Planning a dinner party can be such a lovely thing – it is an excellent time to get together with friends and family and relax. Sharing great food and catching up with each other – especially when life can be so busy!
If you have dinner parties often, you are probably a dab hand at creating a menu that is suitable for everyone at the table – and don’t break a sweat when something isn’t going quite to plan.
However, if you don’t plan evenings like this often, you might be wondering where to start!
But don’t worry, if you have an evening meal in your future and can’t wait to start planning, here are some quick dinner party tips that can help you make the most of it.
If you have a few meals that you can cook easily, but they aren’t show -stopping, there can be a huge temptation to be extra fancy. Unfortunately, if you haven’t practised a little bit – you might find that it doesn’t go to plan: think Bridget Jones and her blue soup and marmalade.
Cooking something you are confident in making can make a massive difference to how relaxed you are with what you are doing.
If you have chosen something that isn’t on your typical roster of meals, try to practice a few times before the big night.
That way, you can know for sure you have perfected it.
If your friends or family are taking new people with them, it is essential that ahead of you make a lot of effort in the kitchen – you check for allergies and dietary requirements. Although you will be told if someone is vegan or vegetarian most of the time, it can be a good idea to check.
This way, you can make sure you have meals to suit everyone at the table – from the meat lover to the shellfish allergy or the vegan who loves artichokes.
This shows that you have put thought into the people sitting around your table and that they weren’t a second thought but rather the primary consideration in your menu planning.
It can be tempting to place too many luxurious and heavy foods on your menu. You want the people eating with you to leave full and happy.
But there is a balance to be found with the flow of the food. Starters and appetizers should usually be relatively light – but they can still be luxurious. Sashimi, crudités and dip, toasted flatbreads, and soup can all be delicious but straightforward options.
Perhaps the weather is just right for you to have a lovely long evening alfresco. One of the first things you will be thinking about is how to dress your outside area and some fun patio accessory ideas.
Themes can be fun, and you can make your menu tie in nicely with whatever you choose. It could be that everyone brings one dish, or you might opt to have a single Country as your inspiration.
Have fun with themes, and unless everyone is really into it – try not to take it too seriously!
While you might have a very carefully planned schedule, not everything will go to plan. You might have a couple of people stuck in traffic and late; some arrive early, and there could be issues with the cooking.
So while you should plan your time well, have a backup plan for when/if things don’t go to plan for other people.
Also, try to remember the timing for the more minor things like sauces, plating up, chatting between serving and more. It rarely runs to plan – so allow some time to enjoy the people you are with.
Not everyone will want to drink wine; perhaps they are driving, maybe they don’t drink or don’t like wine. No matter the reason, it is a good idea to have some backup drinks that complement the flavours in your meals.
It is always a good idea to have a jug of water on the table so that guests can quickly grab it for themselves.
If you do have wine to go with the meal, try to go for flavor pairing – sometimes, the wrong wine can throw your meal’s primary flavors off.
Seasonal is best
Although we have access to everything we want in fresh produce, that doesn’t mean it is always at its best. When you choose to cook seasonal produce, the flavour combinations are the best as that is the season they are supposed to be available.
Often seasonal produce will be sweeter, riper, and fresher. So, before you plan your menu take a look at what should be available in that month and plan around it.
If you try to handle everything in the kitchen during the dinner party, if something goes wrong or you don’t have a specific ingredient (that you thought you had), it can cause some brow sweat.
Instead, choose one or two of your courses that can be prepared in advance. It might be that you can do 50%+ each meal in preparation.
Anything that can be made in advance and the quality not suffer should be something you consider doing. This takes a lot of the pressure off in the hours ahead of your dinner party. Even simple dishes can have things wrong like sauce splitting, a flavour imbalance or something else equally annoying.
How you set the table and present the meal will all add to the delight of your guests. You can steal a few tips and tricks from Pinterest boards. If you have used a theme, you might want to go ahead and indulge in it. Dress the table and chairs and even have specialist plates or glasses too.
Just remember that the most important thing about the dinner is you! Make sure that you are ready to greet your guests and have a lovely relaxing evening with them.
Check out some of these great recipe ideas to help you plan the perfect food for your next dinner party: Recipes – Freetail Therapy.