I grew up loving the idea of hosting a dinner party. It was in my blood. To some the thought is daunting and just not worth the trouble. But for me, the idea of cooking for people, choosing wine, hosting them, and that feeling you get when there is laughter and good times being had in your home is almost like a drug to me. Ask around- our house is the house to visit. Once a week I have people over for dinner and usually on weekends I either have friends to our home, or take a travelling group of dishes somewhere. And while it sounds exhausting (it really can be) the shear delight and appreciation on peoples’ faces when they try your food or drink the wine you selected makes it all worth it to me.
For those who don’t get quite as much joy out of it, but find yourselves hosting people at your home more often than you would like, here are some tricks of the trade I have learned over my years of hosting events.
Pick some sort of theme or concept and stick to it
This is really about keeping you on track. I by no means mean all of the food you are going to make or serve is going to fit perfectly, and I don’t mean go out and spend hundreds of dollars on décor. A theme for me is just the box you decide to work within and it keeps you focused. Your theme can be a type of food- Italian etc. or it can be a dish you work around. It can be about a kind of wine, or it can be a season. The sky is the limit, but its fun and creative and makes everyone excited to be part of something.
Lean on your guests to chip in
My ideal dinner party size is 8. And I’ll explain why! Most of my guests are couples- that leaves 3 couples to contribute to the evening- great! Be direct with what you want people to bring and play to peoples strengths- I am never going to ask someone who hates cooking and doesn’t care about food to bring food (although we probably won’t be friends if you are this person-sorry!). 1 couple can bring a dessert, the other couple can bring an appetizer and the other couple can bring a salad. It leaves you to focus on the main dish. Much less stress then making it all yourself!
Keep it Simple
Don’t pick recipes you have never made before- that is added stress you really don’t need to worry about when you have 8 friends with hungry bellies waiting for their dinner. Pick a main dish that is easy to make and you know is a crowd pleaser. And don’t overcomplicate your evening by making a million things. I always choose a main dish of some kind, a salad and one other side item. It keeps things manageable in the kitchen and you don’t have 15 pots boiling over while your friend is trying to chitchat and catch up.
There are a lot of things you can take care of before your guests arrive that will make your life a hell of a lot easier. I always make sure my dishwasher is empty (or close to it) before I host a dinner party, this makes for easy clean up.
If there is a salad or any dish you can prep before hand- do it. I always make my salad the night before and keep the dressing in a container to the side. If I am making homemade pasta (yes I do this) I will make it the day before and have it ready to throw into the boiling water the night of.
Set up your coffee and tea so its ready with a flip of a switch- there is nothing worse than feeling like you are banished from your guests while you try and get coffee, dessert and after dinner drinks ready. And get your cups and dishes out and ready on a serving tray so you aren’t scrambling.
It’s okay to pay for food if you don’t like cooking
I get it, not everyone loves cooking and hosting dinner parties (a little part of me dies inside to think that) but, I truly believe it is okay to pay for food or get a dinner catered or order in if you simply just don’t like cooking. Think about it- if you aren’t passionate about making what you are about to serve to people- do you really think it’s going to be any good? -Probably not. Find a caterer or restaurant you love and have it on speed dial.
Last but certainly not least- drink decent wine!
I am not saying break the bank here. But for the love of god please don’t serve boxed wine (unless that’s your theme?!?). Decent wine is something you have put a little thought into- I’ll even take red with steak, or something Italian with Italian food. If this isn’t your strong point- ask someone who is coming to bring a bottle, or, email me- I would be happy to give you some ideas. Let me stress- I am not saying you have to buy expensive wine- there are so many options out there that you can find some decent options for under $20.00.
I hope these tips help eliminate the stress you might have when hosting a party at your home. Remember, at the end of the day it’s about getting together with your friends and family and catching up and sharing stories. Don’t stress, and be in the moment and enjoy it. For me, a party turns to no fun when all I am doing is worrying about what’s next, what I need to clean up, or what I have to get out of the oven. Relax, enjoy your company, and drink some great wine!
Want to learn more about wine? Why not host a wine event with your friends, co-workers or family? For more information about wine, food and the good life, follow me on Instagram @NewAgeNonna or subscribe to my Blog.