Last week over at Food Bloggers of Canada, Corey Mintz, author of How to Host a Dinner Party published by The House of Anansi, shared his top five tips for hosting a dinner party. Corey was a speaker at FBC2013 and all attendees received a copy of his book courtesy of FBC2013 sponsors, House of Anansi Press. I know many of us read the book in one sitting – it’s an informative, humourous read – at the end of each chapter, I found myself thinking “just one more!” If you’re a keen entertainer (or aspire to be one) this is the book for you.
Chez eat. live. travel. write. we are ambitious hosts (despite our tiny kitchen) and manage to pull off some real culinary feats. When I had just moved to Canada in 2000, we hosted a dinner party where guests were required to wear black and gold masquerade masks (bearing in mind that this was the first time I was meeting some of Neil’s friends, not so helpful remembering their names later sans masks) and we had fireworks in the front garden. We hosted a dinner party with a Cambodian theme one year for the Night of 1000 Dinners where we sent teaser mailings to each guest for 8 weeks leading up to the big day and guests were required to complete a quiz about each of the mailings at the dinner itself. Mailing items included chopsticks. Canada Post did not like us very much!
We routinely seat more people that really fit around our tiny dining table and most of our formal dinners are themed. Around the World on a Plate dinner party, anyone? That meal was a big hit and featured dishes and wine pairings inspired by each continent (thankfully I have Mr Neil, in-house wine consultant!). So no, we don’t make things easy for ourselves. But we REALLY love entertaining others and there’s nothing I would rather spend a Saturday doing that prepping a dinner party!
Today, along with a giveaway of Corey’s book, I thought I would share some kitchen wisdom that our ambitious entertaining has taught us so here goes, my top five tips for hosting a dinner party.
1. Get organised
Whilst it’s nice to think you might not really need to plan ahead when hosting a dinner party, in reality, it’s not going to happen. After you’ve invited all the guests and you have a firm date, sit down with a calendar in front of you and identify all the food-related obligations you’ll have on your plate (pun intended!). Now, divide and conquer! Being organized will go a long way to making sure you pull it off with style!
2. Be a list-maker
I am the Post-It Queen (both at home and at work). When we entertain, you’ll be guaranteed to find a plethora of Post-Its around the house
- along the backsplash of our kitchen counter, in chronological order of what needs to be done and when
- in the fridge, labeling items with instructions and sometimes numbering them in the order in which they will be used
- and everywhere else I can stick one up.
I’m a visual cook, so I list items on separate Post-Its – this works better than one stress-inducing never-ending list which I inevitably keep on adding to! It’s SO satisfying to be able to peel those stickies off the walls and containers as you work through your list. As you prep ingredients for your mise en place on the day of your gathering, Post-Its are useful to label the steps so that, in the heat of the moment, you don’t accidentally add sugar to your savoury dish or sub chopped mint for cilantro.
3. Read recipes (and make more lists)
It goes without saying that you should read your recipes all the way through, from start to finish, although I have been guilty of not doing so! Make a list of the ingredients you will need, and another list of those you need to buy. Make sure you have all necessary utensils and equipment for each recipe. Check you have enough oven and stovetop space to coordinate serving each dish at the right time. Make a plan, hour by hour starting at serving time of the final course working backwards to make sure you have enough time to get everything done. These might seem like “no brainer” tips but you would be surprised at how many times I have found myself in the middle of a recipe (with company on the way) only to realize I don’t have enough space in my oven, or that I’m missing a key ingredient. Yes, really!
4. Do a “practice run” of unfamiliar recipes
I can’t stress the importance of practice. If you’re brave enough to make a new recipe for a large gathering, be smart enough to practice beforehand. For the timing, for the technique, and mostly, for your peace of mind, so you’re not madly Googling a step of a recipe you don’t understand when your guests are waiting for you. And yes, I have been known to excuse myself so I could Google something I was unsure of in the middle of a dinner!
5. Be flexible and have a backup plan (and backup food!)
So you’ve done a trial run of a couple of new-to-you recipes and maybe they didn’t turn out quite as expected. Be prepared – make sure you have a “B” list of fallback dishes. Even more importantly, be prepared in case something goes wrong on the day with some backup food (especially desserts) and plenty of wine!
(Bonus tip) 6. Have fun!
Don’t stress out too much. Enjoy your company. Enjoy sharing the food you prepared. You guests won’t have a good time if you are stressing out. So sit back and relax. Cheers!
A version of this post originally appeared on the Sobeys Better Food Blog.
Win a copy of Corey Mintz’s How to Host a Dinner Party (international!)
Thanks to the kind folks at the House of Anansi, I have one copy of How to Host a Dinner Party to give away (and since I’m paying the postage, I am happy to send it anywhere in the world!)
How to enter:
1. Leave a comment on this post with your best tip for hosting a dinner party!
2. For a bonus entry, tweet the following message:
“Win a copy of @coreymintz ‘ new book from @houseofanansi and @eatlivtravwrite Details: http://bit.ly/1bLbzOu”
Then come back to leave me a separate comment letting me know you did.
Eligibility and contest rules
- Open to to anyone, anywhere in the world
- No purchase of any product necessary for entry.
- Winner will be chosen using Random.org from all qualified entries on Tuesday, June 25th 2013 after 6pm EST.
- Winner will be contacted via email on Wednesday June 26th 2013.