Ideal for showing off to your foodie friends.
Ever get the feeling that you should have just stayed at home? Indeed, sometimes attending a friend or family member’s dinner party can be an excruciating affair. The starters get burnt, the mains arrive raw, dessert ends up on the floor and you leave hungry and a little embarrassed for everyone involved, calling the nearest restaurant to see if they have a table.
Yep, for some, having people round for supper is a daunting affair. But for connoisseurs of all things culinary, throwing a dinner party can be a wonderful opportunity to show off not only your cooking skills, but also your exquisite taste in wine and even your way with words. If you fall in the latter camp and you relish the prospect of providing a restaurant-worthy experience to your guests, then read on; here are 5 tips for throwing a gourmand’s dinner party, IDEAL for showing off to your foodie friends.
IT’S ALL IN THE PREPARATION
As any professional chef will you tell you, a successfully run service hinges on the preparation. ‘Mis en place’ is a phrase that every chef should be familiar with and conversant in. This term refers to the meticulous, precise principles of kitchen organisation and food prep which rule a restaurant kitchen.
You should adopt the same principles at home, prior to (and during) your dinner party. Before your guests arrive, do endeavour to get the bulk of the prep work out of the way. In fact, you should design your whole menu in such a way that it only requires last minute searing, seasoning and plating, much like a restaurant service would.
Do all of your mincing, chopping, and slicing prior to cooking, so you can give the actual cooking part of the hosting your full and undivided attention when it needs it. Doing so will also give you time to host the dinner party with all that good grace and charisma which we know you have in spades.
And if you’re looking to truly impress those foodies friends of yours, perhaps drop ‘mis en place’ into the conversation….
ENSURE THE MENU MAKES SENSE
We’ve all seen that episode of Come Dine With Me or Dinner Date, where a well-meaning host serves a Thai starter followed by a roast dinner with chocolate filled tacos to finish. Or worse, three courses of chicken, including dessert! Honestly, there’s an episode…
To impress those foodie friends of yours and truly stake your claim of being the gourmand of the group, it’s essential you maintain some synergy between courses. This is most easily (and deliciously) realised by sticking to the cuisine of one country or even one region for the entire menu.
You should also strive for a balanced rhythm to your menu. If your starter is protein heavy, make sure that the main course is a little lighter. Should the dessert contain lashings of cream, the other courses should be less dependant on fat to carry flavour.
Finally, there’s nothing which will do your foodie credentials more damage than serving up ingredients which aren’t in season. Asparagus in Autumn, grouse in Spring, strawberries at Christmas…such choices will ring alarm bells with gourmands. Keep things seasonal and ideally, show off some fine local produce to really impress your guests.
SELECT SPECIAL WINES TO MATCH EACH COURSE
Of course, being a card-carrying connoisseur of all things food isn’t only about the, erm, food. Drink, and in particular, wine, also plays a massive role. Knowing how to pair your wine with the food, as well as the correct temperature to serve it and even which glasses to use, are all complete catnip to foodies.
If you’re going all-out with a gourmet meal from starters to mains to desserts and cheeses, announce the arrival of each new course with a wine that will enhance its enjoyment. A dry white, whether still or sparkling, for example, will pair well with a seafood starter, a rich red with red-meats or spicy mains, and Moscato, with its distinct fruitiness plus a touch of sweetness, is the ideal companion if a cheese board is rounding off your meal.
Of course, no host worth their Maldon salt would only serve wine. Do offer non-alcoholic alternatives, too, chosen with the same care and attention to pairing that you gave to the wine. Now that’s hospitality.
We wouldn’t insult your intelligence by commanding you to buy the freshest ingredients you can find; that’s a given.
But we would like to draw attention to the particular importance of those finishing touches; the little sprinkling of magic which lifts a dish from good to great. On the refined palates of your foodie friends, such touches will be noticed.
A drizzle of premium, first press extra virgin olive oil can make a pasta dish, salad or soup sing, and the same goes for an artisan vinegar in a stew. It simply lightens everything up. Equally, whisking in a few cold cubes of butter into your meat jus (’monter au beurre’ in chef parlance) will give it an incomparable sheen. It’s these little flourishes which will reveal your deft touch at the stoves.
BOOKEND THE FEAST
In true restaurant style, you could also consider serving up an amuse-bouche at the beginning of the meal and a selection of petit fours at the end to truly bookend the meal in style. As we mentioned earlier, do ensure that these extra nibbles contribute to the meal as a whole, and utilise seasonal, local ingredients where possible.