A Dress-to-Impress Dinner Party Menu

Entrepreneur in Residence Brooke Thomas takes out the silver platter.

From Brooke: While it would be amazing if we could spend all of our days in yoga pants, sometimes we want or need to dress to impress. How you dress can impact not only how others perceive you, but also how you act.

Do you hide in the background and avoid eye contact? Do you work a room with your head held high?

Whether you choose your favorite go-to black dress or that new pink number that fits you like a glove, wear something that makes you feel good and will allow you to shine. Don’t get caught up in what everyone else is wearing. Decide who you are and pick clothes that reflect that. Add in a piece of jewelry or the perfect high heels—one item that makes your outfit stand out. Then, don’t forget, self-confidence is the best accessory.

How you entertain for a special occasion can also say a lot about you. If you want to impress, the invitation sets the tone. Instead of texting your friends about getting together or dropping a note on Facebook, send a special invitation via email (it can be a free service like Evite) or go old-school and mail one. 

Pay attention to the details. Just like your outfit should have one statement piece, so should your dinner party. Consider a beautiful table centerpiece or taking out your heirloom china.

Create some ambiance. Dim the lights and add some candles. Choose the perfect dinner menu. Try a signature cocktail instead of the usual beer or wine. If you go with wine, get the good stuff. Dessert is the last thing your guests will eat, so make it memorable.

Whether you are dressing to impress or cooking to impress, don’t let yourself feel the pressure of the occasion. The most important thing is staying true to who you are through it all. Embrace the moment and have fun! 

Quinoa, Fennel and Pomegranate Salad

By Brooke Thomas



- ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 2 medium fennel bulbs (2 ½ pounds), cut lengthwise into ¼’-thick slices
- Pink Himalayan salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon coconut palm sugar
- 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
- 1 lemon 
- 1 chili pepper, seeded, chopped
​- ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
​- ½ cup chopped fresh mint
​- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
​- ¼ cup pomegranate seeds
​- ¼ cup of crumbled goat cheese (optional)


Heat 1/4 cup coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add fennel; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until fennel is just tender and lightly golden, 10-12 minutes. Stir in lemon juice, cumin, and coconut palm sugar; cook for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Bring quinoa and 3 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until quinoa is cooked, about 10 minutes. Drain; return to pan. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and transfer to a large bowl.

Squeeze lemon over quinoa and add remaining 1 tablespoon of coconut oil and stir. Add fennel mixture, chili, and herbs. Toss gently to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer salad to a platter; sprinkle with pomegranate seeds. Add crumbled goat cheese, if desired. 


Almond Crusted Salmon

By Brooke Thomas



​- ½ cup sliced almonds, roughly chopped
​- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
​- 4 tablespoons chopped basil 
​- Zest of 1 lemon
​- ½ teaspoon salt
​- ¼ teaspoon pepper​
- 8 salmon fillets (6-8 ounces each)​
- Sliced lemons, for serving


Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a baking pan with foil and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine the almonds, panko, basil, lemon zest, salt and pepper.

Place the salmon fillets on the prepared baking sheet. Divide the almond mixture between the 8 fillets and sprinkle on top. Lightly press the breading into the fish.

Bake about 8-10 minutes. Serve with additional lemon slices for squeezing.



Pomegranate Poached Pears

By Brooke Thomas



​- 4 ripe, firm Bosc pears
​- 1 ½ cups pomegranate juice
​- 1 cup sweet dessert wine, such as Muscatel or Riesling 
- ½ cup pomegranate seeds (½ large fruit)


Peel pears, leaving them whole with stems intact. Slice off the bases so the pears will stand upright. Use an apple corer to remove cores (if desired), working from the base up. 

Place the pears on their sides in a large saucepan or a small Dutch oven. Pour pomegranate juice and wine over the pears. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer gently until the pears are tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, 30-45 minutes. Turn very gently once or twice as they cook so they color evenly. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pears to a shallow bowl and set aside. 

Boil the poaching liquid over high heat until the sauce is reduced to ½ cup, 15-20 minutes. 

To serve, spoon 1 tablespoon of sauce onto 4 dessert plates. Place a pear upright on each plate. Drizzle remaining sauce over each pear and sprinkle pomegranate seeds around it.

What To Wear While Entertaining

Floral Dress


Metallic Drop Earrings


Sleeveless Jumpsuit


For more from Brooke, see her recent columns and visit her online at BrookeThomas.com.

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