I can't tell you how many hours I have spent in Italy at a table long after the plates have been cleared, just enjoying great conversation and the comfort of being with friends and family. In fact, often at the end of a meal, your server will come over with a few bottles of digestivi - grappa, limoncello, Strega (more on that another time) - and will leave them on the table with glasses for everyone. Unfortunately, that is not a tradition that has been adopted here in the United States and more often than not, a check will be presented promptly upon the completion of dessert with a strong expectation that you vacate the table quickly.
To me, this is a sad way to end an otherwise delightful evening but I have a remedy: entertain at home. I know it can seem overwhelming with everything there is to do....packing, wrapping, shopping, baking. More often than not in the month of December my kitchen looks like a bomb went off in it, strewn with baking supplies that I am loathe to put away just to have to pull them out the following day. But despite the chaos that is my life (and my house) we are getting together with good friends this weekend and we're going old school - dinner at home. Our little dinner group started this fall and I have to say, I am a big fan. The hostess does the main course and drinks and the others bring salad and dessert. We all love to cook so we do, but no one cares if the dessert is store bought or if the salad is from a bag. This weekend I am making camembert & honey crostini and spiced nuts for an appetizer. Dinner is a fabulous seafood casserole. There will be wine, of course, and a aperitif to get the evening started.
I love going all out but you certainly don't have to - that is not the point. It is about sharing the evening in the company of good friends. I happen to love my underused dining room, so any chance I have to spend an evening in there with good food, good wine and good friends is a treat.
It seems that people just don't entertain anymore and that is a shame. Having guests over is a great chance to use that wedding china (do you even remember what it looks like?), break out the cookbooks and have FUN! Have a great weekend everyone!