Sharing a meal with friends and relatives has always been one of life’s great joys. However, the current social climate makes it more attractive than ever before. After all, the thought of hitting restaurants or other public places comes with risks and reduced enjoyment. So, this is the perfect time to rediscover your love of hosting duties.
Nothing will help you recapture the spark quite like the knowledge that the event has gone to plan. Here are some top tips to ensure that you score perfect marks time and time again.
Set A Date
First and foremost, you need to actually put the date in your diary. We’ve all been guilty of making informal plans to do something soon. And we all know how that story ends. Until you all agree on a specific time and date, the dinner party is just a vague idea.
Once you’ve agreed on a date that is convenient for all parties, you may wish to make invitations. Or you may just send out a text or email. Either way, building the excitement ahead of the day is vital. After all, if the first event goes well, it can set the ball rolling on a long-term routine.
And if any of the guests offer to bring drinks, for example, you should gladly accept their kindness. Their engagement is a vital factor.
Build The Perfect Dining Space
While great food is the star attraction of any meal, you must not ignore the surroundings. Nobody is expecting to experience the ambiance of a five-star restaurant. However, it should be a comfortable setting that provides the foundation for an enjoyable evening.
If you have a garden deck, you can turn this into a cozy place with a patio heater and lighting. This also opens up the door to the idea of a winter BBQ. Most hosts will opt for internal settings, though, which is why knowing how to use lighting and table decorations to their full potential is key.
As well as the dining space, you want the home’s entrance to feel welcoming. A nice driveway and a clean hallway should both feature on the agenda.
Know Your Audience
There are many questions that must be asked throughout the preparation of your gathering. Arguably the most important issue, however, is whether to choose a formal or informal mealtime. The age and personal preferences of your guests will dictate the answer.
Under normal circumstances, casual gatherings would be the most common answer by far. Given the current social climate, it might be nice to dress up and enjoy the added sense of luxury and elegance. Still, it’s not going to feel suitable if you have kids involved.
Furthermore, you should know whether any of your guests have allergies or dietary requirements, such as being vegan. Offending a guest is the last thing you want to do.
Master The Basics
A lot of amateur cooks try to impress friends with sophisticated menus. While that’s fine, there’s no substitute for good cooking. Most people would rather taste the basics done well rather than advanced ideas that fall short of the mark. This is especially true when eating in someone’s home.
So, you should take the time to re-familiarize yourself with the key food prep skills. Likewise, practicing the key cooking techniques should be a priority ahead of your first hosting session. One of the most important steps at this stage is to understand the value of good seasoning.
Above all else, when you feel confident in your ability to cook the basics, it helps you progress. The momentum will allow you to try more complex ideas in style.
Check Your Equipment
It’s not only a bad worker who blames their tools, particularly not in the kitchen. If your equipment isn’t up to scratch, it will show. An inferior stove, fryer, or grill will impact the way that foods cook. It will consequently ruin your recipes through no fault of your own. Clean and monitor them regularly.
As well as the main cooking apparatus, you will want to test all utensils and equipment. A knife sharpener is perhaps the smartest addition you’ll ever make and can save valuable time. In addition to aiding your hosting duties, it will have a big impact on daily cooking at home.
Persisting with inferior products will cause unnecessary stress. This will inevitably lead to more frequent mistakes. You cannot afford to let this happen.
Set A Theme
Consistency is an important part of preparing a meal for gatherings. Even if everything is cooked to perfection, moving from a fancy starter to a burger and chips can feel weird. Likewise, a French starter followed by an English main and Asian dessert will cause problems.
Choosing the right theme will guide your menu and help you decorate the home in style. Moreover, you’ll be able to prepare the ingredients and list which equipment may be needed long before the event arrives. That added sense of control can truly make all the difference.
If you are planning to host multiple meals over the coming months, new themes are an ideal way to prevent any boredom. This is yet another incentive to take this seriously.
Keep Things Exciting
Are you starting to think about hosting a dinner party in the near future? If so, it’s quite likely that the post-festive period is one of the key moments in your schedule. This is the perfect time to catch up with loved ones, especially if you plan to exchange gifts too.
However, sitting down for another roast or turkey sandwiches probably won’t win any prizes on a culinary perspective. Learning how to jazz up sprouts and other leftovers allows you to avoid food waste without compromising the quality of cooking. Presentation is also vital.
Another top trick is to try a dessert that you wouldn’t expect from a festive meal. This allows you to end the meal on a high note every time.
Prep As Much As You Can
When guests come to your home, they actually want to spend time with you. If you have an open plan kitchen and dining area with an island, that’s great. Even so, it will pay dividends if you can find ways to keep cooking activities that require your attention to a minimum.
This is even more significant when your kitchen is separate from the living spaces. Marinating the meat overnight, preparing a salad in the morning, and slow cooking foods that are suited to that style are all good options. It additionally offers a chance to stay on top of the cleaning.
Giving yourself more time also removes the pressure if you find that you’ve forgotten an ingredient. Or correct any simple mistakes that you’ve made.
Consider A Test Run
If you are planning to serve your specialty, that’s great. If, however, you want to try something new, it’s vital that you avoid big mistakes. So, it may be an idea to do a test run of the meal a few days prior to showtime. If nothing else, it’ll settle your nerves.
This gives you a chance to check that you’ve picked premium ingredients and have all tools and seasonings. Likewise, you can become familiar with the methods used to prepare the various courses as well as the timings. Try to make pasta and pastries from scratch too.
Taking unnecessary risks is asking for trouble. Besides, the test run will deliver a far better Monday night meal than you would usually cook.
Time The Servings
Sharing a meal with friends and family should feel relaxed, even when opting for a formal setup. Still, nobody wants the choice between stuffing themselves or waiting for the next course to go cold. As such, you need to time your courses correctly.
Leaving a gap of about half-hour between courses should suffice. The time in between can be spent talking, playing games, or even watching Netflix. As long as you avoid any threat of boredom and ensure the foods are served at convenient times at the right temperatures, you won’t go far wrong.
It’s not like you own a restaurant and need to establish a good turnover of guests. So, you have ample control over the situation, as long as you are organized and prepared.
Think About Rotations
A great dinner party event is one thing, but you shouldn’t end the fun there. Following your time as the host, it would be great to visit their home as a guest. It’s a chance to keep meeting up in these testing times without letting the surroundings become stale.
Moreover, your chance to taste their menu is a great way to learn tricks that could improve your future cooking habits. You can make this competitive by scoring each other’s meals and trying to outperform each other. It’s a great option when three or four households are involved, in locations where it’s viable.
Right now, many aspects of life feel like Groundhog Day. If you can successfully turn something as simple as dinner into a source of excitement, that has to be a positive.0