Disclosure: KitchenAid Canada has provided me with product as compensation for my services and posts but all posts represent my own opinion.
With Canadian Thanksgiving past us and Hallowe’en breathing down our necks, we’re heading fast into entertaining season. Regular readers will know that even though we have a tiny kitchen (actually we have no counter space, that’s the real problem!), we are ambitious hosts and that we’ve managed some amazing dinners over the years. More often than not, we seat more people that can really fit around our dining table and many of our formal dinners have themes, like our Around the World on a Plate dinner party. That dinner featured dishes and wine pairings inspired by each of the continents (wine pairings provided by Mr Neil, in-house wine consultant!) – definitely not an easy feat to pull off. But we both REALLY love entertaining others and over the years, we’ve come up with some strategies that allow us to do what we do best – shine in the kitchen – put our best plates forward!
My five best tips for entertaining:
Plan, plan, plan! Make sure you give people enough notice when you invite them for dinner. Our dinner party calendar is booked up sometimes as far as 3 months in advance – no, I’m not suggesting you invite people that early but if you are trying to get a number of people together, multiple schedules and commitments can be a planning headache. Give them a few weeks at minimum. While you’re inviting them, ask about any food allergies or restrictions. I made the mistake of not asking once and found my self scrambling on the day of the dinner trying to figure out a dish to serve to a guest with a food allergy. If you’re not sure about a particular ingredient, ask. Better to be safe than sorry!
2. Write lists!
When we entertain, you’ll be guaranteed to find Post-It notes around the house – mostly along the backsplash of our kitchen counter, in chronological order of what needs to be done and when and in the fridge, labeling containers with instructions and sometimes numbering them in the order in which they will be used.
If, like me, you are a visual cook it’s a good idea to list items on separate Post-It notes – I find it makes for less stress than one giant (never-ending) list. You’ll see what I mean when you are able to peel the sticky notes off the wall one by one – such a great sense of accomplishment! It’s a good idea as you are preparing your mise en place the day of your dinner to use Post-Its to label each step so that, when you are crazy busy in the middle of the dinner, you action plan is a clear one, all labelled out for you!
3. Choose your dishes wisely!
Here’s where you’ll want to do as I say, not as I do – I am notorious for serving “first run” (i.e. untested!) dishes to my guests (always with a “warning” that it’s “experimental” (often it’s food for the blog because it’s good to have a wider audience than just 1 person, right?) but if you are a less daring entertainer, you will definitely want to stick to familiar dishes. That peace of mind will allow you more time in the dining room with your guests which is the whole point, right?
4. Make sure you have backup food (and wine!)
Be prepared – make sure you have ingredients to make a backup dish (like an easy pasta) if something goes wrong. It’s always a good idea to have a lot of cheese and bread/ crackers on hand – there’s not much a cheese plate can’t fix! I’d also err on the side of caution with desserts – make sure you have a couple of really high quality ice creams or sorbets in the freezer as well as some excellent chocolate. Lastly, make sure you have plenty of wine on hand (as in, more than you think you will drink – there’s nothing worse than running out) as well as beers, maybe some cider, sparkling water and soft drinks. Don’t forget to offer coffee and tea after dinner (again, do as I say, not as I do – I always forget!).
5. Enjoy yourself!
Have fun – enjoy your guests’ company. Enjoy sharing the food you prepared. It’s a fact that your guests won’t have a good time if you aren’t. So sit back – relax. Eat, drink and be merry!
KitchenAid’s Cook for the Cure Culinary Showdown: Put your Best Plate Forward
This year, as part of Cook for the Cure, KitchenAid Canada is offering foodies across the country the chance to work with an all-star lineup of Canadian chefs, including Lynn Crawford, Chuck Hughes, Mark McEwan, Vikram Vij and Corbin Tomaszeski as part of the first-ever KitchenAid Cook for the Cure Culinary Showdown. Hosted by actor Dean McDermott, this is an opportunity for foodies to fundraise for a chance to cook alongside those celebrity chefs in a team cooking challenge.
The KitchenAid Canada Cook for the Cure Culinary Showdown
The Showdown will take place at Toronto’s Fairmont Royal York Hotel on December 7, 2013 and is an exclusive experience in support of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (CBCF) to help realize the organization’s vision of creating a future without breast cancer. CBCF is the largest non-governmental funder of breast cancer research in Canada.
The top 50 fundraisers will put their culinary skills to the test live on stage with a celebrity chef. Five teams of 10 will compete under pressure to create three unique dishes. Participants will be judged by an expert panel on taste and presentation. Participants who raise at least $2,500 will participate in the Culinary Showdown’s Celebrity Chefs School and will be coached on everything from ingredient picking to proper plating by Canada’s top cooking masters. Participants who raise a minimum of $1,000 are invited to take in the Showdown in person as a member of the audience on December 7.
Food lovers, cooking connoisseurs and novices alike are invited to join KitchenAid and the CBCF in the fight against breast cancer by participating in this one-of-a-kind opportunity to learn from the best chefs in the country. Find out more about the KitchenAid Cook for the Cure at www.cookforthecure.ca and register and start fundraising for The Culinary Showdown here: www.culinaryshowdown.ca.
Stay tuned next month when I’ll share some tips for putting your best plate forward from one of the Culinary Showdown chefs (and there just might be a fun giveaway from KitchenAid Canada as well!)