A dinner party can be a wonderful way to spend an evening with reminiscing with old friends or getting to know new friends in a relaxing and intimate setting. Here are a few do's and don'ts to help make sure the evening is a success.
Don't Try a New Recipe
You may be tempted to try out a new recipe on your guests, thinking it might be fun to cook something new. Don't give into that temptation. You will be stressed enough with all the last second things that pop up without adding the stress of a new recipe that demands your concentration. Experimenting with new recipes is fun, but fun that should be tested on your family.
Do Read the Ingredient List Again
Even though you are making a dish you have made before, check to see you have all the ingredients. It will only take a few seconds, but one day it will save you from finding out you used up the last of that key spice a few weeks ago and forgot to replace it.
Do Prep as Much as Possible in Advance
You want the dinner party to be fun and relaxing for you as well as your guests. The best way to do that is to eliminate that hurried feeling when you have too much to do in too little time. So whatever you can do in advance, do. This can be anything from setting the table the night before to making the dessert that morning. And don't forget the little things like emptying the dishwasher. If you do this right, you will be sipping a glass of wine when your guests arrive, not franticly running around the kitchen.
Do Let Your Guests Know in Advance What you Intend to Serve
I learned this lesson when I had neighbors over for some fresh caught salmon I had been given. It turned out they both hated fish. While this meant plenty of leftovers for me, it also meant they went home hungry. Since then, I do run the menu by my guests when I extend the invitation. It isn't very often I have to make changes, but it mattered the times I did.
Don't Invite All Strangers
I do find that having a mix of guests where not everybody knows everybody can add energy to a dinner party, but this works best if there are old connections as well. Those old connections generate a warm and relaxed atmosphere, making it easier for the new friends to enjoy themselves. Without those connections, it can feel stilted as everyone feels they need to be on their best behavior.
Having a beautifully set table lets your guests know the evening is going to be special, and in turn makes them feel special. So bring out the nice dishes, put some flowers on the table, and most of all, bring out the Ian Wilson Designs Flatware. That flatware makes any food taste better!
Don't Choose a Menu that Will Have You Running Around All Evening
When you are menu planning, think about how busy the dishes will keep you during the evening. While it is impossible not to be doing some cooking while your guests are there, try to limit it. If you are sitting down and chatting with your guests, it will make for a far more enjoyable evening for you and your guests. You don't want to feel like you are working in a restaurant, and your guests don't want to feel like they are eating in one. Remember, they came over to spend time with you.
Do Let the Guests Help
Some hosts are pleased to have a lot of help, especially with the clean up, while others really prefer things done a certain way and just want the guests to go sit in the living room. You decide where you are on this scale, but do let the guests do something, even if it just clearing the table. Your guests know how much work you have gone to in hosting the evening, and doing even a little is a way for them to show how much they appreciate it.
Don't Skip Dessert
This is a special evening, and a nice dessert is a great way to close out the meal. The dessert can be served at the table immediately after dinner, or in the living room after you have finished clearing the table. Either way is fine, but finish the meal with a bang. Serve a homemade cake or pie, or get some pastries from your favorite bakery. That healthy diet can wait until tomorrow.
Don't Put Off the Clean Up Until the Morning
Put that energy you get from a successful evening to work! Go ahead and clean up the living room and kitchen, empty the sink, load the dishwasher and even put out the trash. There is nothing better than waking up to a clean house after a wonderful dinner party. It will make you excited to do it again. Waking to a disaster in the kitchen will leave a bad taste in your mouth (pun intended).
Hopefully these tips will make your next dinner party that much nicer. Salud!