Throwing a dinner party is a great idea to get friends together for a communal meal, but we all know how stressful it can be. This is especially true if you’re the sort of person who likes everything to be perfect, or if the people invited are not quite friends but more along the lines of work colleagues you’re hoping to impress. So you’re thinking of inviting people over and are already starting to panic? Don’t worry. Our tips for throwing the perfect dinner party with minimum fuss will help make your party go smoothly while keeping both you and your guests happy.
You’re all going to be spending a significant amount of time sat around a table together, so you want to make sure your guests will get on with each other. You already know your friends, so should know who’s likely to fit in and, on the other hand, who’s likely to rub people the wrong way. If you must invite someone problematic for political reasons, at least try to place them far away from anyone they may annoy.
As soon as you send out the invites, it’s time to check you have everything you need to prepare and serve your meal. Are there enough plates, bowls, etc. for everyone? Are you planning on making a dish that requires a particular serving dish? Do you have those ready? Similarly, you want to make sure you have everything you need to prepare and cook your meal. Baking tins, pots, pans and, of course, knives, need to be available and in tip top shape to make your life easier when it’s time to cook. If you want to find out more about the importance of a good knife, check out our favourite resource, Cut it Fine. If anything is missing, this is the time to buy it, a long time in advance so that everything is ready when you come to prepare the meal.
You may be tempted to try and impress your guests by cooking elaborate, exotic dishes, but cooking something for the first time for a dinner party is a really bad idea. You need to choose dishes you could almost cook in your sleep. This makes the whole experience less stressful and less likely to end in disappointment. If you have a signature dish, now’s the time to make it. Alternatively, if you’re set of trying something new, make sure you practice and make the dish several times before the actual dinner party, so that it’s easy to make on the day.
While some guests will readily volunteer information about any allergies they have or any dietary preference like vegetarianism, veganism and any religious limitations, others may just assume you know. Always ask before you start planning your meal, as you may need to make adjustments. It’s also worth asking your guests whether there are things they simply dislike.
A dinner party is no place for improvisation. You want to plan your menu a long time in advance so that you know exactly what you’re going to be serving on the day. When planning, think about balance – you don’t want to serve too many heavy dishes, but you also want to make sure your meal is substantial. Consider opting for a seasonal or themed menu (Italian, Chinese, etc.) to make grocery shopping easier (and cheaper).
Don’t leave everything to the last minute. You can actually set the table the day before and there are many dishes that can either be prepared the day before in full, or at least in part. Even if you are planning on doing the cooking on the day, start early and make sure you have a plan in place for hob, oven and worktop usage, to make sure you can fit everything into available time and space.
It doesn’t take that much to make either a dish or a table setting stand out. You’ll be surprised at how much charm a simple flower arrangement or personal name cards can bring to a table, as well as simple home-made condiments or garnishes such as vegetable flowers, actual edible flowers added to cocktails, etc.
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