I host dinner parties often. I’ve thrown them to show off a newly decorated room in my home, to get to know my new co-workers, to celebrate the holidays, and to catch up with old friends. Throwing a party may seem like a daunting task, but if you plan very carefully you can have just as much fun hosting one as you do attending one.
3 weeks before the party: Make a guest list. Keep the party small. I try to keep the number down to eight diners in total. Send invitations. How you send the invites will set the tone for the party. Hand written invitations sent through the mail mean the party will be more formal. A phone call or an e-mail signal that the party will be less formal.
Two weeks before the party: Create a menu. Think about any dietary restrictions your guest may have. Don’t decide to serve something exotic. While you may love fried eel or goat burgers (I do), you shouldn’t assume that your guests are as adventurous as you. Choose items that can be made or prepped before hand or that don’t require you to spend a great deal of time in the kitchen. Try to think through the entire meal: appetizers, salad, entrée, side dish and dessert. If the entrée is heavy, serve a light salad and dessert. If the entrée is light, you can serve more appetizers and a more substantial dessert. Think about foods that are in season because this will make your dinner taste better and keep the cost down. Use the internet. Many web sites have dinner party menus already created for you. If you chose a dish you have never cooked before, prepare it once before the party for practice. Your guests are not Guinea pigs.
One week before the party: Choose entertainment. Will you sit around and talk? Play a game? Watch a movie? Play Wii? I recently had friends over and we watched the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. When deciding upon the entertainment, know your audience. Also don’t become wedded to your idea. There is nothing worse than forcing a room full of disinterested people into playing charades. Once the party starts, go with the flow. If everyone seems to be enjoying the conversation, just let that happen. I really think of entertainment as a back up plan if the party is experiencing a lull.
Two days before the party: Clean your house. You should not put everything off until the day of your party. Things go wrong. You underestimate the time it will take to prepare dinner. Get the house clean early and then you will just need to spot clean the day before hand. Also, write out a shopping list. Writing the list early will give you time to tweak it.
The day before the party: Go shopping. Spot clean your house.
The morning of the party: Spot clean. Pre-prep all the food that you can. Pre-measure everything.
Two hours before the party: Set the table. Put out flower arrangements. Get yourself ready.
One hour before the party: Make the appetizers. Set out all the pots, pans, and cooking utensils you will need. Take any ingredients you can and set them out for ready use.