Martha Stewart shares dinner party entertaining tips and tricks

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By Erica Chayes Wida

You don’t have to be Martha Stewart to throw an epic dinner party.

But if you are throwing a get-together soon, a few tips from the domestic maven herself probably wouldn’t hurt. And while it would be great to simply transform into the multitasking TV personality for a night to feed a glamorous feast to Snoop Dogg, Blake Lively and the rest of Stewart’s cool friends, that’s not likely to happen anytime soon. However, there are plenty of other ways to entertain like a boss — and that’s according to Stewart herself.

Stewart sat down with TODAY Food to dish on where she draws inspiration for her dinner parties, how she decides what to make and her favorite tip for keeping all guests happy.

Choose dishes that reflect the season.

Stewart told TODAY Food that she loves making stews and Brazilian beef dishes with rice once the weather gets cold enough. In the summer, when she’s entertaining on the lawn at her house in East Hampton, New York, she roasts lobsters and serves fresh guacamole with blue margaritas.

For winter entertaining, Stewart recommends warm, hearty stews and soups because they’re usually one-pot dishes that can be prepared in a slow-cooker or pressure cooker while you relax and enjoy a cocktail with guests.

Stewart’s absolute favorite wintry dish? An oxtail stew. Oxtails are really just meaty pieces from the cow’s tail and they become wonderfully tender when cooked correctly. You’re not likely to find them at a lot of regular grocery stores, so head to a reputable local butcher.

If you still can’t find oxtails, a classic dish like beef bourguignon is always delicious and surprisingly easy to prepare for a crowd — which is why it’s Jennifer Garner’s favorite Ina Garten recipe.

Martha Stewart's Ramen Noodle Soup with Shiitake Mushrooms

Nathan Congleton/TODAY

Some of Stewart’s favorite food markets are in Barcelona, Morocco and Milan. But you don’t have to travel far and wide to find an interesting idea for a dish. Pick something new in the spice aisle or choose a fresh herb that smells particularly good to you that day, Google some recipes with that ingredient and go from there.

Pick a fun theme.

If there’s one thing Stewart does extraordinarily well, it’s seamlessly putting together a bunch of different elements to create harmonious magic — whether she’s organizing her closet or preparing the kitchen for a safe and meticulous day of cooking, she’s got it all down to a science. And her dinner parties are no different.

To master that Stewart touch, picking a theme for the night is essential, that way any host can tailor extra elements around something specific.

“Definitely theme it,” Stewart told TODAY Food. “I’m anxious to make a Moroccan [dinner] and a really good Indian dinner with all the condiments and all the sauces … I want to do all kinds of curries.”

Easy Slow-Cooker Curry


When preparing a dinner party for guests, Stewart goes all out with making sure that her theme — based around the food, of course — plays out, even with a simple detail like cutlery and serving bowls (or lack thereof). When serving Indian food, Stewart told TODAY Food that she would let friends use naan as bowls to serve the curries in and make the whole dining experience more interactive by letting her friends customize toppings.

Picky eaters? Set up stations.

Planning a menu around guests with a variety of different diets and allergy restrictions can be difficult. Whether it’s a big bash or just brunch, setting up stations can take some of the guesswork (and headache) out of putting a great dinner together. Similar to a buffet, little stations keep people moving a bit and they can return at their leisure for seconds — or thirds.

“I like to do stations. They’re lots of fun and people love that,” Stewart told TODAY Food.

But you don’t need to hire a caterer to create over-the-top food displays while entertaining. If you don’t have a ton of room, start small with one station reserved for appetizers and hors d’oeuvres, another for the main course, one for sides or salads, and a table for drinks. They will definitely be enough to keep the party going. Setting up stations away from the main eating area will create more room for table decor and allow you to easily place labels near dishes suitable to different guests’ needs.

“Take any dish and you can make it into a station,” Stewart told TODAY. “Do a soup station, a stew station, an omelet station — you can cook omelets for your friends. And it’s a lot of fun, too. And people like that variety a lot.”

Variety is certainly Martha’s spice of life!


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