How to host a (Mostly) Stress Free Dinner Party!
It’s September, and for everyone in Singapore, this means that the annual Formula 1 Grand Prix is right around the corner, bringing with it a storm of glitz and glamour from the Marina Bay street circuit to all the action off-the-track with concerts from A-List performers and glittering after-parties.
But for those with no ticket to the race, or don’t wish to be near the deafening action, the event is telecast live, so there’s no excuses not to gather your friends and host your own A-Class party!
But if you don’t get it right, what’s meant to be an fun gathering can very quickly turn into an social nightmare with burnt food, spent nerves and the kinds of memories that could burn a bridge. So what’s the trick to having a blast at your own party?
Control the food
In theory, a potluck seems like a great way to divvy up the cooking duties, but it can actually mean more work for you if a potluck is not managed right. Picture this: a whole horde of guests who bring three types of pasta, complicated meat dishes all vying to be stuck in the oven first, and not enough plates to put it all in? Nope, nope, and nope. If you are planning a potluck, control the food and create a sign up sheet. Get everyone to list and coordinate what they bring, and ask them to help bring either disposable plates and utensils, or bring the ones from home. However, if you think managing all that from your friends is too messy, then it may very well be easier to manage dinner on your own, and get your guests to buy the drinks instead.
Do as much as you can the day(s) before. Prep as much as you can.
Whatever that can be prepped earlier, prep it! If you leave everything to the last minute, you’ll be in a scramble. Ideally, by the time everyone rocks up to your place, the most you should be doing is laying the appetizers out or tossing a salad.
If you’re making spaghetti, items like sauces and meatballs can be cooked the night before and left in the fridge.
Keep it simple. Entertain, don’t cook.
I know you may feel the pressure to turn yourself into the next Gordon Ramsay to snag that coveted #BestDinnerPartyoftheYear award, but trust us, if all your dishes require a 10-step cooking process, you won’t be having a good time and neither will your guests. Things that cook low and slow, like a beef stew, or any one-pot dish or baked pasta, make for great entrees that are hearty, appetizing and most importantly, leaves you time to interact and entertain your guests – which was the whole point of a get together, right?
Make a maximum of one complicated dish.
If you insist on being Gordon Ramsay, then make sure to cap it at one dish and get that dish out of the way first, so the rest of the courses can be served easily. For numerous folks gathering at your place, everyone is bound to have different tastes for things, so comfort food is always your best bet for maximum belly satisfaction.
Sometimes people are late, and some may cancel, but don’t let this rain on your parade. Focus on creating a good atmosphere and just have fun! Your dish may not turn out perfect, your guests may not bring you the wine you requested, but roll with the punches, and all of these details won’t matter at the end of the day.
Delegate like a boss.
If you have a partner, sister, housemates, best friends or anyone offering to share the hosting burden, don’t be nonchalant – take up their offer. Teamwork makes the dream work after all, and leaves you less likely to make those emergency supermarket runs. You have a team helping you keep it all together! And if you do need to do an emergency run, having an extra pair of hands to help you do that while you set up in the kitchen is a great boon.
Buy extra ice.
It’s almost always never enough! Even if you do end up having extra, the excess can be stored in a bucket and used to chill the wine. Plus, ice melts anyway.
Set the table the night before, or the first thing in the morning.
This leaves you headspace and time to do it before the rush of cooking activities ensue, especially if you’re thinking of decorating.
Lastly...just go to bed.
When all the festivities and toasts have been said and done, and your last guests are ready to make the move, don’t think about cleaning everything up. Just bundle up leftover food and leave the rest for tomorrow, or if you’re close enough to your guests, ask them to lend you a hand on their way out. Simple things such as taking out some of the trash, or picking up some of the mess on the floor can be easily settled in 10 minutes. If you ask nicely, most guests are more than willing to lend a hand (and if they aren’t, you might want to re-think why you’re even close friends with them in the first place!)
The next morning, when you’re up and refreshed, you can do the bulk of the cleanup. Put on a nice playlist, make haste, and once you’ve put the last cushion back in place, treat yourself and go out for a nice meal, massage, or coffee after.