Inviting family and friends into your home for a wonderful meal and great conversation need not invoke panic and stress. With careful planning and a few helpful tips, you can create an enjoyable experience for you and your guests.
I love entertaining people in our home. There is something so much more intimate and relaxing about having everyone come to the house instead of meeting out at a restaurant. We can take our time sitting down to eat. There is no rush to start on dessert immediately after the meal has been cleared. The dinner table discussion can be as loud and boisterous or as quiet and introspective as we like. The kids can run off to play and leave the adults to sit and enjoy their food. The best memories I have of family gatherings are not at restaurants we have frequented but around my parents’ or my own dining room table.
So if you would love to throw your own dinner party but the thought of it sets your mind racing and your stomach churning, have no fear! Here are some tips to ensure your next dinner party will be a swinging success.
1. DO plan your menu in advance. Once you have all the items decided on, create a written timeline for when each item will be prepared.
2. DON’T choose complicated recipes. There is no need to pick recipes that will take you hours to prepare and have 15 different steps. Choose recipes that are simple, colorful and full of flavor. Select produce that is in season for maximum flavor. A simple skewer of fresh tomatoes, basil and mozzarella with a balsamic drizzle is an elegant yet easy appetizer in the summer. Roasted butternut squash risotto is warm and comforting in the winter yet sophisticated and simple to prepare.
3. DO make it easy for your guests to help themselves to drinks and snacks. To make people feel more comfortable in your home and to keep you from running around like a crazy person, make sure the beverages are all within reach. Either place items in a large decorative tub or fill your sink with ice and place wine and beer bottles inside. Leave glasses and bottle openers nearby. Create a coffee station near your coffee maker with cream, sugar, tea bags, spoons, cups and napkins. Place bowls of chips or plates of hors d’oeuvres scattered through the space encouraging guests to mingle and not hover in the kitchen.
4. DON’T hide out in the kitchen. Make sure all the food is either ready or can be left unattended to complete cooking when your guests arrive. People are coming over to enjoy your company, not watch you ice a cake or obsess over the sauce for your chicken.
5. DO go with the flow. People will be late in arriving. Drinks will get spilled on the carpet. Kids will leave toys all over the house. Pets will decide to leave you an unwanted “gift” in the middle of party (yes, that has happen to me on more occasions than I’d like to admit to). It’s all OK. If you take it all in stride, so will your guests.
6. DON’T try out a new recipe on your guests (unless you are quite comfortable with your cooking ability). If you have never tackled a beef wellington before, having your guests be your first tasters is not the best idea. Try new recipes out on family or close friends you trust and who will love you no matter how raw the chicken is you serve them.
7. DO a trial run before the party. Set up your table. Determine which serving pieces you will use. Make sure you have enough wine glasses and that your table cloth fits. Select a simple, yet attractive centerpiece. Food and natural objects like leaves, pine cones and branches can make a wonderful display. For inspiration, subscribe to my party ideas board on Pinterest.
8. DON’T be afraid to ask for help! If cooking is really not your thing, consider asking a family member or friend to help you or hire a personal chef!
9. DO set the mood. If you want a lively, upbeat party make sure to put some fun music on before guests arrive. If you are looking for a more elegant affair, dim the lights and add some candles or a fire in the fireplace.
10. DON’T forget to have fun. This is your party too after all! Take some time to relax, talk with your friends and drink a glass of wine.
Now it’s your turn! What dinner party disasters have happened to you? Do you have dogs that like to add something special to your parties? What have your tried that made your dinner a smashing success?