs Roasted Garlic Crostini: Click here for the recipe.
Cauliflower Brie Soup: Click here for the recipe.
Burrata Roasted Tomato Lasagna: Click here for the recipe.
Chocolate Devil's Food Cake: Click here for the recipe.
Sangria Blanca: Click here for the recipe.