How to host "The Perfect Dinner Party"
Hosting a Dinner Party should be an enjoyable experience, sharing and appreciating fabulous food amongst great family and friends. To get the most out of entertaining at home with the least stress, it is key to balance the time between the kitchen and entertaining your guests on the night. Holding a huge personal passion for serving up fabulous food, when I get the opportunity to showboat my culinary expertise to my friends I certainly love to put the extra effort into producing the utmost impressive, tasty and splendid dishes. Being quite adept in the kitchen is obviously one of my strong points though everyone should play to their individual strengths when it comes to choosing the menu. I've collaborated my best tips to put you in the right direction, focusing on juggling food preparation time and finishing off on the day without sacrificing your conversation and mingling time on the evening.
A successful Dinner Party is made up of good food combined with a great atmosphere. Your guests will always help contribute to the flow of the evening and personally, I feel that good conversation and perhaps a little background music is adequate enough entertainment for most parties. However, depending on the occasion and of course your own personal preferences, there is no set rule here so do feel free to ad lib. On previous experiences, I have come across close up magicians, comics, musicians, card games, fireworks, murder mystery events and many more so it really is wide open. If you are "lucky" enough to watch a bad episode of come dine with me then you will surely see some horrific and slipshod efforts to stay clear of :) Whatever you decide to do, suit it to the occasion of your event and your guests.
I always go out of my way and am very accommodating of genuine dietary requirements, including food intolerances and allergies and also of personal life choices. However, trying to please the crowd when it comes to the "fussier eaters" can be more of a difficult situation. My general rule is that if you try to please everyone, you'll end up pleasing no-one. Above all, if someone is invited to your house to dinner, it's down to good manners and politeness to appreciate all the time and effort that has gone into creating a fabulous meal and to be hosting! When it comes to deciding what to cook, the main thing to remember is don't bite off more than you can chew. Choose dishes that the majority of preparation can be done the day before, or on the actual day, though before your guest's arrival. There is nothing wrong with producing a good home made one pot tasty dish for the centre of the table, perhaps with some more extravagant cold side dishes if you have larger numbers to cater for. How complex you make the menu will be comparative to your own skills in the kitchen, but always be aware that plating up time will take you away from your diners. Little bites of food that can be served "floating" before seating will always go down well and take some of the pressure off here. Again, keep it simple, using minimal ingredients for each canape. Some of my most popular are good quality sausages glazed with Dijon and honey, King prawns with chorizo, chilli and balsamic, Stilton and cranberry jam on mini crackers and little cauliflower, carrot and parsnip pakoras. All simple to make and crowd pleasers too! If serving a starter, think about the number you are catering for. Individually plated or hot starters that take last minute cooking can be impressive, though equally tricky and again can take you away from your guests. Something that can be served cold or held at temperature without spoiling is always a safe option, or a sharing platter is a great way to ease the pressure a little bit. I quite like this concept as it encourages your friends to converse more as the food is shared out and suits a variety of tastes . Remember, it is better to do something simple that tastes great than over complicate things and stretch yourself too far. Keep withing your comfit zone! ;) Balancing your complete meal should also be considered. For example, if you are having a red meat main course, keep your starter as a vegetarian or fish option. Likewise, if having a heavy starter, a white meat or fish/seafood option for mains works well too.
I like to have an "arrival drink" prepared for everyone. This can either be a pre made cocktail or some bubbles and perhaps a bottled beer as a second option. This enables the first part of the evening to move efficiently whilst everyone settles in. The drinks menu can then widen up to your own preferences, though red or white wine is always a good base and gin is certainly getting trendy to drink so its good to always have a few options in stock. Always remember to cater for friends not drinking alcohol, providing fruit juice or a fizzy option. Table water should always be readily available at the table too. Jugs of tap water with a slice of lemon is more than adequate.
Once all guests have settled with a drink, its a good time to lay out your pre-prepared canapes. This should have been done whilst awaiting guest's arrival and either kept on the side under cover or in a warming drawer in your oven. About six pieces per person is a fair number to go on and seating half hour from here is a good time scale to adhere to. Don't try and rush everything from there on-wards! A relaxed gap between each course should leave your guests ready for the next one, ideally about fifteen minutes. Etiquette says wait until all guests have finished their plate and pushed their knife and fork together before clearing. As the host and also cooking, you can of course get up a little before all have finished to start the next course if necessary. An open plan kitchen is ideal for this as you can get on with the cooking and continue to be a part of the evening! When you've had enough for the evening, a subtle approach can be needed to close off the evening. Usually the offer of coffee will slow the evening down and send the message to your guests that it is nearly home time :)
-Invite your guests with a clear starting time. For example, have 7:00pm arrival for drinks and canapes, seating for 7:45pm. Most guests will arrive 10-15 minutes later than your initial time-
-Keep the food simple, cook what you're good at and make sure all dishes have been tried and tested -
-Remember to relax and above all, HAVE FUN!
-Of course, if you have read all our tips but still find the thought of catering yourself far too daunting, then I can certainly recommend the perfect Dinner Party Chef!! :) -