Harvest Dinner Party
Well, that sounds like fun, doesn’t it? But before we get started on the details of how to throw a harvest dinner party, let’s define “harvest.” To our minds, a harvest dinner party could be anytime from late summer into December, depending upon where you live. This is the time you’ll be harvesting your summer and fall crops and enjoying ones you’ve preserved. Fall is uniquely suited for gatherings, with its cooler (but not quite yet cold) temperatures and holiday-like atmosphere. So pull up a haybale, and let’s get going!
Tips for Throwing a Harvest Dinner Party
We’re big fans of planning ahead, but with a harvest dinner party, we encourage you to allow room in your planning for the unexpected. This type of party is fun and festive, and should your guests decide to tell ghost stories around the firepit after dinner rather than sit at the table with their pie, go with it! That pie will taste just as good outside, maybe even better.
Decide your location. A harvest dinner party can be indoors or outdoors, depending upon the weather. You can start outdoors with an autumn-themed cocktail (a Mapletini is always a winner), then dine inside, or enjoy everything out on the patio or deck.
Stay seasonal. The whole point of a harvest dinner party is to highlight foods that are seasonal—to your area. Don’t read off a generic list (maybe carrots aren’t ready for harvesting in your garden yet), and if you’re unsure, visit a farmer’s market! Foods there are always in season, and we bet you’ll leave inspired.
Go rustic. Place some hay bales for seating or mix and match your chairs. Build a bonfire, and if a bonfire seems too big, go with a simple fire pit for s’mores. Have a pile of blankets and quilts on hand if the weather is chilly. They don’t need to match; they simply need to be cozy! And P.S.—hay bales can be a little itchy, so throw some of those old blankets over them to cushion for seating.
- Decide your menu. Start with the food you have from your garden—squashes, greens, and root veggies are all wonderful foods to savor—and add in any preserved foods you’ve canned. Anything you don’t have (or have enough of) can be purchased at the grocery store or at the farmer’s market. Think roasted seasonal veggies; anything with squash or pumpkin; spices and flavors like cinnamon, maple, and brown sugar; and roasted or grilled meats.
Decide if any part (or all!) of your menu will be cooked over an open fire or prepared indoors in your kitchen. Make some things ahead of time to lighten up your work (hey, you want to enjoy the party, too, right?), and find some inspiration through our blog post “Fall Garden Recipes."
Add décor. Honestly, you don’t need much because the season itself is décor enough. Those hay bales you added for seating can double as décor, and then add some potted mums or ornamental grasses, and finish off with pumpkins of all shapes, colors, and sizes. And don’t forget lighting! Overhead bistro lights, tea lights, candles, and dimmed dining room lights add to the atmosphere.
Set the table before guests arrive. There’s nothing more welcoming than arriving to a home for a dinner party when the table is already set for you and the other guests. While other elements of the dinner party might be still in the making, that table is ready to go. Plus, it’ll make you feel more ready and less stressed.
- Create a harvest-themed playlist. Now, this entirely depends upon your music taste and the age of your guests. Something we always love is a good eclectic mix, like this one:
Harvest Moon by Neil Young
Copperhead Road by Steve Earle
Wake Me Up When September Ends by Green Day
Indian Summer by The Doors
Vegetables by the Beach Boys
Sweater Weather by The Neighbourhood
Witchcraft by Ella Fitzgerald
Rain on the Scarecrow by John Mellencamp
Shine on Harvest Moon by Ruth Etting
November Rain by Guns ‘N Roses
Peaches by The Presidents of the United States of America
Autumn Leaves by Nat King Cole
Bad Moon Rising by Credence Clearwater Revival
Canned Goods by Greg Brown
Dream a Little Dream of Me by Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong
Hang on Little Tomato by Pink Martini
Home by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
- Put your guests to work! No, we really mean it! Harvest dinner parties are so fun because they are more casual and interactive—no formality or stuffiness allowed! Have someone help you in the kitchen, enlist a friend to play bartender, and assign a couple others to tend to the bonfire. Your guests will feel as though they are a part of the fun, rather than spectators on the sidelines.
Now, fix yourself a nice beverage, pull up a chair and start planning! And above all, keep it simple and have fun. This one’s all about the mood and cozy feelings.
- Jenny Peterson