Dinner parties can be stressful for many reasons, especially if you're hosting. But there are ways to make it more manageable and enjoyable for both host and attendees. Great dinner parties aren't about perfection. They're about great company and bonding over equally as great food. Here are tips for setting your dinner party up for success.
Slow Cook The Main Event
When it comes to dinner parties, it's important to make dishes that you can prepare before guests arrive. Dishes that you can put in the oven, pull out and place on the table, so you spend your night enjoying your company.
Don't Be Afraid To Delegate.
One useful thing with dinner parties is to make a list of things you need to do and stick it on the fridge. When guests kindly ask what they can help with, instead of telling them 'Oh, nothing!' refer them to your list and ask them to select a task. This not only helps the host with their duties for the evening, but it can also make your guests feel useful. Plus, it may help those experiencing xenophobia. People also like challenges. So, sometimes we put together a dinner party menu and specifically allocate dishes to people who even send recipe links to attendees to assist with what they can bring along. If people feel invested and involved in the dinner party, rather than just being an attendee, it becomes a shared experience.
Have Your Drinks Ready To Go
Organising drinks is something easily done in advance. Find a sizable vessel — a big tin drinks tub or even a wheelbarrow if your dinner is outside — and fill it with bottled drinks so guests can self-serve throughout the night. Fill your vessel with ice just before the party begins. To avoid fumbling around for cocktail ingredients when your guests arrive, pre-mix them. Keep your cocktail mixes in the fridge and top up your jugs as the night goes on. However, have some options for guests who don't drink alcohol. For example, make a mocktail from the same recipe if you're making a particular cocktail.
FAQs About Dinner Party
Dinner Party Essentials
- Dinnerware. Aside from the food you serve, your dinnerware is the most important part of your dinner party.
- Serving Dishes. After you have decided what type of dishes and flatware you'll use at each place setting, you will need to select your serving dishes.
- Water Glasses.
- Start planning early.
- Make plenty of lists.
- Give the table extra attention.
- Add some music.
- Provide plenty of seating
- Plan the ins and outs.
- Ask guests to bring their alcohol.
- Keep the menu simple.
The average costs are $70 per person for food and $85 per person for food and drinks for sit down service. If your wedding is 100 guests, it will cost you $7,000 in total and $1,500 more with drinks. You can save up to $5,000 with different service styles.
Prepare Leftover Friendly Dishes
Preserved lemon and pearl couscous salad. A warm, wholesome salad with tender couscous, chargrilled zucchini and fresh lemon and olive oil dressing. As a general rule, prepare food for twice as many people as coming. This also means the hosts don't need to worry about cooking in the days that follow.
Steps For A Successful Winter Dinner Party
As the weather cools down, the urge to snuggle up with a pizza and the latest Netflix series can become all-consuming. Boredom peaks, social activity hits a wall, and you find yourself madly scrolling through Facebook for something, anything, to do. One idea to reawaken the social butterfly within is to plan a good old-fashioned dinner party.
Pick A Theme To Kick Things Off.
If you're unsure where to start, a theme or a mood is a great place to start. It can be something as simple as the food you serve, like 'taco Tuesday' or 'Sunday roast', or as vague as 'a romantic evening', a theme gives you something to work from and makes it super easy to make choices, meaning that you won't waste time stuck in the party supplies aisle buying drink umbrellas if you know you're hosting a classy red-wine-and-blue-cheese night.
Please Keep It Simple; Think Ahead.
Want effortless entertaining? The golden rule with any event, no matter how small, is to think through your planning and reduce your options. Sure, making 17 types of handmade pasta from scratch is impressive, but is it something you can pull off on a Friday night? Think about what you can outsource, combine, or leave out entirely. After all, a clear concept is not only easier to execute, it also means everything else will fall into place; guests, theme and menu.
Curate Your Guest List
It's no secret that a great guest list is one of the key ingredients for an epic night. But bigger isn't always better, and it's the mix of people that matters – a carefully chosen guest list can be as few as three people or as many as 50. Don't shy away from inviting friends who've never met, and your dinner party could kick off a new bromance or even be the starting point for a rom-com level meet-cute.
Build Your Menu
The food is the main event; it's what your guests are here for. Allergies aside, the same dish with slight variations or a make-ahead dish with plenty of sides is a great way to focus on quality over quantity. Of course, make sure there are plenty of tempting snacks and nibbles as well. Things like dips, olives, cured meats, pieces of bread and crudites are classics for a reason and have the bonus of requiring very little prep and going all out on the mains? You can even order in sides and desserts and plate them up prettily – it's a great way to save time.
Prep In The Lead-Up
Make sure you buy everything you need, prep everything you can and reconfirm with your guests. This is also the time to think about things like music and serving ware, and triple-check that you have everything you need (and borrow whatever you don't). And don't forget your outfit – it doesn't hurt to dress to impress.
Best Tips And Tricks For Impressing Your Friends And Family
The Perfect Dinner Party
The key to impressing your friends is all about making them feel at home in your home. No one can have a good time if you're all stressed out over cooking a 10-course extravaganza that you've never attempted before. So make an effort, but remember to relax.
We have here a 50-point plan for the perfect dinner party, but the key advice is to plan your menu, write lists, organise your fridge and prepare as much of your food ahead of time. If you do this, much of the rest will fall into place.
Start with a cocktail or a signature drink to offer guests on arrival. Another thing is delegating someone to serve those drinks on arrival to free you up for putting the finishing touches on the meal. And if it's warm, think of how much ice you'll need — then double it.
Pick some flowers or herbs from the garden and pop a small vase into the toilet. And so you're all ready for a wonderful night ahead, always imagine your guests are coming an hour early.
Fancy Words, Fabulous Dishes
It would be best if you tried these pain rules. Doesn't that sound so much better than a plain old bacon roll? These tasty, savoury rolls are like posher, tastier ancestors of our cheesy mite scrolls. Or perhaps whip up a pasticcio, which sounds much posher than a Greek pasta bake. Pangrattato trumps fried garlicky breadcrumbs and doesn't agridulce (bittersweet) have a lovely ring about it.
Reclaim Dodgy Ingredients
Nothing says, Oh, this little thing I pulled together better than a dodgy ingredient reappropriated for today. Think creamed corn, processed cheese and, of course, Spam. Turn a can of sweet corn into an elegant Chinese chicken and sweet corn soup, use Spam as the hero in a Korean-inspired stew or even use Deb instant potato as the basis for crisp-crumbed prawns. Smiles all around.
This is a great "hack" to make your mayonnaise in no time. Crack an egg into a stick blender's plastic blending cup. Pour over grapeseed oil, a good squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt. Place the stick blender, so the head covers and encloses the yolk. Blitz, count to three and slowly pull the blender up through the oil. Voila! You have your mayonnaise in seconds. Now that's impressive.
We're in a family home, not Buckingham Palace, so whether it's drinks or the table, the rule is the same: keep it casual and don't be fussy. Lighting is important — candles are great as everyone looks good in candlelight, and it adds sparkle to the glassware.
To transform a dish from ho-hum to OMG, think about presentation and garnishes that contrast with flavour and texture. For example, that boring old vegetable soup can start looking (and tasting) rather fancy-dressed with a dollop of herby pesto, a blizzard of finely chopped herbs and flecks of lemon zest, or a swoosh of good olive oil.
Warm The Plates
This is key to ensuring not only the food you serve doesn't go cold quickly, but it also makes
what you serve to take on restaurant-like quality. Warm the plates in the bottom of the oven or very hot water before drying them to serve.
This is a great trick to turn down the dairy but still add some creamy to a dish — especially chicken. It's a touch healthier and equally delicious—Blitz unsalted cashews with some white miso paste and a couple of tablespoons of hot water. Add the juice of half a lemon to add citric acidity (and add more hot water to make a looser sauce).
In these health-conscious days, we all love chicken mince. But it would help if you remembered to season it well and cook it carefully. And for an easy snack for when people drop by, use that mince to make Thai inspired sausage rolls, with coriander, ginger, kaffir lime and sweet chilli transforming the humble sausage roll into something rather more exotic.
A salad is only as good as its dressing. Turn a simple lettuce salad (butter lettuce, gem, cos or even iceberg) into something amazing with a quick and easy dressing. Whisk one egg yolk with 1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard, then add 600ml vegetable oil in a slow, steady stream. Add 3 tbsp white wine vinegar, salt and black pepper, along with finely chopped tarragon, basil, flat-leaf parsley and chervil. Ideally, use this dressing fresh, but it will keep in a clean, sealed screw-top jar for a few days.
Just saying the words Marco Pierre White is enough to impress many; saying the sauce you're serving is an MPW classic should impress all. Sauce Jaqueline is a carrot and white port sauce transformed into "sweet, liquid gold". It simply takes white port, some butter, grated carrots and cardamom pods, gently simmered together for 30 minutes. Then, strain the juice and reduce it gently by a third. "It's classic Marco — simple and delicious.
Giving a twist to retro classics is an easy way to add a touch of wow to your table. For example, bring out a bowl of coronation chicken — already a novelty — topped with pistachios and served with a salad of lettuce, celery, cucumber, and boiled baby potatoes. Or turn that 70s dinner party classic — apricot chicken — into something very trendy, with the addition of caperberries, green olives and thyme and oregano.
It might look like you just forgot it in the oven, but it's no mistake: Reckons the burnt cheesecake they first tried in a little bar in San Sebastian, Spain, called La Vina is the best base of the survey. It's super creamy, super delicious, and super, super impressive.
Cheese & Dessert At Once
They just created the ultimate end-of-dinner-party cheat by combining a classic apple and cheddar into an apple pie with a cheddar cheese crust. Serve with ice cream and wait for the compliments to roll in.
Out Of A Bottle
Pomegranate molasses and lamb; pineapple juice and pork; teriyaki and chicken. These are easy ways to add heaps of flavour to a protein that you want to grill by simply adding something out of a bottle. It's an instant flavour that packs a punch.
Melted Ice Cream
Australian country cookery is thick with canny little recipes for using melted ice cream in different ways, from Thousand Island dressing to all manner of baking. For example, you can make ice cream bread from just two cups of melted vanilla ice cream and 225g self-raising flour baked for 50 minutes at 175 degrees. Serve warm with slabs of cold butter, and you have an afternoon tea sweet treat that's effortlessly easy.
You should always serve dessert after a meal, and, while it's lovely to be able to cook your own if you don't have time, Matt suggests sprucing up a store-bought cake with fruit, edible flowers or a thick sauce. Your cake will look homemade in no time.
Dishes Aussies Being Served At Dinner Parties
Take note for Christmas. Or don't. Your guests should be grateful. However, if you've ever offered to host a dinner party then immediately regretted your decision because of stressing over the menu, we've got some bad news for you: Taste.com.au readers are pretty picky about what they like to be served at a dinner party. We asked our audience: "What's the dish you dread being served at your friend's houses?" and the results were pretty surprising. From mushrooms to good old spag bol and all types of seafood, here are a few things to strike off your dinner party list.
- Spag bol
- This classic dish was mentioned many times in our poll because "not everyone makes it well". Better use our top-rated recipe next time (it never fails).
- Offal or "any organs."
- People hate to be served any "organ" at a dinner party, from trotters to livers, tongue, kidneys, lamb fries, crumbed brains and more. People hate to be served any "organ" at a dinner party. Fair enough…
- Yep, even chicken made a list. Because taste.com.au readers are surprisingly picky with how it's cooked (only a breast fillet, no thigh, not overcooked, not undercooked, etc.). Best to avoid altogether, then?
- Retro dinners
- Classic meals like curried sausages and apricot chicken made multiple appearances on the list. We're just as shocked as you!
- Surprisingly contentious, this ingredient made a list repeatedly thanks to its slimy texture if not cooked correctly. Better learn the basics, then!
- Anything with coriander
- Of course, this divisive herb made a list. It's scientifically proven to taste like soap to some people, while others get a more pleasant, herby flavour.
- Cob loaves
- Okay, this one's personal. You either love them or hate them, I guess. We know where we stand.
- The vegetable that "has no flavour" made many appearances on the list. Have these people never had a celery, apple and walnut salad?? Or our amazing celery dip?
We asked our audience: "What's the dish you dread being served at your friend's houses?" and the results were pretty surprising. From mushrooms to Good old spag bol and all types of seafood, here are a few things to strike off your dinner party list.