Monday, February 25, 2013

Winter dinner party in a tiny house

My husband and I decided to have a Swedish dinner party. No, Sweden is not known for its food.....
No, this was not on our menu!
.....but we were having 10 people for dinner in February in our very small house, and we needed to think outside the box. We usually entertain in the summer and early fall so we can have people outside in our large back yard. In order to have people for dinner this time of year, we had to get creative. 

I adore the Portland Swedish restaurant Broder so we decided to give the cuisine of Sweden and a northern European theme a try, and ask our guests to arrive bundled up for the weather and dress in layers for cocktails outside and dinner inside.

I don't have a fancy dining room table. We set up an old paint-spattered gate leg table and a card table in our living room.

I borrowed an antique white tablecloth that used to be large enough for a huge table in the olden days, and it covered most of both tables. I covered one end with a green tablecloth from Target under the white one to cover the table legs to the ground. Making sure your tablecloth is that long on all sides gives your table a more elegant look.

For a centepiece, down the middle of the table I lined up a variety of woodland-themed decorations such as icy clear candlesticks with white candles (also borrowed), white mums in a short, clear vase, white tea lights in clear candle holders, some hollowed out tree branches with white tea lights made by a friend, and some little terracotta pots holding pine cones and moss. (see below on how to make). I had a vintage wooden mushroom my grandmother had painted, and I included that too. With white linen napkins and the blackberry plates I started collecting when I was young, it set a pretty table. Only I (and now  you) knew what lay beneath! 

To make the little pine cone pots, buy some tiny terracotta pots, and either paint them with watered down gold craft paint or leave them natural. Wedge a piece of floral foam tightly into pot. Find some tall pine cones, and either leave plain or stick some pearl stick pins into the cone. Glue the cone onto the floral foam with lots of hot glue from a glue gun. Find some moss outside or buy at the craft store, and glue that around the pine cone to cover the floral foam.
I covered the seat of our black metal folding chairs with four fake fur blankets I have, adding to the Swedish look. We had a fire in the fireplace and luckily our decor including Bill's antler collection and some bare branches added to the Northern vibe. We have an old piece of whitewashed weathered wood hung on our fireplace. 
Our front porch had white fairy lights on a shrub, leading to our walkway lined with white bags with snowflakes cut out in each one. We put white tea lights in short clear jars and set those inside and lit them. In our two urns, we planted white pansies and stuck some pussy willow branches into the dirt- only $10 at New Seasons, a Portland natural grocery store chain.

 To make the white paper bag candle holders, buy some white paper lunch or gift bags. Put the bag flat on a piece of heavy cardboard, and cut flower or snowflake shapes through all the layers with a sharp exact-o type knife. Open up and set a recycled glass jam jar in it with a white tealight. Use a long-necked lighter to light right before your party starts.

On our back patio we set up a bar under our canvas gazebo, covering an outdoor table and a small folding table with tablecloths and setting up some glasses, wine opener, clear glass bowl for ice (borrowed), and some simple cocktail makings including simple syrup and lime twists. 

I have two matching vintage tin pans that we filled with ice to keep the white wine, champagne and mixers cold. We offered lemon-lime club soda and fancy tonic water to mix with Absolut Vodka and Akvavit, very strange herb-flavored vodka-like liquor. Beware......

A few days before the party, we froze our vodka and Akvavit  in ice blocks with little white flowers, lemon and orange wedges and sprigs of rosemary like this:

For more detailed instructions for iced vodka from Martha Stewart, click here
 We made Swedish 60 cocktails with sparkling Cava, with the recipe from the Washington Post here.

We had some pickled vegetables in clear jars for appetizers. We laid a fire in our portable outdoor fireplace and turned on our outdoor heater. We set candles all over the space in various black and clear candle holders. 

Our luck held out and it didn't rain, but instead was a cold, clear night with an almost full moon!

It helped that everyone who came brought one course, with us providing the main dish.

We started out with the Swedish 60 cocktails (I thought they were awful, everyone else loved them!) with a wonderful shrimp on toast appetizer a guest brought. 

We moved into the living room to sit at the table to dine on the next course, salmon and potato soup, beet and green apple salad, Swedish caraway bread and a small glass of hard apple cider, the entire course provided by a guest. 

The main course was Swedish meatballs- not your Ikea type, but large, caraway and dill infused, served with lingonberry preserves and capers on noodles. We had delicious pickled beets and cabbage with it, also made by a guest.

Dessert was a meringue and pound cake layered confection with creme fraiche and fresh strawberries, created by a guest as well. Amazing!

We ended the evening with a nightcap outside under the almost-full moon by a roaring fire. 

What a fun evening! As one guest said of the experience, "Thank you all for such a wonderful eve!!! The food was fabulous... The ambiance was magical!!!!"

Just watch out for that wicked Akvavit will kick your a**! Skol.....


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