We’ve teamed up with our friends at Line 39 for a guide to stress-free entertaining any night of the week—just add wine. All of their wines are crafted in California with care, from bright, lightly earthy Pinot Noir to Rosé that’s bursting with strawberry flavor, and beyond.
You know those hosts who seem like they just “threw everything together”? Who glide around the room, wine in hand, laughing with guests—and somehow also manage to get a feast on the table?
They have a superpower you can have, too: They just did everything before you got there. I know this because my mom is one of those “effortless” entertainers (she was a caterer before she had me). She’d knock out most steps for making the meal over a few days so that she could enjoy her party when the time came. This also meant she could have people over even if she had been at work all day.
I inherited her love of cooking and having people over—especially on weeknights, because it feels like the ultimate unbuttoning of the collar. Back when I lived in Brooklyn and went into an office for work, friends would trickle in after their long days and open a bottle of wine, like an easy drinking Line 39 Pinot Noir, before the apartment door was shut behind them. These dinners felt perfect because of all the happy people crammed into a small apartment, not because dinner took much attention at all. What follows is an example of a meal I might’ve made; it may seem like too much to pull together after a full day’s work, but follow along for how I’d break it up.
Earlier in the week:
- Do all the grocery (and wine) shopping.
The night before:
- Chop all the vegetables for the salads, along with the nectarines for the crumble.
- Make the balsamic reduction for the grilled salad.
- Do steps 1 and 2 for the tortellini (prep the ingredients and toast the pistachios).
- Get out all the plates, utensils, and platters you’ll need, as well as the pots and pans to cook.
Right when you get home from work:
- Mix the ingredients for the corn salad in a large bowl; refrigerate.
- Assemble the crumble and refrigerate. Heat the oven.
When guests are arriving and mingling:
- Have someone else open the Line 39 wine (delegation is key at gatherings like these).
- Pull out the corn salad to come up to room temperature.
- Cook the grilled salad (or have someone else help).
- Make the tortellini.
While you’re eating dinner:
Even if you don’t follow this menu exactly, here are some tips to glean from it for any after-work feast.
Lean on seasonal ingredients
A peak-season tomato, cob of corn, nectarine, peach—anything!—will be flavorful right from the market, which means you have less to do to bring out their goodness. In some cases, like the corn salad, you don’t have to cook them at all—less pressure, less cooking, more fun. The same thinking goes for the wine, too. Line 39 picks grapes from where they taste best, which means you know the wine will be good.
Use ingredients twice
In this menu, pistachios are used in both the pasta and the dessert, and balsamic is used in both salads. Plus the peaches in the salad could easily be swapped for nectarines, which you’re already picking up for the crumble. This overlap not only streamlines your grocery list, but it’s also a simple way to ensure that the dishes taste like they belong together on the same table.
Have a little nosh
When people are trickling in and drinking wine, I do like to put a snack out in case people forgot to eat lunch, but I also don’t want to cook it. In this menu, I might skewer extra mortadella with something puckery from my fridge door, like green olives or cornichons. You could also make more of the lemony pistachios from the pasta for people to pick at.
Multitask or delegate
Absent a grill in my Brooklyn apartment, the grilled salad would likely happen in a hot cast-iron skillet on the stove. The tortellini would come together in a separate skillet on the stove, so I would likely man both skillets at once so everything’s ready at around the same time. The grilled salad would also be fine at room temperature, so I could make that one before the tortellini—or I might put an eager helper to work searing the elements for the grilled salad. It’s nice to make dishes that are flexible like this, because they won’t require your full attention with guests hanging around.
Don’t forget to heat the oven
I love slipping a fruit dessert (whether crumble or pie or pandowdy) into the oven while we’re eating so that there’s a bubbling, just-from-the-oven sweet when we’re ready for it, but I very often forget to heat the oven until I’m about to put the dessert in. Don’t be like me!
What’s on the table is most important
When I lived in Brooklyn, my table was too small to hold all the food and plates and glasses, but it always just added to the feeling of abundance. And I never had enough chairs for everyone, but I always preferred sharing seats and getting close anyway.
If the crumble is overcooked, or the steak is undercooked, or the corn isn’t as juicy as you hoped, it’s okay, and there’s no need to apologize. No matter what surprise happens, friends will leave buoyant that they saw each other, not critiquing the steak. And if they do give you feedback on your cooking…no comment.
What’s on the menu at your dream dinner party? Tell us in the comments!
Our friends at Line 39 make their wines by starting with the best grapes possible, all from the very best regions across California. Their commitment to sustainable practices shines through in their quality wines, and has earned them a spot as a Certified California Sustainable Vineyard Winery from the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance. A citrusy Sauvignon Blanc, a juicy Merlot, and a zippy Rosé Spritzer are just a few of their many offerings—learn more about their full lineup here.
Heads up: Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.