As my skills in the kitchen have improved I have held some dinner parties, most of which were far more successful than that infamous Christmas dinner. Although it can be quite daunting, there are some tips that I always when throwing a dinner party that have proved very helpful to me.
Forget All The Formalities
Unless you are planning something for the royal family, there is no need for your dinner party to be too formal. It’s unlikely that your guests will be expecting your semi-detached house to be transformed into a Michelin star restaurant so bear that in mind and don’t get too stressed.
Don’t Invite Too Many Guests
Keep in mind that the amount of guests you invite is the amount you will have to cook and cater to, so don’t invite too many or your house will be too crowded and you won’t be able to keep them all happy.
Plan, Plan And Plan Some More
As I learned all those years ago when I had that disaster of a Christmas dinner there is no such thing as too much planning. Plan and prepare for everything well in advance and it’s a good idea to host your dinner party at the weekend or on your day off as you will then have all day to work on it before the guests arrive.
Simplicity Is The Key
Although you obviously want to impress your guests and want for them to have a good time, there is no point turning it into a showcase of your technique. Keep it all very simple and then you have less room for error. Always choose to prepare and cook dishes that you know you can produce to a high enough standard and are not going to give anyone food poisoning or upset stomachs from.
Retro Or Regular?
If you want to add a particular atmosphere to your evening, think of a theme. You could have a Bollywood theme and serve curry or opt for a cheesy 70′s night with music and pineapple. You could have a suit and tie type night and blast out old big band tunes by Sinatra, Davies Jnr and Martin etc.
Presentation Is Important
We eat with our eyes as well as our mouths and I always pay close attention to how I serve my meals. If you are serving soup and do not have enough spoons for 8, you have a problem and if you serve spaghetti with a steak knife and fork, your guests will have difficulty eating the fine meal you have prepared. White plates are how the pros do it – clean, crisp and appealing.
Take It Nice And Easy
Take as relaxed an approach to your dinner party as you can manage. I prefer to make it a laid back affair with a large platter style dish for starters, a simple main course and a mix in one bowl cake for pudding.
Stress Free Summer Parties
When you are serving in the heat of the summer, it is much easier to serve fresh salads. Even serving a fruit salad with some ice cream for dessert can be a great way to round off a delicious meal.
Drink Do’s And Don’ts
Serve drinks that match the weather. If the sun is shining and it is relatively warm, serve something light and chilled and don’t forget to cater for those who prefer to drink non-alcoholic drinks.
Set The Right Mood
So you have everything from the food to the drink and theme sorted, just remember to consider the lighting and mood. Candles are always a good way to lift the mood and hide a multitude of sins.
Finally, the most important part of any dinner party is the guests and making sure that they are all going to get along. This will in turn ensure that everyone has a great time, which is ultimately what you want!
One thing I have learned over the years is that being a host also means taking some time out to relax and enjoy your own party. Don’t forget to take regular breaks away from cooking or any other duties so that you can mingle with your guests. It may sound simple but it will make all the difference.
At the end of the day, a successful dinner party doesn’t necessarily mean one where everything goes smoothly – it just means one where everyone had fun! So don’t be too hard on yourself, just enjoy the evening and take pride in knowing that you were able to provide a great night out for everyone. Happy entertaining!