Set the mood for a dinner party with Punch Brothers and Feist

147873 articles in the archive and more added every day

Set the mood for a dinner party with Punch Brothers and Feist

Published Wednesday, February 27, 2013   |  871 Words  |  

It's a rite of passage of adulthood, like incorrectly filing your taxes and nearly being audited by the IRS or spending way too much money on organic honey -- it's time to throw a dinner party.

The dinner party represents a chance, not only to gather with family or friends, but to celebrate your independence.

You have your own place complete with appliances with which to make food and furniture upon which your closest friends -- or the neighborhoods and co-workers who annoy you the least -- can eat said food and enjoy a meal together.

Truth be told, dinner parties can be a lot of fun, dare I say a blast, provided you're not the one throwing it.

To the guest, your dinner party responsibilities are pretty spartan: Don't show up empty-handed or otherwise act like you were raised in a barn. Easy, right?

For the host, the responsibilities are varied and extend well beyond showing up with an average bottle of wine in tow.

First and foremost, there is the menu to considerate. The food has to be sophisticated enough to impress your guests and demonstrate that you are somewhat handy in the kitchen but still appealing to the average palate.

In other words, you're shooting for something classier than Steak-umms and ice cream sandwiches but less pretentious than three different preparations of sea urchin or beef tongue sliders.

While those dishes may be tasty if well-executed, don't be surprised if some of your guests blanche at the notion of eating thin slices of slow-cooked muscle.

Decor also is essential, but that's why they made Pinterest. I've got nothing for you on that.

But last, and perhaps most important, the dinner party host has to emcee the night's festivities and, if worse comes to worse, play peacemaker.

In other words, it's your job to keep dinner conversation on light, tension-free topics such as sports, good books or movies you've seen lately or '90s nostalgia.

No one has ever stormed out of a dinner party based on an argument over the artistic merits of "Salute Your Shorts" or "Hey Dude!"

Examples of topics to avoid? Anything political (this list is to include abortion, gun control, deficit reduction, et al), ex-girlfriends, ex-boyfriends and the "real" reasons behind the Civil War.

It's also possible that your duties as dinner party hosts could extend to hotelier if one or more of your guests had too much lovely conversation -- or cocktails.

But if all goes according to plan, a dinner party can be a validation of your adulthood.

And if it doesn't go well, you'll be scrubbing odd stains from your carpet and trying to explain to your landlord how an argument over whole-wheat versus white pasta led to bloodshed.

Another often overlooked aspect of a successful dinner party is some great music.

Played at just the right volume, a well-crafted playlist will serve as the perfect musical backdrop to your dinner party. This week, we have just that: the perfect dinner party mixtape.

Seriously, don't underestimate the divisiveness of whole-wheat versus white pasta. It's a debate that has pitted brother against brother.

  • Punch Brothers, "This Girl" -- The chorus is undeniably catchy. Good luck not humming it all day.
  • Beirut, "A Candle's Fire" -- A record I wish I had heard sooner. Love this song.
  • Noah and The Whale, "L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N." -- The kind of song makes everyone stop talking and say, "What is this?"
  • The Lone Bellow, "Tree to Grow" -- Simply beautiful.
  • Kings of Convenience, "Me in You" -- This song has actually been shown to reduce one's blood pressure. OK, maybe not, but it's still pretty awesome.
  • Feist, "So Sorry" -- A song I've long regarded as perfect. Totally flawless.
  • James Blake, "Give Me My Month" -- James Blake is known a lot for his electronic stuff but this is a straightforward, simple gem.
  • Michael Kiwanuka, "I'm Getting Ready" -- Sure, it feels like something you'd hear at a coffee shop, but that isn't such a bad thing.
  • Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at


    "Hey guy, look at what you're wearing ... no really, look"

    "Baz Luhrmann wastes my time and other bold predictions for 2013"

    "From PSY to Kate Middleton: Lessons we should have learned in 2012"