Hosting a dinner party can seem like a daunting task, even if you are a great cook. Planning a menu, making a guest list, setting the table and timing out the different courses is a tall order when put all together. That said, there are guidelines to follow that will help you pull of a flawless, stress-free evening:
Make something you’ve made before.
Even if you’re an experienced cook and have mastered new recipes on the first attempt before, when feeding others it’s best to play it safe. Classics are always a safe bet: pasta dishes, roasts, chicken, and easy sides like salads, mashed potatoes, and roasted veggies.
Cook in advance.
Even though you’re hosting, you should still be able to participate in the party. In order to do so, cook as much as possible in advance, and supplement with store-bought items. Sides can easily be prepared early and heated up quickly or served at room temperature, and salads can be dressed just before serving. Make sure you’re not working when guests arrive – it’s important to have a before dinner drink together to kick things off.
Even though preparing dessert might seem like a hurdle after putting a whole sit down meal together, dessert is a great way to signal a transition from dinner to the more relaxed part of the evening when people are finishing off open bottles of wine and after dinner drinks. If you’re all cooked out, don’t hesitate to buy dessert. You can pick up a cake or pastries from a local bakery, or even prepare a fruit or cheese platter. Even if it’s simple, it should be there. Also, if you have the space, think about serving dessert at the coffee table rather than in the dining room, to enforce the transition in mood.
Curate the atmosphere.
This is your dinner party, so you can make it whatever you want. Do you want it to be an elegant evening or a laid-back get together? Either way, set the tone. Create a playlist that fits the mood or theme you’re going for, and design a tablescape to match it as well. Pick a signature cocktail or two for the beginning of the evening that aligns with your theme to set the tone at the beginning of the night. That said, if the mood changes, go with the flow. If you plan for a fancy evening but your guests are putting their feet up, don’t be upset: their comfort is a compliment to your hospitality.
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