We’re having some friends over Saturday night. I love entertaining whether it’s a family brunch, dinner party, or post-dinner dessert and coffee – sign me up! For dinner parties, I prefer to schedule those on the weekend. However, I can make some sacrifices in the name of good friends.
Usually, a dinner party means I’m spending practically the whole day in the kitchen prepping, cooking, and organizing. Because I work full time, That means dinner parties are strictly weekend events, unless I want to use up PTO to cook.
Although we’ll be having them over this weekend – it happens to be one of the busiest weekends I have planned – oh and did I mention I’m recovering from being sick? Thankfully we’re only having one couple – but that doesn’t mean we won’t lay out the red carpet for them. In the name of time management, I should give myself enough time to prep, cook and set up for the day. First things first – set a menu and make a plan.
I’ll need an easy to assemble appetizer, a simple salad that only requires tossing, a main dish that takes no more than 1 ½ hours to cook, and an easy side dish. For dinner parties, I don’t think it’s necessary to make the dessert as well, especially when I’m a little short on time. We’ll just buy a tart or something. Although this can be mixed up if desserts are easy for you, make the dessert and buy a ready-made appetizer. Either way, using ready-to-eat items is not frowned upon.
After much indecisiveness, I have settled on a menu and made my grocery list. Luckily I’m only in need of a few items. Once my menu is set, I mentally pick out which serving dishes I’ll be using for each menu item. It’s not unlikely that I’ll jot it down on my list.
I have learned a few things from my last few dinner parties that I must share…
Check with your guests for dietary restrictions
You’ve spent the day slaving away in the kitchen making this amazing lamb and yogurt dish, which your only serving with salad. You’re your guests sit down for dinner and you find out that 1/3 don’t eat lamb, and another 1/3 is lactose intolerant. What a nightmare. Let’s face it, you don’t want to have this happen to you. So check ahead of time with your guests for any allergies or dietary restrictions.
Grocery shop the weekend before the event
Get your dinner party shopping in with your weekly shopping. Be sure to write down what you need, and how much you need. I failed to do this last time and ended up with way too much butternut squash. If you don’t have time to do it the weekend before, do it the night before. It gives me peace of mind to know that I have what I need before I start prepping.
Know ahead of time which serving dishes your using
Knowing which serving dishes your using can save you a setting up headache. I usually pull them out in advance and label each with a sticky note so I don’t have to think about what goes where.
Set the table ahead of time
I usually set the table several hours before the guests arrive. That way, even if the food isn’t ready on time, you’re table looks presentable.
Don’t wait until the last minute to take a shower
The host should always be ready to receive guests on time. If you’re afraid you’ll smell like food, do all the smell-heavy cooking earlier in the day or the night before. As a rule of thumb, I try be fully dressed (that means, hair and makeup) 30 minutes before guests arrive. Keep your perfume handy so that you can spritz it on when the doorbell rings, and your shoes by the door so you can slip them on before you open the door.
The Nest suggests planning for a “no-fuss” meal. Trust me, they know what they’re talking about. One dish that must be served hot is more than enough to keep you busy. Lukewarm side dishes, and simple salads go perfectly with right-off-the stove rice or just-out-of-the-oven chicken.
Have a clean-up plan
If you have a dishwasher, I recommend clearing it out before guests arrive. When dinner is finished, one of you can entertain your guests while the other rinses the dishes and places them in the dishwasher. Not only are the dirty dishes out of sight; cleanup has been reduced to the press of a button. Remember, never run the dishwasher while guests are still there.
Have fool-proof tips? Share them in the comments.
Stay tuned for post-dinner party photos and recipes.