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How to throw the perfect dinner party


There’s no use in having a beautifully designed home if you can’t show it off to your friends and family - preferably in the manner of a fabulous, effortless (looking) dinner party. Here’s how to throw one in three easy steps.

Step 1: Get the Right Tools
The perfect dinner party starts with having the right tools in the kitchen. Get them at Stock Culinary Goods (756 Hope Street, Providence. 521-0101) which offers creative and thoughtful kitchen supplies and foodie gifts; or at Wickford Gourmet Factory Outlet (656 10 Rod Road, North Kingstown. 294-8430) where you can get everything from pots and pans to flatware and serving platters for significant discounts. Wakefield’s Store Four (673 Kingstown Road, Wakefield. 783-7388) specializes in gorgeous linens and finishing touches for a table.

You also need to make sure your kitchen is stocked with great foods – preferably local ones. In the summer you can’t throw a rock without hitting a farmer’s market, but there are several great ones in the off season, too. They all happen on Saturday mornings, now through May. Pawtucket’s Hope Artiste Village hosts the Wintertime Farmer’s Market, which has vegetables, meats, seafood, baked goods and food trucks serving lunch if you just can’t make it home. In North Kingstown, Lafayette Mill is home to the Coastal Growers Market, which happens inside an artist community where you can explore local makers and local growers. In Bristol, the Mount Hope Farmer’s Market on historic Mount Hope Farm happens year round. Middletown’s Aquidneck Growers’ Market takes place at Newport Vineyards, so you won’t need to stop at the liquor store to get wine for the great dinner you’re about to make. For a full list of farmer’s markets around the state, visit farmfresh.org.

Step 2: Learn to Cook
Now that you’ve got everything you need to cook a great meal, it’s time to figure out what to do with it all. Luckily for you, there are gourmands all over the state just waiting to teach you how to cook.
In North Providence, the husband and wife team of Phil Griffin and Malinda Coletta are Professor Chef. They teach you how to make delicious, impressive food that’s actually very simple to make – and serve you homemade wine, which is another class they offer. 41 Lookout Avenue, North Providence. 749-3312 

At Newport Cooks, Mary Weaver teaches classes for kids and adults. Kids start with the basics, like preparing a weeknight meal or decorating a cookie bouquet, whereas adults can learn from guest chefs from some of Rhode Island’s most prestigious restaurant kitchens. 796 Aquidneck Avenue, Middletown. 293-0740 

Johnson & Wales University turns out restaurant quality chefs with four year culinary degrees, but the school also offers one-day Chef’s Choice workshops for amateur chefs-in-training in everything from regional cuisines (think Spanish tapas, or Indian) to knife skills, wine appreciation and appetizer preparation. 321 Harborside Boulevard, Providence. 855-JWU-1881

The opulent Ocean House in Watch Hill offers regular cooking classes, as well as instruction in wine tasting, cheese pairings, local food foraging and more. Make an event out of it at one of their foodie weekend escapes, like the CIA Culinary Boot Camp from April 23-25, where instructors from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America teach the fundamentals of culinary arts. 1 Bluff Avenue, Watch Hill. 584-7000

Step 3: Create the Perfect Tablescape
You wouldn’t spend all that time shopping and cooking and then serve everything in a less-than-beautiful setting, would you? As every student of Martha Stewart knows, presentation is key.

The best way to set a gorgeous table is with flowers. But why spend on fresh ones that only last a few days? In Barrington, Grasmere (40 Maple Avenue, Barrington. 247-2789) creates artful displays of dried and preserved flowers. You might also be surprised to learn that times have changed, and that the new silk flowers are an elegant and lasting option for home decor. Daniel Rose Silk Effects (323-2560), based in North Kingstown, creates silk bouquets that you would never think aren’t real.

Set a theme with a tablescape by Narragansett’s Party Pants (323-1839). As a party stylist, Jessica Billings specializes in creating fun and elegant themes for parties, from the decorations to the sweet treats.

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