Ideas on Hosting a Dinner Party

 

Have you ever been in the situation where:

  • you had no idea what to do cook for a dinner party at home?
  • you were clueless how much to cook?
  • you questioned yourself if you could prepare some food in advance?
  • you struggled to choose the theme for your dinner party?
  • you had to work out your budget and to shop for ingredients?

Well, if you have ticked at least one of the many items above, you’d probably want to read on as I’m gonna give somesuggestions/ideas on planning a dinner party. I am no expert. Therefore, the ideas and tips that I’m gonna give out are solely based on my experience as I have had hosted a few dinner parties at home before.

The first time I hosted a dinner party, I planned a week before the actual day to allow myself more time to think and do it right. After the first time, I gained some ideas and experience thus the planning time was cut down to only a few days before.

I find this experience, tips and ideas gained really useful. If you are gonna host your first dinner party anytime from now, you may want to know how, when, and what. The following are the points that I’d like to cover:

  • Decide a theme
  • Ambience
  • Menu planning
  • Stretch your £, €, $
  • Shopping for food
  • Table setting
  • To be a good host
  • Cleaning & washing up

 

Theme

Once you know what theme you would like for your dinner party, it will definitely make it easier to decide what’s on the menu. Theme could be closely related to any cultural elements, types of cuisines, lifestyles, trends, social influences, and believes. For example, the theme that I chose for one of the dinner parties that I hosted a while ago was modern & cross-cultural cuisine.

Ambience

This refers to the atmosphere that you’d like to have for that evening while hosting the dinner party. I usually likeinformal, relaxing, cosy, comfortable and ‘feel-at-home’ kind of atmosphere. This eventually makes myself, as a host more at ease and not under pressure. So, I settled with this concept.

To achieve it, I made sure the dinning and living areas were neat with ample space to accommodate the guests and were lit with soft lights, and candles played really important role here. Apart from that, I also chose to have fresh flowers to make the atmosphere more pleasant and welcoming. Of course, the choice of music plays a vital part, so I thought Jazz and Bossa Nova would go well for what I had decided.

Menu Planning

This stage is easier as the above two key drivers have been decided. As soon as I made up my mind that it was gonna be an informal, relaxing, cosy, comfortable and ‘feel-at-home’ kind of ambience with modern & cross cultural cuisine as the theme, then I thoght I wanted to make a 3-course meal.

Simple, simple and simple. Don’t over do it. Portion wise, just enough to feed everyone. If you think it’s a reasonably good portion for you, apply this to your guests. If you are still worried, make a little bit extra, you can always keep them for the next day!

Why simple? This is a very important principle in cooking. As you wouldn’t want to spend the rest of the evening, trying to creat something unachievable unless you have prepared a day before or had enough hours preparing them. If time is a contrainst, then go for simple, well-thought, good combination, fresh and delicious menu. Don’t under estimate simple food. I believe, all the big chefs agree to this point.

What I prepared for that evening in this example were as follow:

  • Seared prawns served on a bed of crispy salad with trio-citrus (grape-fruit, lemon, and navel orange) dressing.
  • Steamed & seasame oil infused haddock fillet, tomato fondue served with spring vegetables.
  • Pommes au four.

Budget & Shopping for food
The budget you have is very much dependent on the menu that you have planned. I reckon prices of the ingredients aren’t as important as the quality. I believe we deserved to eat well and live well. If you are passionate about food, you wouldn’t mind spending a little bit extra for the ingredients to make a great dinner party.

For example, to buy organic or free range chicken. The reason why I mentioned about free range chicken was because I just watched this program called Hugh’s Chicken Run on Channel 4 and I have to say that I absolutely support free range because it’s fairer! I usually make sure I go for fresh produce, and opt for ogranic if I could.

Table Setting
Keep it simple with a few tea lights. If wine is served, have seperate glasses for wine and water. My tableware is usually in plain colours or with minimal design. I soak the cutleries in hot water and wipe them off with dry cloth so that they look immaculate. The use tablecloth could be option. You can substitute this with individual table mats. Also, I always make sure that I have both still and sparkling water on the table. Unless I know for sure none of them likes sparkling water.

Be a good host
I learnt that it could sometimes be really difficult to juggle between cooking and socialising with the guests. Strike a balance between the two could be a mission but it’s not entirely impossible. If you could get some stuff prepared a few hours before or a night before, do so as this would increase your chance of spending less time in the kitchen and spend your time with yours guests so that they are not neglected.

Cleaning & washing up

This might be the most daunting task amongst all. Fear not, the dishwasher will take care of this. If you don’t have one, and you have time and still feel motivated after all your guests have left, you could finish all the washing and cleaning in one shot. If you are far too tired, just do the minimum, i.e. put all the dishes, cutleries, chopping board, pots, pans…etc in the sink, wipe the table and worry about it the next day!

I suppose I have covered everything that I had to. That’s about it, really!

No way! Of course not! I won’t leave you guys out there with just this. There’s always a plus to read on till the end of the post. Right, they are delicious, they are easy to make and easy to eat, they are the cutest tiny little round savoury pastries that your taste buds want more of them after you have put one into your mouth! Most of all, they have beautiful name. Cela s’appelle les petites tartelettes au fromage et aux tomates.

Hmmm… you’d probably have tired eyes by now after all the wordy bits. No, it’s not you, it’s me. Now, put on your thinking hat and try to imagine how these petits tartelettes look like and I shall reveal this tomorrow, I promise! Bonne nuit!