Whenever my friends and I are faced with a seemingly impossible culinary dilemma, we ask, what would Captain Fantastic do? Captain Fantastic being our good friend, Eric, who we like to think of as the Most Interesting Man in the World – but without the beard or pomp. He seemingly knows everyone, travels voraciously, breezes into any restaurant in town, typically in a new, perfectly tailored suit, and is always closing some impossible-to-understand business deal.

He is also the father of two small children and a devoted husband.

But what he does best – by a mile – is entertain.

What makes him so good at it is that it never feels like he’s entertaining. When any of us – friends, neighbors, clients and colleagues, go to his home for dinner, there is rarely a formal invitation or a composed guest list; instead, it’s just “Why don’t you come over for dinner?”

And that’s where the fun begins. Half of the group ends up in the kitchen, the other half chatting on the couch. Someone opens a bottle of Sancerre and the Captain asks one of us to slice some Yukon Golds nice and thin to be crisped in the oven with garlic and lots of oil. A cast-iron skillet is placed over a flame. And a second bottle of Sancerre is uncorked.

The conversation inevitably grows louder, and the Captain unwraps a dozen beautiful lamb rib chops rimmed in jackets of milky white fat. We sprinkle them with kosher salt and pepper. The skillet grows smoking hot.

One way or another, each of us chips in, whether it’s to dress the salad or set the table or open that third bottle of wine.

I’m not saying every dinner party should be so informal, but we can all stand to relax a bit. That’s what much of The Seasoned Chefs Fall Calendar is about, from our Art & Science of Baking Class (October 24th), Italian “Food Marries Art” (October 28th), Fall Holiday Tarts & Pies (October 29th) to a favorite Mexican celebration, “Dia de Los Muertos – Day of the Dead” (October 30th) and Cooking with Craft Beer (November 5th), with many other fun choices to follow throughout December.

Yes, your friends want good food, but they are not expecting four-star cuisine and service (that’s what reservations are for). They’ve managed to carve out a few hours of their week because what they really want to do is spend time with you!

So whether you invite a gang over for a cocktail party or a handful of friends or colleagues for dinner, try to remember the goal of the evening. Food is important, but a good time is even more so.