Throwing the perfect dinner party can be a daunting task. But never fear, I am here with a series of blogs to take you through it all. From the guest list, to the menu and wine matches, all the way to music choices in bite size chunks.
The Guest List
The first thing you have to do is to choose who you want to attend your party, as this will determine the general theme, type of dinner and what you will serve etc. The total number will usually be determined by how much space you have at your house and how many chairs you can fit around your table. Or how many chairs you have. I know that my limit at home is 7 people, including myself and my partner. This is for a sit-down dinner. If you want to invite more people you could have a BBQ or a drinks party where you can fit more people into the space.
Make sure the group of friends you pick get along. There is nothing worse than your guests not getting along and causing the party to end early or someone becoming upset. Equally don’t invite all strangers, if you are the only thing they have in common you could risk it feeling like a mixer and not a dinner party.
If you are feeling a bit fancy handwritten and posted invitations are a nice touch. Phone calls, emails, texts and group messages work well to. There are plenty of online sites that can help you create your own invitations. My personal favourite is www.canva.com, this site does so much more than just invitations, it is awesome! With these sites you have the option to print or to send via email if you want to save on paper.
I would say three weeks in advanced is a good amount of time for guests to RSVP and not to run the risk of them being booked up on that night already. If it is a big occasion i.e birthday or anniversary, a month and a half is preferable. Even longer for a holiday party at Christmas or Easter as guests will need to plan accordingly.
Allergens and Dietary Requirements
When sending out the invitations it is always good practice to ask if anyone has any allergies or dietary requirements. There is nothing worse than finding out a guest is vegetarian when you are taking the leg of lamb out the oven and everything else is cooked with duck fat.
Allergies can be very serious. If a person has a severe allergy it can be fatal. Sorry to be morbid, but this is something I am super careful about. If a guest has an allergy, severe or not, they will usually tell you beforehand but it is best to be polite and ask beforehand.
Allergens can include, but are not limited to the following; dairy, gluten, eggs, fish, shellfish, mustard, nuts, celery, sulphates and lupin; a flour, found in some breads and pasta. There are more but these are the most common, it is always best to look at all the labels of products you buy if a guest has an allergy, just to be extra safe.
Other dietary requirements can be due to religious beliefs, moral lifestyles such as veganism and vegetarianism or a lifestyle choice they have made for health reasons. If you know a guest subscribes to any of the above it is good to do a little bit of research into what they mean and come up with something equally as tasty.
Keep it Simple and take it easy on yourself
Hosting a party can be very stressful! It is best to make everything easy for yourself by prepping everything in advance. Planning the menu in advance too. You don’t want to be a ‘phantom host’ by spending to much time away from your guests with finishing touches or drink making.
Always choose dishes you have cooked in the past, at least once or twice, so you are comfortable with the recipe and how it turns out. Some recipes can be deceiving with measurements and ease.
Seating plans are the root of a lot of stress and these days they are not as important as they were, well in this sort of informal setting. So do away with the seating plan and let your guests sit where they are comfortable.
When it comes to drinks, stick with a choice of wine, beer and a simple cocktail. There is no point in getting wound up about 4 themed cocktails. They take a lot of time, effort and money. You could always employ someone to make cocktails for the whole night, just know it will get messy.
In the next blog, we will go through the latter points in a bit more depth. focusing on designing the menu and matching wines. I'll go over the basics when it comes to wine pairing.
Have you got any dinner party stories, horror or successful, we would love to hear them? And any tips you have about hosting? Please do share them.
Until next time.
Tiny Sommelier x
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Good food is very often, even most often, simple food. - Anthony Bourdain