Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Yes you can enjoy your own dinner party! The 3 keys to hosting a stress-free dinner party are to keep it simple, do as many chores as you can ahead of the big day, and prepare as many dishes as you can ahead of your guests' arrival.
Keep it simple: Limit the guest list to eight people, six is even better. Choose a neutral table setting that lets your colorful centerpiece flowers pop. Serve no more than three courses. Feature only one "fancy" dish. Plan a mostly make ahead menu with few items that need last minute kitchen time. Do ahead. Two weeks in advance, invite your guests and choose a menu with mostly make-ahead dishes. A few days ahead, shop for the non-perishables and clean house. The day ahead, shop for the perishables and set the dinner table and do a last minute clean of the bathroom and living room. Prepare your make ahead recipes the day before or morning of your dinner party.
Remember that your guests are the real stars of the evening, not your food. The food is only your pleasant excuse for getting together, so don't worry about putting on a gourmet restaurant spread. Never serve a dish you haven't made before. This way you avoid disasters like apologizing for a recipe that doesn't taste the way you hoped it would. You are part of the company and your guests expect to talk with you. Keeping it simple means you get to spend time with your guests instead of in the kitchen. Don't get nervous about choosing wine. If you're not sure what to serve, just go to your local wine store and ask for something simple and inexpensive that most people are likely to enjoy. Remember, people love to give advice, and wine store staff are no different! Check the ingredient list for every recipe against your pantry contents. Make sure you already have the item on hand or add it to your shopping list. This has the added bonus of preventing you from buying duplicates! In your last minute schedule be sure to include time for you to get dressed, set out the appetizers, put on the dinner music and - yes - sit down for a few minutes before your guests arrive. Wow! What a stress-free way to start enjoying your own dinner party. Set the table the night before (at a minimum). Set out all the serving dishes and place in each a sticky note with what it is that goes there. Don't forget to get out the serving pieces. You don't want to be looking for the cake server, salad tongs, or gravy ladle at the last minute. This also gives you plenty of time to wash any dust/fingerprints from your china or glassware. And, if you've used most of the china from a visible china cabinet, you can take this time to put some decorative items in there or reconfigure what's left.