I thought I’d share a few dinner party tips today. I love to get together with people to break bread; there’s nothing quite so magical as flickering candles, great food, and enjoyable conversation. Let’s dive in:
Decide on how YOU want to Feel
(Fill in the blank)
Once you know how you want your dinner party to make you feel, it’s far easier to plan your menu, pick your table settings, and even decide what sort of music you might like in the background -if any. Your guests will take their cue from you, by the way, so whatever mood you’re going for better be true to you.
Pick a Menu with Confidence
When I’m hosting I want to relax and enjoy my guests. That means not sweating up a storm over a hot stove, leaving my guests to talk amongst themselves. If you’re new to hosting dinner parties, find a signature dish you can make easily and serve with confidence. You will save yourself all kinds of stress, trust me.
If I want to try out a new recipe, I will sometimes audition it a week or two before the party. Doing this tells me how much prep is involved and how hands on the actual cooking process is, which is helpful to know. It also highlights where I can either do some of the work ahead of time or where a recipe is so overly intricate that I can condense complicated steps to save time.
Set the Scene
This is the really fun part for me, and it’s where knowing how you want to feel when you sit down with your guests is really helpful. Remember, the feelings you’re creating for yourself will also be the feelings you want your guests to experience. Special, relaxed, happy, and welcome are all pretty good foundations. Your place settings can be as complicated or simple as suits your taste. I like to add little touches sometimes, like individual bouquets or favours on the plates.
My Must Haves:
Candles -I prefer beeswax because they’re so clean burning, but at least try for something unscented. Strong scents can interfere with the aromas and flavours of your meal.
Table Linens -I don’t always use a cloth, but I will try to include pretty napkins or special placemats if nothing else.
Utensils -I know this one is kind of a no-brainer, but always make sure you have enough cutlery for everyone, and anything needed for special courses, like dessert forks or coffee spoons. And don’t forget serving utensils.
Salt & Pepper -It may be “an insult to the cook to fling condiments on a carefully prepared dish,” but people have the right to season their food to taste.
Trivets -Protect your table, you don’t want anything scorched or melted because something hot from the oven landed on it.
Plates, cups, glasses -Again, this one is pretty obvious. I like to use faceted glasses when I can, they sparkle in the candlelight. Also, my dishwasher sometimes doesn’t do the job it’s meant to, so I have to be vigilant about making sure everything is properly cleaned.
Music -Usually I just leave it out, but if I’m feeling extra decadent a little music just ices the proverbial cupcake for me. I like classical or simply instrumental for background music. Vivaldi seems well-suited to breakfast, something jazzy might suit a sit-down dinner a little better, although something bluesy might suit a BBQ. Whatever you choose, make sure you like it, and also make sure you keep it low so people can talk.
Enjoy the Party
I know we all get short on time. It happens, you’ll be getting set with six hours to go, and the next thing you know your first guests are arriving at the appointed time. Don’t get stressed. Remember, your guests are there because they want to see you – and probably because you promised them food- but even if some disaster happens and you have to order takeaway, it’ll still be a lovely evening. Why? Because you’re spending time with people you care about. Besides, it’ll be a great story down the line, so you might as well laugh it off and carry on with grace. That’s what people will remember, the atmosphere and the way you carry yourself. Pick a good narrative, and plan your outfit ahead of time.