Wednesday, 14 August 2013

5 tips on how to throw a stress-free dinner party!

Dinner parties are really popular nowadays. With the economical crisis there is no better option to enjoy delicious food and wine for a fraction of the price you will pay in a good restaurant. Off course it does requires some time shopping for quality ingredients, menu planning and cooking.
For most people throwing a dinner party yourself can cause a lot of stress, which is really not necessary.

I had to remind myself to that lately. Because ever since I graduated I have been thinking about starting a supperclub (aka 'underground restaurant' and in the Netherlands as 'huiskamerrestaurant'/ livingroomrestaurant). Because I find it a bit scary to start that out of nowhere I decided I first join as a host for EatWith. And before I actually go online and welcome travellers at our dining table, I thought I will test myself cooking for more than 6 people by inviting friends for dinner.
Finishing my study sounded like a great occasion to invite them over for a dinner party at the beginning of September to celebrate.

Once the invitations were sent and I had positive responses from 9 of our best friends the planning started. That went from bad to worse because I want to make everything from scratch. And for me one of the most important things about throwing a dinner party is that I can sit down with my guests and enjoy the food, the wine and the conversations.
It was only last week, with 4 weeks left for 'The Big Dinnerparty', that I realised I was writing a post about tips on how to throw a stress-free dinner party.
Time to remind myself on that tips and publish it!!!

1) Only invite people who enjoy good food and wine! 

Why would you bother stressing and showing off for people who don't even appreciate all the effort you put in throwing a nice dinner party? If you invite over family or friends who don't care about a fancy dinner than just make something simple to eat, have a few bottles of wine and beer on hand and enjoy each others company.

2) Make something you have cooked before

The benefit of making a dish you have cooked before is that you know that it's good. (why else would you bother making that recipe again!) If you do plan on making a new recipe at your dinner party, try testing it before the big date. You will be much more comfortable on the evening itself if you know it worked before.

3) Plan ahead! 

Not just with shopping but also with thinking about what you're gonna cook.
What I do as soon as I planned a dinner party with friends, is put a post-it in my agenda at that weeks page. Whenever I think of an ingredient, wine or recipe that suits the people or evening I have in mind I write it down. I know I'm a bit old fashioned but I still use my paper agenda instead of the one in my smartphone. But I guess Evernote could do a good job here to.  This process can start weeks in advance and sometimes changes until the last minute. But most of the time it gives me some air when I can look at the notes I made.

Another plan ahead thing here is the season. For example; if you want to make something with asparagus or fresh figs you have to be sure you can buy it in that season. Or have a backup dish in your head.
I experienced this recently when I thought rhubarb was already available. After visiting 3 supermarkets and 2 vegetable shops I realised it was not and had to think about another dessert 1 day before the dinner...
The big piece of almond cake from David Lebovitz which I had left in the freezer came in really handy here!

4) Start cooking in time

Start at least one hour earlier than you think you need. Things can go wrong. I always realise I miss one or two ingredients last minute... In that case my husband still has time to rush to the supermarket ;-)
It's also really nice if you have time left to take a shower and change clothes before your guests arrive.
So make sure the bathroom is clean and the table is set before you even start cooking.

Off course it is also really stress reducing if you plan a mostly make ahead menu with only one or two items that have to be made at the last moment. Even better if you have time to make some dishes the day or evening before.

5) Let loose and enjoy! 

Finally, as tip number 5 I would like to quote Megan Gordon from her piece on The Kitchn who says to: Let Loose: "For me the most important part of a dinner party is letting myself relax. At a certain point, a few minutes before everyone is to arrive, there's not much that can be perfected. It is what it is and everyone will be gracious and happy to be in one another's company. Join them. After all, isn't that the reason you're throwing the party in the first place?" 

Off course these 5 tips can be used for any dinnerparty, especially also for Christmas dinner planning. 

I can only agree to this. 

Here is my recipe for a stress-free start of your dinnerparty with an easy cocktail:

Prosecco with amaretto & raspberries
Inspired on a welcome drink I had at restaurant Tuinhuis Culinair in Tilburg, Netherlands

  • Amaretto 
  • Prosecco
  • Fresh raspberries. 

Divide a small dash of amaretto in champagne glasses; not to much or it will be very sweet. 
Top it off with prosecco and a few fresh raspberries. 
Serve with straw. 

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