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DIY Dinner Party: Surf & Turf

Updated: Aug 15, 2020

Did you happen to catch the surf and turf dinner party I threw this weekend? If not, you can watch it unfold in my Instagram stories here.

Or, to see the final result, you can watch my YouTube video below:

Interested in how to replicate this at home? Well, my beautiful friends, I have you covered! I am about to share all the tips I've learned over the years, what to do, when to do it, and how exactly you can pull this off (yes, YOU)!

I made a vow when I started this blog that I would not be the type of person that writes a long story before a recipe or tutorial, so bare with me here as I quickly set the stage before we dive right into my dinner party tip, tricks and tutorials:

In place of gifts, we throw big dinner parties every year in honor of our parents for my entire family and all my in-laws on the Saturday before Mother's Day and Father's Day. Covid really threw a wrench in the plans this year, and we were hoping to reschedule both once things cleared up, but it became abundantly clear that would not be happening any time soon. Not wanting to skip it entirely, we opted for a backyard, socially distanced dinner party with just my parents and my in-laws. Smaller, more intimate, and safe.

Here are all the details of what I chose, why, how I made it happen, and how I ensured I was able to enjoy it too (instead of being stressed out in the kitchen).

I pick a theme every time. Not only is it fun, but it also helps guide and focus my food and decor choices. It's been Spanish tapas, tea party, fair food, taco bar, etc. This time, I went with the look and feel of a high-end surf & turf restaurant.

Tablescape & Decor

Since my theme did not evoke any particular decor style, I decided to go with a look I love. Blue is my current color obsession, and I love mixing natural elements into my decor. You can see that play out in my tablescape where I use gems, geodes, stone, greenery, roses, jute, wood and candles.

Tablescape Tip: try to use what you already have on hand. I pulled a lot of items from my existing decor, and some that I had shelved, to bring this tablescape together in a beautiful but cost-effective way. I did purchase the placemats from Home Goods, but I found similar ones here (I also love these). I was able to get the gems here, but everything else was found around my home.

I used wood bowls that I had purchased from Trader Joe's a year or so back, and filled them with gemstones.

I grabbed some miniature white plates, poured some small rocks that I had on hand (I think leftover from a floral project) and placed candles on top of them. They may look pretty now, but what I was going for was the look when the candles melted. The wax slowly poured over the rocks and it was beautiful.

I took glass bowls, filled them with water, placed an underwater floral light, like this one, and covered it up with gemstones. Light was important since we would be eating outside during and after sunset (below).

Candle Tip: I regularly stock up on candles when I see ones I like. Any time I am at Ikea, I will buy a couple packs of unscented candles in various sizes. I stick with neutrals, like whites and creams, and every once in a while I will throw in some colors. The neutrals allow me to fit them into almost any decor scheme, and since I do this, I know candles will never be something I need to go out and buy for a dinner party.

Napkin Tip: I also own a collection of white cloth napkins. They pretty much go with everything and really up the feel of your dinner party. Plus, it's one less thing you have to worry about buying every time.

Geode Table Cards Tip: There is something about these table cards that make them look so much more expensive than they are (I made mine for about $1.50 each). They're elegant, functional, and a beautiful souvenir for your guests to take home. After purchasing the geode slices (I got mine here), all you need is the magic of a sharpie or paint pen, and you can quickly customize them to say whatever you like. I used white, but it looks amazing in silver and gold as well! If you're like me, and not the prettiest of writers, I suggest you trace each geode on a piece of paper and practice beforehand, that's exactly what I did. If you do make a mistake, you can act quickly to wipe away the ink/paint before it dries and nobody will ever know it took you five or six tries (speaking from experience here)!

Floral Tips:

Florals are my secret weapon, so I am giving you not just one tip, but three....

Stock up on vases. If you're going to host a few events at your house over your lifetime, I strongly recommend investing in a vase/bottle collection. You don't even need to invest heavily. Places like the Dollar Store, Home Goods and Goodwill all have so many cheap vase options. Start with focusing on neutral options - clear vases, simple designs, white or other neutral colors that can really go with any decor style. I haven't had to buy a vase for events in years.

Use and abuse greenery. You want to know how much I spent on the nine arrangements I used for this dinner party? $15. Yep, that's it. I bought two packs of flowers (roses) and two packs of eucalyptus. One pack of the eucalyptus only included leaves, and the other had sprigs. Combining the two added some visual interest. Greenery is typically significantly cheaper and can help fill the space that you would usually need flowers for (the arrangement above only included three stems of flowers and the rest was greenery). To start, I lay out all my vases and begin adding the flowers to the vases first, once all my flowers are spread out across the vases, I start adding the greenery. If I am using different types of greenery, which I strongly I suggest, I add them one by one until I have the final look. Greenery is also a nice touch on your actual table, which I used heavily for this tablescape.

Mix in vases with a narrow opening. This one is simple, using a beautiful vase with narrow openings allows you to use less flowers and greenery. Sure, I had nine beautiful arrangements, but only three of those vases had normal, wide openings.

Be on the lookout for my upcoming YouTube video where I walk you through how I do this!

Tablescape Tip: However you decide to do your florals and tablscape, I strongly encourage you to set it up the day before your event. I wasn't able to due to the fly situation in backyard (uuuuuuggggh), but I did practice it inside so I could set it up as quickly as possible the evening of the party (the picture above was taken on the floor of my dining room once I finally reached a look I liked).


For a restaurant like feel, having a menu was important to the theme. I simply crafted one in Word and used resume paper when I printed it out. Don't ask me why or how I have that kind of paper, because I have no idea, but I do, and I am certainly glad that I did because it gave a more elegant look to the menu.

Since we were only doing one dinner party this year in celebration of Mother's/Father's Day, and it was going to be smaller (8 vs. 14 people), I felt like we could splurge a little on food - hence, the lobster tail and filet mignon.

My mouth is watering all over again just thinking about it.

For an extra touch, I roped my kids into playing servers for the night, which they actually loved and it was really just the cutest thing. They dressed themselves and even planned their outfits so they were coordinated.

Food Tip: The key to a successful dinner party, and one you can enjoy as host, is strategically picking recipes that allow you to significantly prepare ahead so you have minimal work and time in the kitchen during the actual dinner. Then, once you've picked the right recipes, you put in the time in the day or days ahead to make the dinner as easy, peasy as possible. Below I will breakdown how you can do that with this menu.

Course One: Small Bites

A charcuterie box from Bardelli Boards. OMG. Could you die? She offers the "bite box," which was perfect for our tables of two (we got one for my parents' table and one for my in-laws' table) and the "Bardelli box," which was perfect for my family of four. There are secret gems packed all inside these boxes. Just when you think you've found it all, you realize you haven't even started. Even my picky child found many, many things to love inside. If you're local to San Diego, you should definitely check her out. She's a master in her field and the sweetest person. I already have her lined up for my next order!

Food Tip: It's okay to use a third-party to provide one or more of your courses - promise! It takes the stress off of you and allows you to enjoy your party that much more.

Course Two: Shrimp Cocktail

These are so simple. Shrimp + cocktail sauce = party in your mouth.

I used frozen deveined shrimp that I thawed the day of, my own cocktail sauce recipe (you could easily use store bought), some mini lemon slices, and these cute mini martini glasses.

Cocktail Sauce

1 Cup Ketchup

2 t creamed horseradish (you can add more or less per your spice-level preference)

1 t worcestershire sauce

1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice

Add all the ingredients to a bowl and mix.

This makes enough to fill 8 mini martini glasses but can be easily adjusted for more or less.

What to make/prepare ahead:

1. Begin thawing your shrimp the morning of in the fridge by following the directions on the package

2. Make your cocktail sauce and store in the fridge

3. Pre-cut your lemon slices for both your lobster tails and shrimp cocktail, including creating a slit in the middle of the shrimp cocktail ones that will allow it to sit on the glass, and store all of them in the fridge.

4. If using the mini martini glasses, pre-assemble them by attaching the cup to the stem

At serving time (you will need about 5 minutes):

1. Divide cocktail sauce between your glasses

2. Drape as many shrimp as you would like over the rim of glass

3. Place one lemon slice on each glass.

Course Three: Citrus Arugula Salad w/Fennel and Avocado

This is part of an entree salad recipe, so I only used the salad and dressing part. You can skip the salmon and glaze portion. Although, this recipe is delicious - I strongly recommend trying at another time.

What to make/prepare ahead:

1. Make the dressing and store in the fridge

2. Cut the fennel and store in the fridge

3. Peel and slice your citrus and store in the fridge

4. Wash your arugula, if it is not already pre-washed, and store in fridge

5. Chop your pistachios and store in an airtight container.

At serving time (you will need about 10 minutes):

1. Chop avocado, add to a bowl with arugula, fennel and half your citrus

2. Re-whisk your dressing, add to bowl and toss

3. Divide the salad between plates, top with remaining citrus and pistachios

4. Before you go to enjoy your salad, get your grill going for the filet (my husband used his Big Green Egg) and turn your oven to 500F for your lobster tails. If you have two ovens, or a toaster oven, turn the other one to 350 F for your asparagus. If you do not, don’t worry, turn your only oven to 350F

5. Place your potatoes in a fresh pot of hot water, and begin to boil on the stove. Pull your filets out of the fridge

Course Four: Filet Mignon and Lobster Tail served w/blue cheese butter or garlic herb butter, herb cream mashed potatoes and roasted asparagus

Lobster tail recipe here, including directions on how to butterfly.

Garlic Herb Butter

1 cup of salted butter (at room temp)

2 T rosemary (chopped)

2 T thyme (chopped)

4 garlic cloves

Combine all ingredients in a bowl - mashing and stirring the butter with a fork until fully combined

Place two pieces of saran wrap (or similar) on the counter

Scoop out one half of the butter on one and the other half on the other

Using your fork and saran wrap, form the butter into a stick

Wrap up in the saran wrap and place in fridge

Blue Cheese Butter

1/2 cup salted butter (at room temp)

2 T blue cheese crumbles

1 T parsley (chopped)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl - mashing and stirring the butter with a fork until fully combined

Place a piece of saran wrap (or similar) on the counter

Scoop out the butter on the saran wrap

Using your fork and saran wrap, form the butter into a stick

Wrap up in the saran wrap and place in fridge

Grilled Filet Mignon

Filet Mignon(s)

Olive Oil

Kosher Salt

Cracked Black Pepper

Let filets come to room temperature for about 20-30 minutes

Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper

Bring your big green egg to 650F (make sure you burp that thing before you open it or you will lose some eyelashes - at the very least!)

Place your filets on for one minute

Rotate 1/4 turn, grill for one minute

Flip filets over, grill for one minute

Rotate 1/4 turn, grill for one minute

Close all the vents and cook for at least 3 1/2 minutes

At this point, they will be about medium rare

For a more done steak, add additional time

Remove from grill, place 1-2 T butter on top

Cover with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes

Herb Cream Mashed Potatoes

2 lbs of gold potatoes (cubed)

1 cup of heavy cream

1/2 cup of herb garlic butter

Place cubed potatoes in a pot and cover with water so the water is at least an inch over the top

Bring pot to a boil

Boil for 15-20 or until tender

Drain potatoes, and return to pot

Add heavy cream and butter

Using a hand mixer, mix until creamy

Add salt to taste

Roasted Garlic Asparagus

1lb of Asparagus (remove woody ends)

5 cloves of garlic (diced)

Olive Oil

Salt & Pepper

Preheat oven to 350F

Line a sheet pan with foil

Add asparagus to the pan, drizzle with olive oil

Add garlic and salt and pepper to taste

Toss to combine

Lay out the asparagus in an even layer

Cook for 10-15, depending on the thickness of your asparagus

What to make/prepare ahead:

Butterfly your lobster and store in the fridge

Prepare all your butter ingredients for the lobster and combine in one bowl (minus the butter), store in fridge

Prepare your garlic herb butter and blue cheese butter and store in fridge

Wash and prepare your asparagus and store in the fridge

Pre-cut your potatoes and store in a bowl full of water in your fridge

Chop the garlic for your asparagus and store in the fridge

At serving timing (you will need about 20-25 minutes):

*this accounts for two people - one grilling and one doing everything else. If you don't have two people, adjust your timing accordingly*

1. After you are done with your salad, grab a fresh drink and buckle up for the last course that requires any real work

2. Rub olive oil all over your filets and sprinkle with salt and pepper

3. Pull your garlic herb butter and blue cheese butter out of the fridge to allow it to soften

4. Make your lobster butter by melting the butter and adding it to the ingredients you've already prepared

5. Place your lobster tails on a sheet pan, covered in foil and baste with butter.

6. Place your asparagus on another sheet pan, covered with foil, and toss with garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper, fan out into one layer.

7. If you only have one oven, place your asparagus in the oven at 350F for 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of your asparagus. Once your asparagus is done, turn your oven to 500F and cover your asparagus with foil to keep warm. If you have two ovens, do not place your asparagus in yet.

8. Once your asparagus is cooking, place your filet mignon on the grill.

9. While filet mignon is cooking, drain your potatoes, return to pot, add your herb butter and heavy creamy, and mix with a hand mixer until creamy. Cover until ready to serve.

10. If you have two ovens, place your asparagus in the 350F oven for 10-15, depending on how thick your asparagus is.

11. After your filet mignon is done, bring inside to rest. Place about 1-2 T of chosen butter on top and tent with foil to rest.

12. Place lobster tails in the oven until they reach 140F (about 8-10 minutes).

13. Melt individual small bowls/cups of butter in the microwave for guests to use for lobster dipping

14. While lobster tails are cooking, begin plating your sides.

15. After tails are done and filets have rested long enough, finish plating and serve!

Course Five: Dessert

This is ALL make ahead!

S'Mores (no recipe needed)

What to make/prepare ahead: 1. Make your cheesecake the day before or early the morning of and store in fridge

2. Make your ricotta cake the day of and store, covered, on your countertop

3. Arrange a platter of chocolate, marshmallows, and graham crackers and cover with saran wrap (or similar)

At serving time (you will need less than 5 minutes):

1. Just distribute and plate

2. Allow guests to make their own s'mores

3. Be sure to drizzle some of that raspberry sauce on the plate for your cheesecake!

As a breakdown, here is what your timeline will look like:

At least 1-2 weeks ahead:

Determine your menu (print out, if needed)

Determine your tablescape decor

Gather what you have

Order what you need

1 week ahead:

Make your grocery shopping list

1-2 days ahead:

Grocery shop

1 day ahead:

Purchase and arrange your florals

Setup your tablescape (if possible)

Make your cheesecake

Day of (AM):

Prepare all your other ingredients (as outlined above)

Day of (PM):

Dinner party (as outlined above)

Did you stay with me to the end? Well done!! Now throw the surf & turf dinner party of your dreams and then send me ALL the pictures!

xoxo my friends


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Melissa Garchie
Melissa Garchie
Aug 05, 2020

Thank you, Ari!! 😍


Beautiful party!! The decor was everything. I’ll definitely be using these tips.

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