Women's Web guide to entertaining
Small informal dinner parties and buffet-style dining are growing
in popularity these days because they are conducive to relaxed
conversation and because they allow the hostess to enjoy the meal
as much as her guests. The success of entertaining depends as
much on atmosphere as on the food; your guests will only be as
relaxed and comfortable as you are. The key is to make your guests
feel you are managing everything easily and that you are having
as good a time as they. Decide what you can comfortably serve,
then begin planning your menu.
Decide what you are going to serve. Only then can you make plans
for shopping, cooking and serving. Divide your shopping list in
two: those items which can be bought in advance and the perishables
to buy the day before or the morning of your party. Cooking should
also be divided in a similar way. Decide which items will need
to be made ahead of time, which can be made the day of your party,
and which can be prepared at the last minute. Serving dishes should
be chosen and set out ahead of time. You should strive to have
your table set and your cooking done by late afternoon the day
of your party. This is the time to check on food you've prepared
in advance, arrange food on platters and in serving dishes, and
set up your punch bowl and bar.
- Plan and write our your menu.
- Make a shopping list containing every ingredient you will
- From this list, check off those ingredients you already have
- Decide what needs to be made ahead, what can be made the day
of your party, and what requires last-minute preparation. Draw
up your cooking timetable.
- Make a list of the linen, dishes, cutlery, glassware, serving
dishes, platters, and serving utensils you will need.
- If you plan to have one, plan your centerpiece.
One helpful suggestion is to keep a list of the stores where
you have found certain particular items in the past. Another useful
tip is to keep a notebook of the dates of past parties you've
given with the dates and the names of your guests. A guestbook
may be too formal for a dinner party—you can jot notes in
a journal or desk calendar at the end of your party instead. Such
notes will help you remember what you've done in the past and
help you determine what was successful and what was perhaps not
so successful. If your meal is successful, you may want to serve
the same dishes again at other times but perhaps not to the same
guests. Careful notes will help you better plan future parties.
Your planning lists should include a list of the clothes you
plan to wear. Make sure they are clean and pressed. Deciding at
the last minute may require you to make a hasty switch, and this
can throw off your confidence and put a damper on the festivities.
You may wish to make a list of the household items you plan to
use. This list can include such items as:
- candles and candlesticks
- guest soaps, guest towels, and bathroom tissue
- cocktail napkins
- ice, liquor, mix, condiments, swizzle sticks, cocktail straws,
corkscrews, and other openers
- closet space and coat hangers
Allow yourself sufficient time to dress and relax before your
guests arrive and your party begins. Above all, enjoy the fine
food you have prepared in the company of your good friends. That's
what entertaining is all about!