The lost art of the at home dinner party

It really is no secret that our society concentrates most of it’s celebrating and socialising around food and the dinner table.  Family get-togethers are more often than not organised at Christmas, New Year, Ramadan, Hanukkah, Easter, birthdays, births, marriages and even deaths. 

We celebrate nearly everything with a meal.

Food glorious Food!!!

So, if food is so celebrated in our society what’s happened to the lost art of the home dinner party? 

Not that long ago, in the 80’s and 90’s, progressive dinners, fondue parties, steamboat evenings and traditional home dinner parties were all the rage and whilst I’m not suggesting that we bring back the 80’s, I do have to agree that back in the day, people tended to favour home entertaining for a number of very good reasons:

    it saved on taxi fares

    there were less babysitting issues

    you’re more likely to enjoy a drink if you just live down the street or around the corner

    it can be healthier simply because you know what you are eating (No MSG for a start!)

    it’s can be cheaper (or at the very least better value for money!)

Guess what?  Home entertaining is making a comeback!  With cooking shows like Master Chef and MKR showing us the way and instilling in us a quiet confidence in our cooking abilities, perhaps now is the time for you to give it a go and throw a home dinner party for your friends and family. 

Here are my tips for those of you game enough to get the ball rolling by inviting your friends over for an evening of delicious food, fine wine, intelligent conversation and plain “old fashioned” fun!

Dinner Party Tip #1 - How may people should you invite?

Your budget and the seating space you have available will answer this question.  If you can, start with perhaps 6 people and see how you go.   If it’s a huge success you can always up the ante next time.

Dinner Party Tip #2 - Design your menu

For your initial venture into the world of home entertaining, I suggest you definitely prepare something tried and true.  Something that you have cooked before and that you’re comfortable serving.  Experimenting on your guests is NOT recommended as chances are it could be a disaster. 

KISS!!! ….. “keep it simple sweetheart” and you can’t go wrong.  

Dinner Party Tip #3 - Prepare your shopping list

 Once you have decided on the menu, prepare your shopping list and work from that.  Fresh produce will always, always see you in good stead.  Buy the best you can afford.

Dinner Party Tip #4 - Set your table the night before

This will save you time and ease the nerves as it will be one less thing you need to think about on the day.  Be creative with your table setting and try to achieve that “WOW” factor.  First impressions count! 

Your guests will love it and will be talking about it on Facebook for days.

Dinner Party Tip #5 - Set out your serving utensils and dishes beforehand

This might seem a bit pointless to some but it does save you time and last minute panic.  Anything you can do the night before that will help create a feeling of control on the day is worthwhile.

Dinner Party Tip #6 - Give yourself time to get YOU ready

If you’ve ever watched MKR you will know that the contestant chefs always prep as much as they can before the guests arrive - then run off to change and freshen up.  The same applies for your home dinner party.  Make sure you leave time to get dolled up before your guests arrive.  It will add to your confidence and if you’re confident and prepared your dinner guests will feel more at ease.

Dinner Party Tip #7 - Have drinks and canapés ready for guests on arrival

It’s important for you to spend a little time with your guests before you bolt off back to the kitchen to baste the chicken or check on the prawns.  Have your drinks and canapés ready when your guests arrive, make any necessary introductions and spend a little time making them feel comfortable. 

A glass of wine goes a long way towards making the night a success.

and finally……..

Dinner Party Tip #8 - You can always hire outside help

Whilst I have every confidence in your cooking abilities, no matter how prepared you are there is going to be some level of stress when entertaining in your home.  So, for your first venture back into the home dinner party soiree, why not consider hiring outside help.  This will ensure you have a wonderful stress free evening, you will be able to relax and even take notes for the next time. 

You may be pleasantly surprised at the cost per head, with “at home” dinners starting at $80pp for a top notch 3 course dinner.

Who says the home dinner party is a lost art?   We know better now, don’t we?