Hosting a memorable dinner party is about more than just serving up a few select dishes. At the core, it’s about delighting your guests in a full sensory experience- transporting them to another place by virtue of sight, smell, taste, sound, and touch.
If you really want to make a memorable experience, introduce your guests to the cuisine and customs of another culture. Spanish traditions lend themselves perfectly to a dinner party; meals in Spain are as much about spending quality time with friends and family as they are about enjoying delicious foods. By serving up a tapas-style dinner, you’ll delight your guests with a variety of delectable small plates and cheese board leading into a magnificent paella main course and then finishing with luscious desserts to create an intimate, comfortable setting where everyone can linger at the table long after the meal has ended.
The brininess of olives, the earthy aroma of cured meats, and the complex pairings of robust wines—these flavors, combined with fresh ingredients and vibrant conversation, are the essence of what makes a Spanish meal so special. For Spaniards, how they eat is just as important as what they eat.
And while no dinner party would be complete without lively conversation, the Spanish have elevated socializing into an art form. It’s not uncommon for meals to last several hours, with anything under two being quite rare. The custom even has a name, sobremesa, which means “over the table”. Sipping wine or coffee long after the plates have been cleared is what defines a typical Spanish dinner—and no recreation would be complete without it.
MHT is excited to present how a host can create the type of dinner party experience you’d encounter in the heart of Spain:
Greet your guests with a glass of Fino Sherry and then move to a glass of Spain’s champagne, Cava. No Spanish meal is complete without a thoughtful wine pairing. Complement your feast with a glass of full-bodied red, which is perfect alongside the savory flavors of meats and cheeses.
For a taste of all that Spanish wine has to offer, try serving wines that blend of grapes from across Spain, especially from the regions of Priorat and Rioja. Sangria is wine mixed with fruit that is all Spanish and perfect for pairing with paella.
Spanish wines also provide the perfect base for a dinner cocktail. Mix a light and refreshing tinto de verano by blending a Spanish red with lemon soda and serving over ice.
One thing that makes meals so unique in Spain is the variety of the menu, and there’s no easier way to taste a bunch of dishes than through a creative and robust tapas menu. Greet guests with a platter of imported jamón ibérico, lomo, cecina, anchovy-stuffed Manzanilla green olives, Manchego cheese, and marcona almonds. Add a few slices of a crusty baguette, olive oil, which is used as an accompaniment in almost every traditional Spanish dish, along with a little remoulade and romesco sauce.
Complement the cold foods with a course of small plates of delicious warm tapas. There are literally 100s of tapas recipes to choose from, both cold and hot. And, of course, keep the wine flowing.
The Main Course
Paella is the principal dish of a Spanish feast. While it’s normally cooked in a wide, shallow pan over an open flame, you can improvise with whatever pot or pan you have on hand—just be sure to use a medium grain rice (like Bomba from Valencia) and fresh seafood and vegetables. A side of Cataluña’s spinach with pine nuts and raisins is a perfect complement to the complex flavors as paella.
If any of your guests are vegetarian, a second vegetarian paella with a spicy garlic sauce is perfect. Another excellent option is a Spanish potato and onion casserole, tortilla Espanola, which is typically served as a tapas but fits perfectly as a vegetarian entrée.
Before dinner draws to a close, delight your guests with something sweet. A refreshing Valencia orange sorbet is the perfectly clean ending to cut through the decadence of your meal if you can find some. A classic flan or a sweet flourless almond cake are especially nice and traditional.
Crucially, don’t overlook the most important element of a Spanish meal: sobremesa, the custom of lingering at the table well after a meal has finished to hang out with family and friends, chatting and enjoying each other’s company.