It’s that time of year where we start thinking about battening down the hatches for winter. Indeed, as the nights draw in, it is time to settle down with a warming menu that will celebrate the arrival of dark nights and cosy evenings in and forget about mourning the end of Summer.
As we begin to dream of warm socks and woollen jumpers, I also think that it is the time of year that we often begin to think of good friends and family. Indeed I always think of Autumn as being a very nurturing time of year where many people enter nesting mode and want to host intimate and relaxed dinner parties before entering the festive season which can often prove busy enough and not provide the opportunity for the indulgence of additional dinner parties.
The modern Coronavirus pandemic has certainly changed how we can celebrate the Autumn season and now dinner parties will be restricted in terms of numbers and variety if guests, but there are some glorious Autumn recipes that are just worth celebrating that also lend themselves to the delights of small and intimate gatherings.
Food, drink, friends, good conversation is a winning combination and why a dinner party is a timeless classic. A dinner party can be summed up as a simple and enduring combination of ingredients, that is made unique by what hosts and guests infuse the evening with. If thrown properly a dinner party is wonderfully enjoyable and your reflections of the evening will be infused with delectable gourmet memories for years to come.
Throwing a flawless and fun-filled dinner party is possibly easier with smaller numbers of guests as the hosts will have more time to devote to the conversations of each guests and the whole affair can be more intimate and special.
Hosting a successful dinner party is a real feather in ones cap and it’s certainly worth investing in some planning. Here are some top tips to making your dinner party a night to remember for all the right reasons:
- DON’T attempt a maiden voyage. Whilst it is easy to get carried away with grand culinary ideas as you flick through the latest foodie magazine, browse recipe sites or turn the pages of glossy recipe books, your guests must not be confused with guinea pigs. Indeed it might seem like a good idea to try a new recipe for your guests, but there are few things more tragic than you realising that lobsters need dressing and you have no lobster crackers 45 minutes before guests arrive and that your crème caramel has split.
- DO make as much as far in advance as you can. Even if you’re a glutton for flying by your pants, do not be tempted to leaving things to the last minute or think that you’ll continue with major preparations once your guests arrive. Think of how precious those moments are before the doorbell rings. You can tidy up the kitchen (guests will wander in), you can pour yourself a glass of wine, you can remember to tell your partner not to mention that thing to that guest and you can get yourself into some sort of presentable state to great guests.
- DO read the ingredient list and directions thoroughly, do not skim over the recipe in a rush! Regardless of the fact that you’ve made your Italian chicken many times before, it is still a good idea to remind yourself of its specifics–like the fact that the recipe calls for pancetta and fresh parsley both of which you forgot to buy!
- Be organised well in advance, do not leave it to the night! Do practice “mise en place.” Have all the ingredients laid out and ready to go before you start cooking and run through everything. This is a great way to discover you are short on an ingredient whilst there is still time to rectify the oversight.
- DO start cooking a little earlier than you think you should. If you start well in advance it allows time for mishaps and means that your dinner guests won’t start considering what the local take-aways are like.
- DO take your guests’ dietary restrictions into consideration. Although your beef encrusted in anchovies may be legendry in your immediate family and you may consider it to taste amazing, it will limit your vegetarian and vegan guests to raiding your salad drawer and will leave those who don’t like anchovies picking through your carefully prepared dish.
- DON’T spend time agonising over what your guests might or might not eat, like or be allergic to, simply ask them in plenty of advance if they have any dietary requirements or dislikes.
- DO use a tablecloth and cloth napkins. It’s a dinner party. You may love your paper napkins with pineapples on, but a dinner party is simply not the place to showcase them.
- DON’T rely too heavily on your guests. Whilst you may have requested that guests bring ice or a bottle of something with them, do not rely on them remembering.
- DO consider seating and I would recommend place cards to avoid any awkward roaming or hesitancy when asked to take their seats ready for the first course.
- DO sit down. Your guests want to spend time with you the host and this is something you need to consider when planning your menu and timings.
- DO consider a seasonally inspired menu. A nectarine salad might be heavenly in a heat wave but might not be so well there is a cold nip in the air.
- DO use ingredients that are in season and at their prime wherever possible
- DO put out salt and pepper and this is regardless of how well seasoned you dishes are. It’s courteous to place a cruet set out for your guests and will prevent you having to get up and find one in the middle of the meal.
- DO accept some help–if you want it and if you love the idea of dining at home with your friends and loved ones, but don’t fancy cooking and cleaning your way through the evening then consider drafting in professional help.
- Finally, DO enjoy the food, company and of course the wine!