Dinner parties are fun – it’s a wonderful way for friends and family to join together over food, and have wonderful conversation and spend an evening. But it can be stressful – particularly if you aren’t experienced in the kitchen, or if you aren’t the most confident cook.
So what the five most important tips when planning your dinner party?
The first rule of any dinner party and the rule that will keep you sane in the kitchen while cooking for all your friends and family are the three Ps: Preparation, Preparation, Preparation!
Plan your menu in advance. A good way to keep you ahead of the game is to pick things that can be prepared ahead of time (even the day before and kept in the fridge overnight before the big dinner party). This does not mean you have to compromise on the quality at all, it just gives you more time during daylight hours (when there is less pressure) to get your food together and on the table looking fantastic.
On each course the tip to go by is to have at least ⅓ of the dish prepared in advance giving yourself more time to focus on the finishing touches and completing the dish. For example by having the white creme brûlée and and raspberry compete already made, this leaves you time to whip up some sugar nests which look fantastic and add the “chef touch to your dinner party”.
Sauces, potatoes, even green beans can be done ahead of time. Plunging green beans in to ice cold water after only a few minutes boiling means when it comes time to serve up the beans will only need 1 minute to cook. The ice cold water also helps retain the beans stunning green colour. These effective short cuts will help save time in other areas – and make your dinner party a huge success!
It’s all in the details – and a fantastic dinner party earns its reputation above a good dinner party by going the extra mile on the finishing touches. These small details will make for a fabulous evening.
Go to your local wine merchants and discuss the menu with them, find a bottle of red or white to accompany the courses for the dinner party, a nice full bodied red to go with your rack of lamb for example. Polished cutlery is very easy to do and the results accompanied by a well laid out table can be impressive. Flowers and candles on the table create both atmosphere and add to the overall ambience, just make sure if you have flowers that they do not obstruct the view of your guests, less is always more. Another good idea to do is a seating plan, mix up your guests (if appropriate) which encourages good conversation and changes the normal couples dynamic. Handwrite or print out some name placements for the table this in itself creates conversation and gives an aura of excitement to the evening. All these small little details combine to make a fantastic dinner party and all it really takes is some good planning.
When choosing the menu go for whole cuts of meat. For example trying to cook ribeye steak 12 different ways from rare to well done is a challenge for any professional chef in a commercial kitchen let alone at home on your domestic oven while trying to entertain guests. Make it easier for yourself go for rack of lamb/whole fillet of beef etc with a good temperature probe and prepared cooking times so that you can achieve perfectly cooked meat (serve it either pink or medium rare and if you have someone who wants it more, it’s no big deal to flash it in the pan). It’s all about making things run smoothly and eliminating unnecessary stress. Your cooking as well as hosting so getting the balance established with all your prep before gives you more time to wine and dine your guests – lovely!
Have fun! The key to any dinner party is that everyone enjoys them self, including the host! With everything prepared from following the above tips, you’ll end up with a fantastic dinner party. Always have a few back up plans, as not everything always goes right – but if you’ve planned for the mishaps then you’ll do great. For example if you have 12 guests and are making dessert let’s for argument sake say a panna cotta, just make two extra so if anything unexpected happens you have a backup. Simple things to keep your dinner party on track and keep you happy and enjoying your fantastic dinner party.
How can P&T Help?
When planning your next dinner party hopefully these tips prove useful and assist you in planning and executing your fantastic dinner party. If you need additional help you can always get in touch with Polo & Tweed, with high calibre chefs from around the world ready and available to come and give you a fantastic dinner party guaranteed. By using professional chef’s and catering, you’ll seriously impress your guests (and then you can take notes and attempt it yourself next time if you want!).