Four tips to help you throw the perfect dinner party
Planning a dinner party for friends or colleagues? Follow these four tips and make sure it’s a fun night – for everyone.
Having friends or colleagues over for dinner is fun – or it should be! A well-planned dinner party ensures that everyone had a good time, with the perfect dishes, drinks and mix of people.
But planning that perfect night isn’t always easy. Choose the wrong menu and you can find yourself getting stressed in the kitchen preparing food your guests can’t eat, while they bicker at the diner table. Or worse, sit in a cold, unfriendly silence!
That’s a fairly extreme scenario, and we hope none of your dinner parties turnout quite that awkward. But to reduce the chances of hosting a night to remember for the wrong reasons, we’ve put together four tips for you.
So, if you’re planning to invite friends round for food, grab your favorite Manhattan drink recipe and read our advice for throwing a diner party everyone can enjoy (including you).
1) Always ask about allergies first
Before you even open a cookbook and start browsing for recipes, you need to find out if any of your guests have food allergies, or are unable to eat particular ingredients due to other reasons.
Usually if a guest has a severe allergy or comes from a religious background that prevents them from eating particular foods (or has decided to go vegan), they’ll let you know well before the event.
But that’s not always the case. So, to save everyone an awkward situation, you having to scrabble to make something else quickly on the night, or leave a guest hungry, it’s worth asking in advance.
It’s not an awkward question, and no one needs to feel embarrassed about it. There are many different food allergies, some of them serious, and it’s important to check that everyone can eat – and will enjoy – the food that you serve.
2) Pick the right group of people
While you might want to simply invite your entire group of friends, or work colleagues, to your dinner party, it’s important to include people who have quite a bit in common.
Friends who get along well and have similar interests will make for a convivial evening. If you want to throw in a couple of people who are different, make sure they won’t make your other guests feel uncomfortable. For example, if you have acquaintances with very vocal, polarising opinions on topics like politics or religion, consider whether they’d be a good fit with the rest of the group before extending an invitation.
The last thing you want is a big argument at your dinner party, or awkward silences because no one knows what to say to each other. So make sure the mix of people you ask will get along and ensure a fun, lively but friendly evening.
And if there is going to be any debate, that it is good natured. And that everyone coming along is mature enough to listen to and accept the opinions of others without getting (or making others) upset.
3) Cook what you know
If you’re cooking for a dinner party, choose dishes that you’ve made at least one or two times before. Now is not the time to experiment with soufflé recipes for the first time!
A dinner party is supposed to be enjoyable for everyone – including you. And you’re much more likely to enjoy the evening if you’re not worried about the food. So prepare dishes that you feel confident in and will enjoy making.
If you do want to try a new recipe, then practice making it a few days before and get familiar with it. You can even test it on your family to see what they think of it.
Practicing it in advance can also help you get to grips with the timings of the dish, so you’re not leaving your guests hungry on the night because a new dish has taken much longer to cook than you anticipated!
4) Cook smart
There’s one more important consideration when choosing dishes for your dinner party: pick ones that are low maintenance.
Ideally your menu will include dishes where the majority of the prep (and even cooking) can be done in advance, so they only need a little finishing off once your guests have arrived.
Remember that people aren’t just coming to eat your food – they’re here to spend time with you. So you don’t want to abandon your host duties because you’ve picked recipes that require a lot of stirring, checking or flipping or just general work or attention during your party.
Not only is it rude to leave your guests unattended, but you risk conversation running dry or worse, arguments breaking out (this can be avoided if you get tip two right!), if you’re not there to play host.
So think simple but tasty when picking your menu. And yes you may want to impress with your culinary skills, but choose dishes that appropriate for your skill level, practise them in advance, and ensure the bulk of the work can take place before you greet your guests.
Enjoy your dinner party
Gathering with friends and family to eat is one of life’s greatest pleasures. So follow these tips and ensure that everyone enjoys your dinner party – including you!
Photo by Stefan Vladimirov