Being the hostess with the mostess is no mean feat. Especially when you have a full schedule that doesn’t leave room for elaborate preparations. However some elegant celebrations do call for a formal affair, so I am keeping this in mind as I lay bare my go-to dinner party tips that do not break your back, yet impress your visitors with your inimitable style.
Let’s get started, shall we?
Before anything else, The Menu must be writ in stone
The food is the high point of the evening and should be a symphony of perfect dish selection, impeccable execution and posh serving. A tall order but possible! The easiest way to come out with flying colours is to focus on fresh local produce that can entice the palette and give an impression of sumptuous wholesomeness.
Maintain a Party Reference Booklet where you can jot down the culinary likes, dislikes and probable allergies of your social circle. Ensure that you do not serve the same dish on two consecutive occasions. If you have a signature dish that was previously well received and requested for subsequent iterations, mix up the presentation so that despite familiar flavours the visual appeal is entirely fresh and your efforts are applauded anew.
Dinner Party Guidelines: The Menu & Presentation
A good menu doesn’t necessarily have to be exotic. But it should have enough variety to ensure that everyone can dig into a couple of yummy options without reservations.
- When finalising the lineup of deliciousness pay attention to the balance of colour and texture. Off-set salty, crumbly goodness of Halumi with juliennes of fresh Zucchini for that added crunch. If the salad is all green and red, introduce a touch of yellow with some capsicum cubes in the soup.
- Go organic to bring out the authentic taste of every ingredient. When the poultry, seafood and the vegetables shine as the stars of the meal, you do not need to sweat over fancy techniques in the kitchen.
- Go with light and subtly flavoured dishes to open the feast. If you overpower the taste buds of your diners with the acridness of garlic or pungent cumin, they may not appreciate the complex layering of spices and garnishes of the main course.
- Pondering about the variety you need to offer? A four-course meal of soup or salad, an appetizer, main course and dessert is the norm. In everything that you do simplicity should be the underlying theme. People love a low-calorie dinner they can enjoy without worrying too much about their intake. Keep this general sentiment in mind and then improvise. If your main dish selection is relatively low-key, you may splurge with your choice of dessert.
- Half the joy of a gastronomical masterpiece is in its presentation. You may pre-cook the dishes and spend the last few precious minutes adding your final flourishes. From caviar to jewelled pomegranates and springy mint leaves, there are no set rules where the aesthetics of food is concerned.
- Always keep in mind your kitchen capacity when selecting your menu. If there is only one oven and you already have it earmarked for the roast, ensure that the sides or the dessert would not need to be grilled or baked.
Dinner Party Guidelines: The Beverages
Wetting the whistle and whetting the appetite, the drinks you choose also grace the evening as able aides to the food. You may go with pre-dinner cocktails and a round of spicy hors d’oeuvres to stimulate conversation and sharpen the anticipation while the night is still young.
For a more formal evening, each course should accompany a wine to complement the dominant flavour of the food. Wine pairing is an art – one that comes with practice. But a few rules of thumb are:
- Matching sour with something like Sauvignon Blanc or Chablis. A high acid wine complements the overtones of lemon perfectly.
- Bitter benefits from a sharp vintage that can cancel it out. Beaujolais, Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon stand for the whole spectrum of tannin mellowness.
- Wine tannin is also great for cleansing the palate for a glistening, moist and rich dish like Wagyu beef steak. It cuts through the fat coating left behind by a mouthful and prepares the taste buds for the next morsel.
- Muscat and Port go superbly well with desserts.
- If you do plan on serving coffee, have some brandy and cheese ready to wrap the dinner in style.
As a hostess, it is your responsibility to keep the spirits flowing but also to steer your guests away from the edge of inebriation. Fill the glasses sparingly if you do plan on serving multiple vintages to avoid a potent cocktail that may compromise the safety of the diners on the way back home.
Dinner Party Guidelines: The Invitation
It may not be your wedding but a successful dinner party is all about the ambience, and sophisticated invites set the right expectations. Let your guests know what awaits them. But do not reveal all the details.
Use your invitation to slide in a suggestion as to what they should wear if the party has a specific dresscode. Capitalize on the electronic invitation trend with a service like Paperless Post or Punch Bowl. You can go all out without spending a single penny on customisation and delivery. Have your RSVP number big and bold and allow your guests at least two days to get back to you since emails are easier to overlook. Follow up the invites with personal phone calls, at least 48 hours ahead of the party.
Wow, has it been a thousand words already? The next post will tackle the behemoths – décor and seating. Till then stay fab and keep entertaining. After all, dinner parties are a lovely way to rekindle soulful connections!
Yours in Style,
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