Grown-Up Birthday Party

When two of your best friends have birthdays that fall within a month of your own, it only makes sense to host a special birthday dinner for the girls. This year, that’s exactly what I did.

I love hosting simple, casual dinner parties, and try to do so often. To mark this special occasion I added a few extra touches to the usual routine. They weren’t difficult to pull-off, but they helped me achieve that “this is a grown-up birthday party!” feeling.

Here’s a behind the scenes look at how I pulled it off.

The first special touch: tarts! Even though they’re not that difficult, I never make tarts. Making something outside your usual go-to dishes tells your guests, “this is a special occasion.”


These tarts were savory ones – tomato & goat cheese – from Ina Garten’s Back to Basics cookbook. They were a hit!


A sneak peak at my workspace as I’m preparing the meal…I like to lay out everything I’m going to need before I start cooking. It helps me to organize my plan for the order in which I’ll be cooking things, and ensures I won’t forget that essential ingredient. What tricks do you use in the kitchen when preparing a multi-course meal?



Another helpful trick – I jot down a “to do in this order” list – set table, cook onions (since they have to sit for a bit), boil artichokes (since that takes the longest), put tarts in oven when guests arrive (so they’ll be ready to eat 30 minutes after the guests walk in, and can be served right from the oven)…you get the idea. It really helps me to keep track and stay on course.  



Another special touch – actually setting the table! With very casual dinner parties (among good friends) I’ll have my guests grab their own place mats and silverware and help me set while we’re having cocktails. For The Birthday Dinner I had set the table in advance, with special place mats and candles and mini-lanterns galore. The goal was to make the room feel intimate and warm, all lit by candle. It was beach-y (we all love the beach) with bamboo flatware and natural fiber place mats. I also had a menu at each place setting – a close up of it is below.



I rarely print a menu – so this really did scream “Special Dinner” to my friends. The fact that the meal was technically four courses (including dessert) also helped!


Here are the girls having a good time – admiring my printed menus while also teasing me slightly (and lovingly) for being such a “hostess nerd” (guilty as charged).



On to my favorite part – dessert! I made the gorgeous Pavlova from this month’s Gourmet, and it was by far the best part of the entire meal. I put sparklers in it instead of candles (it looked really fun, but I wasn’t quick enough with the camera to capture the sparklers while they were lit).



The dessert was the best part about the whole decor – proof that sometimes it’s best to keep your table simple and let the food speak for itself.



And finally…the remains of the cake. We did a pretty good job on it, considering there were only four of us. And – I must admit – the leftovers made for a delicious breakfast the next day (there’s fruit in it – so not so much of a stretch, right?).



I hope you found this inside look at my special birthday dinner helpful in planning your own dinner parties. 


Tell me: What extra touches do you use to mark special occasions? Please share in the comments below!