07/16/12 - 0 Comments
Successful Soirees: How to Throw the Perfect Dinner Party
As women, we know that the sacred tradition of ‘the dinner party’ is sort of like a rite of passage. Go ahead and let your man brag that he knows how to throw or kick or hit a ball with perfection—we possess the knowledge as to which fork goes where on a properly set table, which is much more impressive. And, while it’s important to throw a spectacular party, we’re here to let you in on a secret: the process is much more simple than you imagine it is. Stress should be nowhere near you and your to-do list.
So, go ahead and toss everything you thought you knew about throwing an elaborate evening affair out the window. With these simple tips, your dinner party is sure to be an elegant success. We promise, all of your guests will leave asking, “How did she do it?”
Tip Number 1: à la Cornelia Guest: Keep it Simple
We know, this is a really standard tip. But, all too often, simplicity is the first thing to get cut from the menu when we women decide to throw a fiesta. As Cornelia Guest, one of our favorite vegan cooking gurus and author of Cornelia Guest’s Simple Pleasures, explains: “I’m a lot more impressed when the food is simple and delicious than when it’s bad and extravagant.” Too true.
This mantra of ‘keep it simple’ doesn’t just go for food. When things are simple, Guest explains, the party is fun because you’re having fun—and isn’t that the whole point of the evening? So unless you’re throwing an event for fifty, it’s probably time to give the seating plan the axe. Another tip: don’t overwhelm your guests with cutlery—two forks is really all it takes to eat an elegant meal. Remember, at the end of the evening, you’ll have to wash each fork, so, for clean-up purposes, less is definitely best.
Tip Number 2: Know Your Menu
Following the guest list, food is the number one thing that will make or break a dinner party. Really, one of the best pieces of advice we can give you is to cook a dish you’re familiar with. There’s nothing worse than discovering your main course is inedible right before your guests arrive. If this does happen, don’t worry, there’ s no shame in making an emergency call to a nice restaurant for take-out. But this party-saving measure is stressful and expensive. A better idea, in our opinion, is to serve an entree you already know how to make. That way, you can avoid a lot of unwelcome kitchen surprises.
There is, of course, some wiggle room to this tip. We’re definitely not suggesting that you serve the same dish at every one of your dinner parties. Rather, if you are really good at cooking chicken, then have that be the evening’s main dish. You can even go ahead and choose a chicken recipe you’ve never tried before (just remember to keep Tip Number 1 in mind!). What is a bad idea is to serve something new if it’s something you’ve never attempted. As every good cook knows there is a nuance to producing mouth-watering flavors. It’s a process that takes a bit of finesse, and finesse in a dish you’ve never tried really translates to stressful instructions.
While the entree might not be the best place to try out new and unusual culinary experiences, we are definitely all for experimenting on a smaller scale. Hors d’oeuvres are a really great place to try something new and different for your menu since, if they bomb, you’ve only messed up the finger food (and, as every good hostess knows, crudités and hummus is an excellent backup plan). Another great reason to try experimenting with your appetizers is that they’re small, and small equals approachable. So while a guest might be intimidated by an exotic entree that takes up the whole plate, your friends are much more likely to try the unusual if you make it bite-sized.
Tip Number 3: Setting the Tone
As a fashionable lady, we know you’ve got an eye for patterns, textures and color, so decorating is going to be simple. There are, however, a few important tips to keep in mind.
Big mistake number one: choosing too large or too many center pieces. Really, nothing kills conversation faster than an overcrowded table. Believe it or not, it’s kind of crucial that you be able to see your guests. That, and too many flowers/candles makes it difficult to get at the food (and people didn’t come to your house to sit and stare at a floral arrangement).
One really good idea is to pick one nice floral centerpiece to accent your table and then supplement the decorations with more practical embellishments. Vintage glass water bottles make an intriguing addition to any table, and it’s never a bad idea to have a funky silver bowl (or two) filled with bread and fresh fruit. This way, you’ve set a table that is both beautiful and interactive.
Another great tip is to let your food be the guide for your decorations. No, we’re not suggesting a full-blown themed party (although those can be fun!). Instead, if you’re serving Mediterranean dishes, be sure to include some of that same flavor in your decorations and music. Your guest will definitely appreciate the little elements of cohesion.
One last tip: don’t forget to ask your boyfriend to help (he will, after all, be eating the food). It’s okay to remind him that a little domestication won’t harm his athletic prowess. In fact, the dexterity required to chop vegetables might be just what his throwing arm needs! Otherwise, you’re all set for an amazing evening!