Don't let smaller digs dampen your love of entertaining

The big house got too big and you decided to downsize. What you didn't downsize is your hospitality quotient and love of entertaining. So, how do you match your party spirit with your smaller digs? You follow some tips and keep the invitations flowing.

There are two basic things to consider when thinking about entertaining — what type of event you're planning and the number of guests. Different types of parties call for different measures and actions.

A big meal in a small place can mean a number of things.

A multicourse sit down dinner from soup to nuts for an intimate gathering of friends is one option. Another is hosting a larger group for cocktails and appetizers. Either can be easily accomplished with planning, preparation and some practical suggestions.

"Small spaces are nice for more intimate, quiet dinners," says Executive Chef Robert Campbell at Smith Village in Chicago.

Campbell suggests keeping the number of guests at the table to four.

He also likes the idea of serving family style, setting prepared dishes on the table ready to pass.

"Also keeping beverages such as wine or water, second helpings of appetizers or rolls close at hand, avoids the disruption of the host or hostess jumping up and down to get things from the kitchen," he adds.

For a sit-down dinner, Campbell suggests a menu that includes a simple appetizer of cheese and fruit "or a nice bruschetta that's not too complicated." (See recipe)

For entrée ideas, he says, "an oven baked casserole or roast with baked root vegetables, a stew, stuffed peppers or a stuffed chicken are all good choices because most of the preparation takes place ahead of time. Most of these you place in the oven and wait, and you can serve a salad on the side."

Desserts can be simple, a layer cake or homemade bar cookies.

"Cobblers or pies are nice using fruit in season," he says. "Ice cream is another easy dessert and can be dressed up with chocolate candies, nuts and whipped cream or other toppings."

Campbell suggests offering white and red wine and not worrying about what wine goes with what.

"There's no hard and fast rule about red or white wines going with certain foods," he says. "People generally drink whatever they like."

Campbell also likes the idea of a spiked punch. A simple bar set up works, too, offering a few mixes and a few liquors, as well as such things as cut up lemon and lime and martini olives.

No matter what size your space or type of shindig, doing as much preparation beforehand is key to having a successful party.

A menu that includes casseroles or other baked dishes can be prepared the night before.

"This is helpful because you can clear everything away and make your space nice and neat before company arrives," says Campbell.

The best advice to entertaining in your smaller abode is to take a breath.

"The most important suggestion is to relax and keep things simple," says Campbell. "The less fuss the more enjoyable the meal."

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