We’ve all seen them. The charming host or hostess elegantly attired, serenely captivating — delighting their guests with witty repartee, amazing them with culinary delights and coolly shifting between dinner courses with grace and style.
Unfortunately for most of us however, the thought of hosting a dinner party brings up visions of sweating over a kitchen range for hours, attempting to juggle a myriad of pots and pans whilst suspicious smells of burning, drive us to distraction.
By the time our guests arrive, we are ready for a stiff drink, a headache powder and bed.
Take heart — it doesn’t have to be that way. With careful planning, the right kitchen equipment and a little know how, you can turn your next dinner party into an evening of sophisticated social intercourse, highlighted by a sumptuous display of your culinary talents.
Tool Time — Equipping Yourself
Attempting to create sumptuous dishes using inferior kitchen equipment can be likened to giving yourself a haircut with paper-cutting scissors — it will work, but the results won’t be pretty.
Likewise, arming oneself with high quality, professional grade utensils and equipment, can transform the mundane into a masterpiece.
The basics should include:
- A quality chef knife set — can make preparation a breeze. For the home cook, at a minimum, consider:
- Chefs knife — this perfect all-rounder can chop, dice and slice.
- Paring knife — for peeling, trimming and coring vegetables.
- Carving knife — slices meat to perfection and adds a professional touch to your presentation.
- Stainless steel cookware, comprising:
- Pots and pans.
- At least two fry-pans.
- Oven to table cookware.
- Bain Marie — for keeping food warm whilst serving or to allow guests to help themselves.
Recipes For Success
To avoid serving up a magnificent roast to a selection of guests who turn out to be vegetarians, it pays to plan ahead. A quick email out to guests requesting food preferences, intolerances or allergies, will be time well spent.
Plan a menu which you believe will have wide appeal and keep recipes as uncomplicated as possible. This guide, running down dietary requirements and restrictions, is aimed at restaurants, but it’s a great resource for catering to everyone’s needs.
The more that can go wrong, will go wrong, when preparing for a large group of guests. Prepare as much food in advance as your fridge will allow.
Setting The Scene
As the saying goes, the first bite is with the eye. Creating a welcoming ambience, which greets guests from the moment they step over your threshold, can go a long way to setting the scene for a successful evening. So too can a sparkling dining table laid with crisp white linen and polished silverware.
There are a number of ways you can bring intimacy and warmth into your home. Try a few of the following:
- Scented candles — smell is a powerful sense and the evocative scent of rose or lavender, can be soothing and alluring.
- Carefully arranged lighting — creates an intimate mood.
- Soft music playing — keep it low to allow for easy conversation.
- In Winter, an open fire — says ‘take your shoes off and stay awhile’.
The primary reason we throw a dinner party is to enjoy the company of our guests. As with wines, people vary in the quality and consistency of their personalities. Some may be cheeky and light, some earthy, others however, leave you with a bad aftertaste and need to be corked.
Planning your guest list can take the skill of a politician but getting it right can mean the difference between a swanky soiree and a terminally dull evening, which has guests looking at their watches around a quarter past eight.
For these reasons, consider your invitations well. Age, demographic and temperament all need to be taken into account when attempting to congregate a group of individuals whom you are hoping will generate witty conversation and intelligent repartee.
The Most Important Thing of All…
Relax and enjoy yourself. Guests won’t mind if the steak is a little tough or the veggies are a bit soft, they are there to savour the pleasures of good company and friendly banter. If you are relaxed, chatty and ready for fun, guests will take their cue from you — enthusiasm is infectious!
So start planning. Your next dinner party may just be the start of something big.