Not many of us have the time to pull off a perfect dinner party like Martha Stewart … or do we?
Although it won’t be as hassle-free as an Ultimo catered dinner party (wink!) here are our suggestions to make your next dinner party fun for all (including the host). Move over Martha!
THE PLANNING PHASE
1. Resist the temptation… to cook some exotic Japanese dish that you had never laid eyes on until you opened Google five minutes ago. Cook something you’re confident with, easy to serve and can be mostly prepared ahead of time.
2. Balance. Think about your menu as a whole. Would you fancy eating quiche, followed by pie, followed by tart? Too much pastry! You might want to choose a theme too like garden party or rustic to tie your menu together.
3. Avoid nasty surprises. Not asking your guests if they have special dietary requirements doesn’t make them go away. If only. Check with people up-front if there’s anything they can’t eat.
4. Self service. For the smoothest entry, give arriving guests a clear destination. A drinks & snacks cart or a small table done up with essentials is a friendly oasis, and it frees you to scurry back to the kitchen if needed. Stock generously (chill white wine two hours in advance) so guests won’t need to come looking for anything—ice, glassware, bottle opener, garnishes.
5. Prepare for socializing. Guests go where the action is—besides, they want to hang out with the host. Give over the far end of your work zone (kitchen counter or island) to appetizers, so people know exactly where they can linger without being too in-your-face.
THE MAIN EVENT
6. A place (card) for everyone. Seating plans may seem formal, but they actually make guests more comfortable.
7. Be present. Each time you get up to fetch something, you essentially abandon your guests. A host’s primary duty isn’t to feed people (really!) but to spend time with them. Serve share platter-style, and forget cleaning up mid-event. Clearing dishes to the pantry or laundry can be a great way to hide the mess until you can clean later.
8. Abandon the mess. Relocating for sweets and coffee lets guests stretch their legs and switch up conversation partners. It makes guests feel relaxed and lets you seem chill, even if you’re not.
9. Be prepared. Set up your dessert infrastructure—plates, napkins, forks—on a side table before the party. In the kitchen, stash a filled creamer in the fridge and have the coffee ready for action. Cheeses and nuts with a dessert wine provide the right balance for the sugar-averse.
10. Taxi! Ensure your guests get home safely by offering to book a taxi or ensure they are OK to drive. Provide plenty of water throughout the evening and re-offer it again towards the end.
Most of all – enjoy your party! Your friends and guests don’t want to see you stressed, they came for your company. Leave the dishes…and top up that glass of champers!
All the best