Dinner Parties Made Easy

Logan Niles 

With the rise of cooking shows on TV it’s become more and more enticing to try your hand at throwing an amazing culinary event; be it for your favourite friends, your boyfriend or the in-laws-to-be. We all know how easy they make it look on TV, but what are some of the tricks of the trade that can help keep your party on the track to success?

 

Keep It Simple
If you’re just starting out with hosting your own parties or trying to show off more advanced dishes, it’s still best to err on the side of simplicity. Nothing brings the fun mood of a party down more than a harried hostess dashing from kitchen to dining room all night in a panicked, sweaty rush. Choose menu items that don’t require a lot of last minute work, hours of fine dicing or hard to find ingredients. Sometimes creative variations on an old theme can impress guests as much as the latest and greatest craze. Family-style service is always easier for new party throwers, since formal dining takes up more utensils, dishes and a lot more of your time in the kitchen. Having guests serve themselves from platters and casseroles laid out on a nicely decorated table lends an air of comfort and relaxation that is ideal for getting old friends together and introducing new friends to the group. Besides, the whole idea of throwing a dinner party is to sit and enjoy your time with friends, not playing professional waiter.

Bring in the Troops
Don’t be afraid to enlist the help of others. No professional chef can do it all without the help of prep cooks and sous chefs so why should you? If you have friends who love to cook invite them over to help out the day or evening before. Open a bottle of wine and have them do little tasks that would normally take time away from actually cooking. Peeling carrots, slicing vegetable or picking herbs from their stems can be tedious work when done alone, but fun while sharing a little gossip and laughter.

Buck Convention

Necessity is the mother of invention and so don’t shy away from mixing in non-conventional methods to get things done and keep you sane. Why spend hours hand slicing vegetable when a $45 Japanese mandolin can do some of the work for you? This simple slicer is made from durable, light-weight plastic, the changeable blades are wicked sharp and can slice vegetables from paper thin to a quarter of an inch thick with expert precision. Today’s gourmet markets also offer a plethora of pre-made foods that can serve as the base for your recipes. Fresh meat and seafood stocks, demi glace for sauces, fresh pastas, tartlet shells, and perfectly cleaned shrimp or oven-ready hors d’oeuvres. Spending a little extra money and cutting a few corners during preparation can mean the difference between being ready when your guests arrive versus scrambling around making apologies because your chicken stock took too long to reduce.

Bar None
Skip the complex bar resembling your local watering hole. Not only is it expensive to maintain but it will take up needed space in today’s smaller condos. Instead make up 2-3 specialty cocktails you can serve in pitchers for martini style or over the rocks drinks. This way guests can serve themselves quickly, effortlessly and you’re not stuck playing bartender all night.

Clean As You Go

This simple rule will keep your kitchen looking like a food bomb hit it when guests arrive.  Rinse and re-use mixing bowls whenever possible, clean cutting boards and counters frequently and load your dishwasher as you go. A clean kitchen will help keep you organized and thinking clearly.

Combining all of these steps can help take you from fumbling kitchen novice to the Martha Stewart of your dreams. A little careful planning, organization and outside help will mean the difference between success and embarrassment. Have fun and start planning your next dinner party!

Image credits:

©  iStockphoto.com/Saso Novoselic (first image)

©  iStockphoto.com/Ed O’Neill (second image)

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