Stay Classy San Diego, and Have a Dinner Party

First step is the guest list: Choose a group that will be cohesive and can actually converse without sending the party into the awkward zone before the two-buck chuck kicks in. An even ratio of guys to gals is ideal, and it is best if they all have something overarching in common (all are on A.S. Council, all are in the Greek system, etc.). Five to eight guests are manageable and affordable.

Next challenge: the food. For beginning cooks, stick to easy, pre-made Trader Joe’s classics. Pre-cut salad, fancy frozen appetizers and some pasta doused in your favorite off-the-shelf sauce is your best bet if you’re the type of chef who can’t even flip an egg.

For the budding Julia Child, your greatest challenge will be the main dish. Thankfully, many chicken dishes are both easy and fancy, as long as you stick to one tried-and-true ingredient: butter. Whether you choose something like chicken cordon bleu or chicken florentine, these pop-in-the-oven classics will up the cholesterol one night for the sake of an absolutely scrumptious dinner. 

If you don’t know much about wine, choose a few bottles that have the most distinctive labels you can find — they will make great conversation starters. Or casually scrape off the signature Charles Shaw label.

It is important to get the timing right for cooking so that you just finish up as your guests arrive. This will allow you to greet your guests with the wafting smells of your buttery dinner — and don’t forget to greet them in an apron, preferably one that isn’t bloodstained with the chopping mistakes of hours past. To establish the right mood, crank up a classy playlist: think classics like Sam Cooke, Patsy Cline and Elvis Presley.

As your guests settle down, make sure to serve everyone else first — the host always eats last. When people finish up their dinner, immediately clear the plates and put them in the dishwasher or start hand washing them. You are going to love yourself in the morning when you aren’t greeted by a stack of dirty dishes in the morning. Let your friends help — if they want — after all, you just did everything else. 

 Dessert is easy — just pick up some sorbet or cute baked goods from Trader Joe’s and let your guests go at it. Conclude the night with a board game — never underestimate the crowd-pleasing appeal of buzzed-Jenga. With the right atmosphere, food and booze, your party will be a rousing success. 

And if it was truly memorable, everyone will want to do it again next week. Just make sure it isn’t at your house again.