How to Host an International Dinner Party!

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Embassies from around the world dot the landscape in Washington, D.C. and the streets are filled with reckless foreign diplomats. You can spot their special license plates, which allow them to drive like maniacs since they’re granted immunity. D.C. was a true mixing bowl, where the Italians weren’t the Jersey Shore type, but the type who spoke Italian and made their own limoncello.

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My childhood in the Washington suburbs was multi-cultural, but not in that forced, PC way that makes everyone nervous. My school featured students from France to India, Vietnam to Ireland. To celebrate this mash-up, Beech Tree Elementary hosted International Dinners, where families cooked food from their native country to share. Stations would be set up with homemade flags, dollops of food were shared and adventurous eaters would mill about.

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The event brought families together in an organic way. It inspired me to host an International Dinner Party of my own!

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Chocolate from around the world

How to do it:

1) The hardest part? Cooking food from around the world. The most fun part? Cooking food from around the world!

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The spread featured homemade duck pate and Korean kimchi and rice with seaweed!

2) Make signs for all the foods – it will encourage guests to try somehing unfamiliar. A charming accent? Label everything on airmail envelopes!

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3) Feature beer and wine from around the world!

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4) Ask guests to arrive dressed in native garb – clothing from their country. Many of my friends didn’t have such clothes, but they improvised. My friend Tess wore a custom dress she had made in Vietnam. A man of French descent wore a fake moustache and an English friend wore tartan and wellies! But hands down, the best costume went to Kim Burke-Connors, who celebrated her Russian roots with a babushka scarf, a basket of potatoes, a bottle of vodka and austerity!

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5) Buy a basket and fill it with international foods such as Italian pasta, German mustard and soy sauce. One guest will get to go home with this prize. How do you determine the winner? World trivia, based on geograhy, customs and food! At our party, competition was tight, with a lot of tension between the last two finalists.

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6) Give guests a small parting gift, such as Swiss chocolate or a small bottle of Irish whiskey. Guests will love being treated to a night around the world without leaving town. Enjoy!International Dinner Party 047

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International dessert bar, with sugared mangoes from the Phillippines, Scottish shortbread, American s’mores and much more!
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A deviled egg bar is a fun represention of the USA – Nora Ephron used to say that people love to play with their food!

Southern-Themed Oyster Roast

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Buying a home is always cause for celebration. We fell in love with our 1925 craftsman, complete with indoor columns, chandeliers, stained glass windows and crown molding. But we needed to baptize our home, so we threw the doors open and invited our friends and neighbors in to eat, drink and poke around.

Bushels of oysters were roasted on our backyard grill

We wanted our party to reflect where we came from, Los Angeles. But we realized that California cuisine is a bit vague. Some say it’s Asian fusion. Others say it’s regular food with alfalfa sprouts and avocado slapped onto it. In reality, it’s Mexican food.

Instead, we opted for an old-fashioned oyster roast, and Southern comfort food – a nod to our genteel future.

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our all-homemade menu

Guests were invited to mill about the home, peeking in closets and bouncing on beds. One adult even volunteered to give kids a tour of the old, mysterious attic.

Keeping with the Southern theme, I served mint juleps with fresh mint leaves from the yard. To make it easy on guests, I made a huge vat of the cocktail ahead of time. That way, guests could simply pour. Plus, I could regulate how strong the drinks were. I always set my cocktails to strong. It keeps people social and really, only the first few sips burn. For the teetotalers, I brewed sweet tea, of course!

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Blues and jazz guitar played over the stereo and rooms were lit with candles in Mason jars. Since we’re newcomers to Richmond, we placed a suggestion box on a table, urging guests to recommend restaurants to try, fun weekend road trips, etc.

Adventurous friends gathered around the bar to do raw oyster shots with tequila and cocktail sauce. Every time a fresh batch of roasted oysters were brought in from the grill, friends circled the table. We had a few dipping sauces for guests, like chopped parsley and garlic in butter sauce, and of course lemon slices and Tabasco for purists.

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Last but not least, I made sure our friends didn’t go home empty-handed. Especially since so many were kind enough to bring housewarming presents. I made small batches of rosemary popcorn, fresh from our backyard rosemary bush. Stuffed into quaint brown paper bags with a Southern-style label, these awaited guests on the front porch on their way out.

This party felt like a warm hug, and was the perfect way to kick off our new life in Richmond.

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