A pop-up dinner party is today's answer to overpriced chain restaurants with so-so fare. It declares that true character can only be found in a meal lovingly created by your two hands. The pop-up dinner party is one of the most intimate, thoughtful and creative ways to celebrate a special occasion, bid a fond farewell or give a heartfelt welcome. In short, this type of dinner party thrives on personalization. While it sounds complicated to tote out all the fixings for dinner plus the kitchen sink, a well-planned pop-up dinner is actually laughably simple. Are you ready to give it a whirl?
1. Theme it!
Are you saying goodbye to friends? Are you welcoming a new member to the family? Carefully consider the theme of your pop-up dinner party since it determines the food, the setting and the decorative touches.
2. List the Guests and Helpers
Your party features a sit-down meal. This is not the time to post a free-for-all Facebook invitation and leave the number of attendees to chance. Carefully plan your guest list, and follow up with those invited to get a clear headcount of attendees well in advance of your party date. Next, enlist your army of helpers. Who can help set up the table? Who can help cook? Who wants to go to bat when it is time for cleanup?
3. Determine the Location (and visit it)
A rooftop is a wonderful place to enjoy an early dinner that capitalizes on the sunset as a background. Be cautious! If you choose a rooftop sight unseen, you might have dinner next to someone's pigeon house. A beach sounds like a great destination for your dinner as well, unless fearless seagulls overrun it during an afternoon breeze that will blow the garlic bread right off your plate. In short, visit your target dinner destination and envision eating a meal from start to finish there. If you cannot visualize it, you cannot pull it off.
4. Get the Hardware Together (and some spares)
You need your plates, cups, glasses and utensils. Find two portable tables (one for eating and one for serving) and matching chairs, linens, napkins and table decorations. Bring extra supplies, just in case a tablecloth drops to the ground, a plate cracks or the stem of a glass breaks. Do not forget to also plan for your transportation. If you usually drive a Smart car, you probably need to borrow someone's SUV or truck to haul everything.
5. Cook the Food and Set up
Chafing dishes are a pop-up dinner host's best friends. They keep hot dishes hot and -- if filled with ice cubes -- keep the cold dishes nicely chilled. Gazpacho is an easy first course; trays topped with olives, cheeses and crackers are perfect hors d'oeuvres. Experiment with non-alcoholic drinks.
Pop-Up Dinner Q&A
- Do I have to cook the food I serve?
No, you do not. In fact, it is perfectly acceptable to only set the mood and let a local takeout restaurant handle the cooking. Just be sure to phone in your order in advance and designate a volunteer to pick up the food before the guests arrive.
- Can I serve alcohol?
If your guests are arriving by car, alcohol is not a good option. Remember also that in plenty of public places there is a 'no alcohol' rule in effect. Party at your own risk.
- Should I use candles?
I would stay away from actual candles, unless you are guaranteed that there is no wind in the area where you host the pop-up dinner. Opt for LED candles or battery-operated lights instead.
- Do I need a permit?
Your municipality determines whether you need a permit for hosting a get-together at a public place. Some require permits for parties over 12 people while others only ask you to request a permit if you will make use of public park facilities such as shelters.
More Party Talk by Sylvia Cochran