Throwing a dinner party should be brilliant fun and certainly not a chore. Unfortunately. so many people get worked up creating the best dish they’ve ever made or agonizing over a seating plan that nobody is going to follow anyway. If you sometimes get a little stressed out when it comes to cooking for a larger group, then we’ve got a guide that will ensure that not only do all of your guests love your dinner party but that you do too!
So, if you’re ready for a stress-free dinner, with plenty of opportunity for laughter, and a focus on really great food, then you’ve come to the right place.
Set the Scene
If you’re the kind of person who sometimes tries to do too much at once, or gets paralyzed when faced with a decision, then thinking of a theme for your dinner party could help avoid these problems. Having a theme gives you something to think back to, when you’re deciding on which tableware to use, your decorations, what to wear, what music to play, or even what dessert to serve.
Choosing a decade is a popular theme, but you could choose a country, a prompt celebration, a film or book, or any number of other things. Once you’ve got your theme, really try to run with it through your whole evening. Obviously, if you’ve got a show-stopper dish that everybody always asks for that doesn’t fit your theme then you can still make it but revert back to your theme every time you’re feeling a little starved of inspiration or struggling to make a decision.
After Dinner Entertainment
Enjoyable conversation is the key to a great dinner party, but if you’re worried about conversation flowing, or guests all getting along with each other then it can be a worthwhile idea to have some entertainment options on hand. You can use these as ice-breakers or after-dinner entertainment, just adjust to whenever makes the most sense for your party. You can work the entertainment into your theme, so if you’re going for a 1920s theme then you might want to break out the casino games.
These are a good choice because you can bring them out and set them up at a moment’s notice. You could cater to your guests who enjoy playing blackjack by learning how to play online first, then getting out the cards for a couple of rounds after eating. This game is great because it literally requires just cards in order to play and once, they’re out, your guests can share the games that they enjoy with one another too.
Perhaps you opted for a murder mystery theme, in which case a game of Cluedo can be a hilarious way to end an evening and only requires a copy of the boardgame to get started. You can often find these in a Goodwill store for a couple of dollars and it’ll get used time and time again.
Two Courses Ahead of Time
Perhaps the biggest mistake that hosts make when throwing a dinner party is trying to cook every dish when their guests have already arrived. Your guests have come to the party because they want to see you, so spending all your time in the kitchen is counterproductive.
Instead, make at least one, but preferably two of your courses ahead of time. A grazing board, or a mix of charcuterie is the perfect starter that can be made well ahead of time and kept cold until it is ready to serve.
There are also plenty of desserts that will keep well in the fridge and can be total showstoppers. Nobody has ever complained at the sight of a towering pavlova, or a delectable chocolate mousse, so make the evening easier for yourself and prepare your starter and dessert well ahead of time, maybe even the day before.
Work With Seasonal Produce
When it comes to creating a menu, there’s sometimes just too much choice. Your theme might help you to whittle down your options a bit, but another variable that can really help to narrow down your menu is what’s in season.
The other big benefit to choosing a seasonal menu is that you know the produce is going to be at its absolute best. There’s nothing more brilliant than a locally grown strawberry picked right at the height of the season, and in the same way, there’s nothing more deflating than biting into a peach and it is dry and tasteless. Seasonality has such an effect on the food that we eat, so you’re giving yourself a huge head start by creating a seasonal menu.
If you’re cooking in the height of summer then you could fill your charcuterie board with squishy figs, ripe red tomatoes, and grapes. If you’re cooking in the fall, consider a pumpkin pie for dessert, or a warming soup for a starter. Use nature to your advantage and you’ll be amazed how much more powerful your dishes taste.