A great dinner party is a difficult thing to define. Firstly, you need to decide where on the stress spectrum you wish to settle; the occasion likely dictating the amount of effort you’re going to put in. Is this going to be close friend dropping by for a pizza and a chat – leisurely and lazy – or is this the inaugural wooing of the prospective in-laws, with tension and trying moments aplenty? Obviously, both very different affairs. For fantastic hosting though, we think the ingredients remain the same; good food and wine, pinpoint timing, good grace, a certain je ne sais quoi, and most importantly, generosity. So, here are 5 IDEAL tips for hosting a great dinner party.
A GREAT MIX OF PERSONALITIES
A dinner party is only a good as its guests, as the old saying should go. Success lies not in inviting all the largest personalities, but in harnessing a fine balance of characters, temperaments and and tones. While a group of similar professions, ages and the rest equates to a harmonious vibe, it’s not going to be the most interesting; all a little too easy, and everyone preaching to the choir, if you ask us.If conversation is to flow like the fine wine you serve, you’ll need a great blend of extroverts, introverts and those in between, with a variety of opinions to spice things up a little!
GET THE FOOD RIGHT, FOR COOKING & FOR EATING
A two part tip, make no mistake. We’ll start with the cooking. Of course, you want your food to wow the guests. That’s a given. But to be a great host, you can’t be slaving away for the duration of the meal; you’ll be seldom seen and when you are, stressed and distracted. So, the choice of dishes you serve is going to be make or break to the success of the evening. Settle on something which can be largely prepared in advance, and finished when your guests are already round the table. We’re thinking a big rib of beef, slow roasted in the oven with thyme, accompanied by a bernaise sauce or red wine jus which you’ve already prepped and just needs warming through. Or how about a leg of lamb, carved at the table for extra theatre, this one is a winner for sure. For vegetarians, how about individual beetroot tart tatins (again, made in advance and cooked in the oven at the last minute), paired with goat’s cheese and hazelnuts. Just a couple of ideas, but you get the picture; lots of prep pre-guests, lots of hosting when they arrive.
Equally important is the way the food ‘eats’. And we don’t mean mastication and digestion here, although hopefully that won’t be a problem for your guests! No, we simply mean you should avoid anything overly fiddly or messy to eat. Also, an item of each course should be placed in the middle of the table, to be shared, as this adds a sociable, convivial air to proceedings.
DON’T CROCK IT UP
You’ve gone to all the effort of cooking up a carefully considered feasts, replete with vegetarian options, side dishes and complementing sauces. And then you serve it all up on paper plates. Okay, this an extreme example, but you want to get your crockery right if you want a sophisticated feel to the evening and the food to shine as it should. Consider investing in dinner sets so the night feels synergised and orchestrated with precision.
The same goes for drinking vessels; if you’re going to serve good wine (see below) then you’ll want an appropriate glass to bring out the best characteristics of that drop. It really does make a massive difference!
CHOOSE BOOZE WISELY
A well paired wine, perfectly suited to the grub you’re serving, can be the difference between a good and great dinner party. Don’t just throw your favourite drop at it and expect things to flourish. Instead, investigate which wine is best suited to each course, bringing out the flavours of the food elegantly. Go that extra mile with picking a better bottle, spending a little more and drinking a little less, for best results, we think.
The dish every diner will depart discussing is going to be dessert. Most people have a sweet tooth and owing to it being the last course, the final act is the one whose taste will linger. So, do it in style. Again, something prepared a little in advance will save stress so close to the finish line. Chocolate fondants are a surefire crowd pleaser and can be refrigerated (or even frozen) until they’re required. Serve with a little carefully chosen sweet fine – we think pedro ximenez and chocolate are a divine combination – and send the guests merrily on their way.