The Perfect Dinner Party Prep
Nothing is more fulfilling than cooking for friends and loved ones. We usually do so during festive events such as Thanksgiving or Christmas. Less often we tend to go out of our way to host a dinner party. And although the idea of putting your heart and soul into delicious dishes for your guests to enjoy is quite tempting, the thought of the amount of effort involved does seem to pale against the magnitude of the event. It’s ‘just’ a dinner party, right? Wrong, a dinner party does not have to be ‘just’ a random event nor does it have to be a mountain of work. Here are some tips to not only up the stakes but also ease the prep so you can concentrate on delicious food.
Set a theme for your party. You want to engage your dinner guests even before they set a foot through your door. Think about the excitement and anticipation there is for Christmas or Thanksgiving. You could do the same for your dinner party. Think of a theme or occasion for your event and start with pouring this into your invitations. Allow your guests to take the idea and run with it. You might even suggest your guests come entirely in character as well.
And when you send out invites, think long and hard who you send these to. That’s not to say to not think of your friends and loved ones, but you do need to do some pairing and/or planning around group dynamics. I.e. what if you invite 4 couples and one single person? Could you see that being awkward? Or what if you invite that person that always gets very political and heated in discussions, would you want that, and if so, do you have someone to counterbalance?
In most cases, your friends are an extension of you, but sometimes when someone is not there, the dynamics change. Be sure to ask for any allergies or dietary restrictions as well. That prevents you from serving up a feast of lobsters and crayfish and finding out a good portion of your guests is deathly allergic to seafood.
With your invites out the door, and hopefully, RSVP’d swiftly, you will have to create the perfect environment for your guests. And it’s not only the dinner table and room you need to consider, but it’s also more than that. Where would receive your guests when they arrive? You can’t really set them at the dinner table straight away as you disappear to put the finishing touches to the food. You kind of want to create a space for your guests where they can get their bearings in your house, get comfortable and maybe even enjoy a drink. The living room usually works for this, but you might also want to consider the kitchen (if you can stand curious people watching you cook) or a porch or terrace. Being able to walk around and get some fresh air will get the appetite going.
What you also might want to consider is where people go after dinner, or, if you have them, intermissions. In most cases, people would want to stand up after having to sit for a while. Ideally, it would not be the room where you started the evening off in. An outside firepit would fit in most cases, or a place where you can engage in some games would be perfect as well.
Once you have identified all the places in your house where the action will take place, it’s time to add a touch of decoration. Don’t go too kitsch (unless that’s the chosen theme), but a little accent here and there to complement whatever your guests have done to fit in with the theme would be perfect. Remember, a dinner party should be much more about your guests than you or your house. Focus on little details when it comes down to table cloth, napkins and choice of colours. Bringing back the theme in the food usually makes a more significant impact than obvious in your face references. Subtly is critical here, speaking of which you should also consider scents and lighting to make your theme work for you.
With a blueprint of the rooms and a shopping list of decorations, you might want to get some professionals in to tidy up. Cleaning is most likely the least exciting thing about hosting a dinner party. Not only will it in no way bring you joy, but you are also actually already spending valuable time and energy that should really go into the decoration and cooking. You will be done with the dinner party before the first guests arrive. The smart thing to do is get a cleaning service to do a once-over before and after the dinner party. Consider a company such as Cleaning Services Newnan to get your dinner party off to a good start.
Multitasking where you can also be very important. Get a cleaning service in the day before, so you can come home to a completely tidy house and start decorating and cooking. While your chosen cleaning service is doing their work, use this time to go out and get your cooking and decorating supplies. Setup the decoration the evening before (where possible) and make sure you prepare as much of the meal as you can. You would want most of the cooking to be done an hour or two before your guests arrive and any food is done during the evening to be ‘finishing off’. This is where chafing dishes and sous vide devices really shine. If you don’t have any of those, consider things that can be prepared or kept ready with slow cookers and the like.
Good timing will help you focus on one of the most important things about a dinner party: time for yourself. What you want to avoid at any costs is a frantic rush to the finish. You would want to be done with preparation in the kitchen for two hours in advance. The first hour will most likely be spent on finishing touches in the rooms and setting the plates. The last hour will be to get yourself ready and have a nice cup of tea or glass of wine to get you in the perfect dinner party host mindset.