Vegetarian Dinner Parites by Weinstein and Scarbrough

This is a beautifully presented, well thought-out cookbook and planner designed to make vegetarian-themed dinner parties easy and flavorful. Most recipes are designed for 6-8 people, a number the authors consider ideal. But the book is not just recipes, there is also a lot about planning before and then presenting during the event. From playlists to lighting, seating orders, to what dishes work best together. This is a complete all-in-one resources for a great dinner party and suitable for more than vegetarians: the authors hope hosts get a better understanding and appreciation of our most underused food: the vegetable.

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The book breaks down as follows: 1) Twelve ways to say “welcome”. 2) No plates needed. 3) Small plates. 4) Salads and soups. 5) pastas. 6) large plates. 7) Final plates. As you can see from the titles of the chapters, this is written so that the party organizer can arrange the meals not like a buffet but as they do in today’s trendy restaurants: no side dishes and instead several one-item plates from which diners eat.

The recipes are divided into seven types that follow the arc of a dinner party: cocktails and nibbles to go with them, small plates, salads, soups, pastas, large plates, and desserts. Between each chapter are tips on what to serve and how to move along/transition the party. Helpful tips such as keeping guests from congregating around the kitchen or preventing a between course hitch when plates have to be removed are presented in the appropriate places in the book.

All recipes have a plan ahead section to make it easier on the host – steps to do in advance as well as storing items before the party. They are also flexible – the authors give tips on how to ramp them up or tone them down.

The recipes are beautifully presented and made to be easy to follow by using different colored type and fonts. Each recipe has a paragraph introduction, easily readable ingredients list, preparation steps in numbered paragraph form, an AHEAD section for what needs to be made hours in advance, a NOTES section on any tips that are important but not necessarily a part of the recipe, a MENU of which plates go great with this recipe (to put together a whole party menu), and, of course, POUR – appropriate drinks to accompany that plate.

The recipes are varied: from watermelon panzanella capers, basil to elderflower spritz. There are some exotic recipes in here but for the most part there are a lot of staples from the local supermarket.

This is a well written book but what keeps it from being 5 stars is the sheer lack of images to show how the recipes should be presented. When I see the presentations in the few photographs that are in the book, I am honestly daunted because I never would have suspected to show it that way.  Since presentation is so important in a dinner party, the lack of images is disappointing and really takes away from the efficacy of the book.

Reviewed from an ARC.

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