I love inviting people over – be it a casual cosy evening with just a couple of friends or a big party of twenty or more. Having people over and bonding over drinks, food, music and chatter sends out very warm and positive vibes and will leave you feeling like a star.
However, for some, hosting a dinner party can be rather daunting as you have so much to organize before and during the evening, and you also to look glam and be relaxed to enjoy yourself. Well, here are some tips to make it all super easy and fun. A couple of parties for practice and you will be a pro host!
Pick the Right Day
Let’s start with when to host a dinner party.
Wrong day and timing can be the first cause of a poor turnout. Fridays and Saturdays are the best evenings. Any other night will either be close to impossible with work schedules or hectic because of work the next morning.
Plan a Balanced Menu
Plan a menu that is well balanced. Pick dishes according to the season and the type of crowd you are catering to. It is not a good idea to fill your guests up with appetizers so there is no room left for the main course and dessert. If you want heavy appetizers to go with drinks, make a light main course and dessert. Something fruity and light like a mousse or ice cream would work well rather than a heavy cake or chocolate based dessert.
Try this gorgeous Thia salad
All dishes should complement each other in terms of type of cuisine, main ingredient and colour. So if your main course is spaghetti with seafood or a seafood risotto, your appetizer might be something vegetarian but Italian without seafood and rice. Maybe a selection of crostini with cheese and vegetables or a salad. If you have a buffet spread, pick dishes with varied dominating colours so your table looks colourful and appetizing.
Bruschetta is a fresh and light appetizer to serve
Ask guests about dietary preferences
Make sure you are aware of your guests diet preferences and allergies before time. I once invited a couple over and the husband had a nut allergy, which I was not aware of. The main course was pad Thai with peanuts all over it and the dessert was a crumble with almonds and pistachios in it! You can well imagine my embarrassment when the poor guy had to fill himself up with whatever I could find in the fridge! My husband dislikes peppers of any colour and form- he has spent many evenings at dinner parties picking them out on the table only because the host did not ask us about our dietary preferences.
Prepare in advance
“Prep” means three things here: Food prep, home prep, and mental prep. For food prep, make a list of ingredients based on your finalized menu. Give yourself enough time for two trips to the store (in case you forget something), plus one day of actual food prep.
Choosing appetizers that stay fresh for longer i.e. dishes like chips and dips and mini salads that taste good cold are always a good way to go. I have a range of appetisers that you can make ahead on the website cucinamiabynatasha.com/category/recipe/appetizers-and-finger-food/
A fun way to plate chips and dips
Time the cooking of your dishes in a way that doesn’t leave you in the kitchen (and out of the fun) all night.
Make a cold dessert a day in advance so its ready to serve from the fridge.
Cook meals you’ve tried before so you don’t have any surprises on the day.
Keep garnishes ready in little bowls so you can make a simple dish look fancy with ease.
Keep your crockery on a side table or the dining table, ready for use. It is not very elegant to rummage for glasses and dishes in the middle of a party. Save yourself the time and energy to socialise with a smile.
Always make sure the dishwasher is completely empty when the party begins. That way you have plenty of room for all the dirty dishes from the party, and you can load as you go and your kitchen doesn’t look like it was hit by a hurricane!
Strawberry Mousse for dessert
Don’t forget the Drinks!
The bar is often forgotten about when there is too much focus on the food. You definitely need good drinks and smooth bar operations for a fun party.
While hosting a cocktail party, make sure to include a welcome cocktail. I really like something with fresh seasonal fruit and alcohol.
Unless your liquor cabinet is already loaded with lots of options, wine and beer are your safest bet. Liquor preferences differ, and you don’t want to get stuck buying a different kind of liquor for each guest. This is also why having one good cocktail is a good idea.
You will need some tasteful juice or fresh lemonade for kids and guests who do not consume alcohol. Do avoid carbonated drinks.
Match glasses to the type of drink. I often end up having to drink wine in a short straight water glass than an elegant goblet as the host has run out of wine glasses!
Some more Brownie points
Serving food out of a jar, packet or cans is a strict no-no. Transfer to a serving bowl to serve so it does not look tacky to your guests
Offering tea or coffee after dessert with a piece of chocolate adds the finishing touch to the evening and will earn you lots of brownie points
Prepare the house and table in advance. It is lovely to walk into a tastefully decorated house with an inviting table décor. I will write another post on types of table décor. (Will write an article on table decor soon)
Just a simple centrepiece of flowers and candles with nice crockery and a bright tablecloth is often enough.
Think of music and lighting to suit the mood. You can change both of these as the evening progresses. I like to start with bright lights and soft lounge music and gradually dim the lights and increase the pace of the music. But it all depends on your taste and the company you have.
I hope these tips will help bring out the super host in you. Do write to me at email@example.com with any questions and feedback. Stay tuned for more articles around entertaining at home.