Today’s guest post is by Nancy Rathlou. With talents in visual art and music and a penchant for a life in the arts, Nancy naturally found herself employed in the food service industry. While writing songs and building her portfolio, Nancy kept food on the table by overseeing the operations of a commercial kitchen, at a private conference and retreat centre. Event planning was a job she grew into. As she says, “it stays in your blood”.
So, you want to throw a dinner party and you’d really like to be WITH your guests instead of running around in the background, cooking, serving and sweating.
No problem, it just takes a little party planning in advance.
First, determine your menu, several days in advance. Then go shopping for all the ingredients that can be set aside for a few days, commonly referred to as “dry goods”. This would include canned foods, pasta, rice, spices, etc. You can make sure the table cloth and napkins are laundered and the candles bought at the same time. This will save a world of headaches on the day of, when all you’ll need to shop for is the main event; meat, fish, poultry or seafood and fresh produce.
You can also select your music ahead of time. Nothing sets the ambiance like the right music. If I’m serving Italian, I like to play Zucchero & Co. or Guitar Music for a Small Room. Mediterranean food brings out Jessie Cook’s Nomad or the Gypsy Kings and Amy Winehouse Hidden Treasures will dress up any meal.
Party Planning Menu Tips
Anything you can prepare days or hours in advance will give you more time to be with your guests. Restaurant chefs have sous chefs and prep cooks who do all the chopping, grating, mixing and peeling. You can do that. Be your own sous chef and when time comes to throw it all together like the great chefs, you’ll be laughing. It also helps to choose a dish that can be put together before your guests arrive, one you can just pop in the oven while they enjoy the ready and waiting hors d’oeuvres.
Truth is, it doesn’t really matter if you are a gourmet whiz in the kitchen or the order-in type. The real secret of a successful dinner party is found in the small things. It is the small things that say “I care about you, I am so glad you are here. This table is set just for you.” The whole point is to make your guests feel special, that they really matter to you and their presence at your table is an honour. Who doesn’t love to feel that way? How do you let them know? Have the table set before they arrive. When they walk into that room and see fresh flowers, candles, wine glasses and cloth napkins practically singing “Surprise!”, your success has already been established.
Let them linger around the table for hours, enjoying the conversation. Clear away the used dishes and leave the wine glasses. Don’t worry about clean up. There’s always tomorrow and even though many friends will offer to help with the dishes, don’t let them. No matter what they say, they are going to feel all the more special for being kept out of the kitchen (this time!).