How To: Host a Stress-Free Dinner Party
It’s a well known fact that there’s nothing more enjoyable than great food and company, throw in a bottle of wine too and you’ve got the ideal night. That’s why we’re such a advocate of the age old dinner party. Being the host can come with quite a lot of pressure though, and all too often you can find yourself spending too much time stressing about whether everyone else is enjoying themselves and forgetting to actually do so yourself.
We think hosting should be the most enjoyable part though - this way you have complete control over the menu, getting to eat exactly what you want, with guests quite often feel obliged to gift bottles of wine (not to mention leftovers for lunch the next day - ideal!). To help take the pressure off, and to ensure your next dinner party runs as smoothly as possible, we’ve put together our best tips and tricks to ensure you’re the calm, stress-free host you always envisioned.
1. SET YOUR THEME AND STICK TO IT
We’ve all been there: late night scouring of Pinterest and deciding that in fact a summer wonderland theme complete with handmade flower garlands and elaborate tableware is the only way forward, but more often than not simplicity is key. Choose a theme that you can easily create without having to buy a complete new tableware set, keep it seasonal with elements inspired by the current weather, then fresh flowers and a few candles are all the decor you’ll need.
2. PLAN YOUR MENU IN ADVANCE
Plan the menu way ahead of time to make sure you know exactly what you’re making and the ingredients you need to buy. Stick to a simple theme that you're confident with to stop yourself from getting carried away and overcomplicating things. Plan the menu based around seasonal produce too, not only will it be cheaper to buy, but you won’t have to visit six different branches of Waitrose in the hope of finding samphire in the middle of winter. And be sure to know of any dietary preferences/intolerances beforehand so that you know how to cater for these guests - we often find it easier to omit gluten and dairy from all the meals (and because lets face it, that's the way we know how to cook), then have just a meat option and a veggie depending on the guests.
3. DON'T OVERCOMPLICATE MEALS
- It’s really easy when planning a menu to get carried away and think you’re going to be the next Heston Blumenthal (we’ve all been there don’t worry), but not only does this increase stress levels, but more often than not, the food doesn’t actually turn out as expected - both in presentation and taste - again, we've been there. It's always best to keep it simple, fresh and seasonal. And stick to tried and tested recipes - this way not only will you be more relaxed about making it, but you’ll know that it’s guaranteed to taste good! Still not feeling overly confident? There's nothing wrong with doing a test run ahead of time.
4. PREPARE AHEAD OF TIME
Preparation is definitely key to a successful dinner party, in fact preparation is probably key to succeeding in just about anything! Prepare as much of the meal ahead of time as possible - making dressings, dips and sauces, cutting veggies, making salads and cooking grains can all be done in advance to save time on the night. Set the table the night before too - this way you won’t be worrying about presentation and will have more time to focus on the food! Choose a dessert that can be made the day before too, such as cheesecake or panna cotta to save a lot of stress and a lot of time!
5. MINIMISE KITCHEN TIME
Don’t plan dishes that are going to require a lot of hands on time - roast vegetables, slow cooked meat, soups and stews all require minimal attention until serving time, giving you time to welcome your guests and enjoy the night. Don’t feel bad about not making everything yourself either- a charcuterie selection from your local farmers market will make for a great, hassle free appetiser or starter. Don't be scared to get your guests involved too - although it can be tempting to get carried away and create personalised signature cocktails for each of your guests (trust us, this never works out as planned), a much easier idea is to create a DIY cocktail bar and let your guests make their own - not only will this keep them entertained whilst you’re in the kitchen but is a great mixer if you’re guests don’t know each other too well!
6. DON'T FORGET TO ENJOY YOURSELF
Music and ambience are great for setting the right mood - dim the lights, light some candles, find your favourite playlist on Spotify and relax into the evening. Even if you burn the veggies, overcook the meat and the panna cotta doesn’t set, just enjoy it. So long as you’re in a good mood then your guests will have a good time. At the end of the day, you’re not a restaurant, they’re their for the company much more than the food!