In Part One we covered the guest list, allergens, dietary requirements and keeping it simple. Today we are going to go through the best type of menu and serving style for dinner parties as well as a few simple rules to follow with food and wine matching.
As we said in the previous blog post, do not make dishes that are over complicated and ones you have never cooked before Best is a dish that most of the preparation can be done before hand.
Let’s look at the 3 main courses:
Starters - I like to do informal snacks rather than a plated starter. They encourage socialising at the beginning of the evening and with a variety of options they can cater to everyone's taste. Snacks can be anything from pâté, crisps and dip, charcuterie (cured meats), cheese with crackers to olives and anchovies. Just be careful how much you put out. You want to have enough but not so much that your guests fill up on snacks and then eat nothing else.
Mains – One pot wonders are ideal as a main course at a dinner party, accompanied by an interesting salad or a side dish. I love doing roasts, anything from chicken to lamb. You pop all the root veg in the dish with the meat to roast and marinate in the fabulous juices. A Durban Style Curry is also a good call, both Chicks and Cheese girls are from Durban so it's a winner from us. Pop everything in on a low heat and leave. Brilliant!
Idea: When serving the main course, I highly recommend family style. The dishes are placed in the centre of the table, with serving spoons, so guests can help themselves. This style of eating has many benefits; it is a sociable way to eat, guests can control their portion sizes and dishing up seconds is super easy.
Dessert – Desserts often require a lot of time to prepare so it's always advisable to bake something beforehand, like a cake or a tart. This can be served with ice-cream or a sauce. Cut, pour and serve! If dessert isn’t your thing then a cheese board is a fabulous idea. Although do be careful if you included cheese in your snack board. You could even move in to the lounge for dessert as a change of scenery and this creates a more relaxed atmosphere.
Idea: Have a few takeaway containers to hand, as you can then give your guests some left overs to take home. Your version of a party favour.
Food and Wine Matching
Firstly, wine is a very personal experience. Even a 'perfectly matched' dish may not alter someone's opinion if they dislike a particular style of wine. In this case, it may be advisable to have a couple of red and white options ready to go.
Secondly, it is hard to know how much guests are going to drink, if at all. As a rule of thumb allow half a bottle per person. Unless like me, you have 'Novinophobia' - fear of running out. If you are left with unopened bottles, they will keep.
Sparkling – I love champagne, Veuve Clicquot in particular, but having champers to start can be an expensive exercise. A good quality Prosecco can serve as a tasty substitute. It is slightly fruitier than champagne making it a bit more consumer friendly. Adding elderflower or crème de cassis cordial, 10-15 ml per glass, can transform your Prosecco into a simple, classic cocktail. Remember to chill in advance.
Wine – A mix of white and red wines means your guests can choose.
If you are pairing wines with your dinner party food, here are a few simple guide lines to follow. However, keep in mind that wine is a very personal taste and everyone is different.
Salty Foods – choose a wine with bold tannins, such as a Cabernet Sauvignon from a warm climate, as a salty dish will soften the tannins in the wine.
Acidic Foods – choose a wine with a high acidity, such as the wine from above, or a New World Sauvignon Blanc, as an acidic dish will often balance the fruit characteristics with the acidity in the wine.
Intensely Flavoured Food – always pair with a wine of similar intensity. This will be different for each dish, as a less intense wine will be overwhelmed by the flavours in the food and seem flat and flabby. If making an Indian or South East Asian curry don't be afraid to pair with a locally brewed beer.
Oily Food – choose a wine with high acidity (see acidic foods) as this will cut through some of the oil and fat, making the dish seem lighter and fresher whilst reducing the acidic intensity of the wine.
Food with Chilli Heat – choose sweeter wines with lighter alcohol content such as Rieslings and Gewürztraminer. The heat from the chilli will increase the alcohol burn in a wine and make it seem less fruity and sweet.
Sweet Food – wines with lower tannins and acidity pair well as the sugar in the food intensifies bitter flavours while reducing fruitiness in the wine. A good way to measure is to match the sweetness of the wine with the dish.
The reason that food and wine matches work so well is due to the flavour profiles of the dishes and the wines and how they react to one another. It is the same as a chef constantly tasting a new dish to create the perfect balance of flavours.
That is it for today. Next time we will go through the final part in this series of blog posts. Part Three, where we will go through setting the table, atmosphere and finally music choice.
We would love to hear some of your dinner party menus and wine matches, pop them in the comments below.
Tiny Sommelier xx
Good food is very often, even most often, simple food. - Anthony Bourdain