[quote] Why salad and cheese as a second course? And why have a Pavlova AND more dessert after?
I don't like to serve a starter course at home. It's too restaurant like and without help, your guests are eating a first course with the entree getting cold in the kitchen. So, my approach to a dinner party is:
I offer my guests beer, wine, or cocktails before dinner. For cocktails I am always sure to have gin, vodka, tequila, rum, rye, Scotch, Campari, and mixers. Most of my friends will drink wine, a martini, a Manhattan, an Old Fashioned, or tequila with a squeeze of lime juice in it.
Simple, easy hors d'oeuvres. I don't want people arriving at the table full. So I often put out nuts, olives, and something simple like some smoked salmon or gougeres which are cheese puffs but are completely hollow. They are made with the same pastry (Pâte à Choux) one uses to make cream puffs and eclairs but to make them savory, grated Gruyere and a pinch of cayenne pepper is added. These are delicious and light just out of the oven. People are mad for them.
Entree at the table served with wine.
I prefer having salad, a baguette, and cheese in between the entree and dessert. This is not the time to add all sorts of things to the salad. Just the most perfect greens you can find and a good vinaigrette, used in moderation, some good Fleur de sel and some cracked pepper. A wonderful crusty baguette (no butter), and a platter of three cheeses (or sometimes I serve just one perfect cheese). This is a delicious interlude that if done with the best products, is perfect.
Dessert at the table. I never serve coffee at the table.
Then we move to another room and I always have decaf coffee available, herbal tea for anyone who wants that, brandy, Madeira, and port are offered. And just small amounts of things like candied ginger and lemon peel, and some small but beautiful chocolates.
That's my recipe for a successful and wonderful dinner party.