Entertaining At Home: Planning the Perfect Potluck

I love to entertain at home. It is one of my true pleasures in life. I am energized by the planning, the inviting, menu creation, deciding what plates and napkins to use, picking out the perfect flowers to place on the table and what music should be playing in the background – I love all of it.

But so often I hear friends tell me how the very idea of hosting a gathering at their home sends a wave of panic straight through them stopping the gathering before it even gets started. Trying to do it all can be overwhelming. My best advice – host a potluck gathering. Getting your guests involved in the preparation and cooking of the meal can help alleviate some of the pressure you may feel and allow you to have more time for aspects you actually find fun about entertaining at home.

Other words of advice to ensure a smooth potluck party: set the table with neutrals. Most likely you will not be able to control what color your friends platters and serveware will be, so don’t try to! By starting with a neutral base of plates, napkins and flowers, you create a welcoming neutral palette for any color or patterned plate that may arrive. Pasta bowls from Le Creuset are the perfect choice for a potluck gathering — the slight bowl shape allows for any sauces or dressings to stay on the plate and the white glazed stoneware is the perfect backdrop for all your guests’ favorites. Stack your plates on the table and allow for one or two extra in case a guest decides to bring a friend.

You will also want to have extra flatware and serveware for extra guests and those who may forget to bring a serving spoon for their dish. Hampton Forge offers an amazing selection of both in gold, silver, multicolored and even rose gold. Feel free to mix and match patterns, however, when it comes to a table I am still a purist — wood goes with all metals but avoid mixing metals unless your flatware combines them as well. Place your flatware and over-sized serveware, such as spoons and forks, in coordinating vessels so you can grab them as needed and to keep the table clear for incoming platters.

Inevitably someone will bring their addition to the potluck as ingredients not yet combined or in a dish not ideal for serving; be prepared by having several over-sized bowls from Golden Rabbit. The neutral taupe on white enamel pattern can hold a large salad, pasta salad or sliced bread, and adds a touch of whimsy to your neutral tablescape while still coordinating. Group condiments and utensils or raise up low bowls and platters with Architec‘s thick wood cutting boards to give your table height and additional visual appeal.

Once you have your table planned out, I always recommend the host make a main dish. It doesn’t need to be too elaborate or take too much prep work, however, a great chicken dish that can be cooked and served in your Staub Oval Cocotte is sure to be a crowd pleaser both aesthetically and to the taste buds. Did you know you can switch out the top finale to match the type of protein you are serving? Brilliant for a potluck where guests are typically serving themselves, don’t you think? I am going to need a few more! As the host I also like to provide a bread or muffin type starch along with the main dish and this year I have been obsessed with poblano corn bread formed into little corn stick from my Lodge Cast Iron pan. How cute are they?!

Round out your table by grouping clear wine glasses, available for all to easily serve themselves, and placing eucalyptus cuttings in coordinating muted metallic vases. And finally my most important piece of advice for hosting a potluck gathering? In the end it’s all about the conversations and memories created by entertaining at home than making sure everything is perfect – relax and focus on your guests and your potluck gathering will be a huge success!