–HT, New York, New York
Entertaining used to be all the rage until it became pretentious. These aren’t the Dinner Parties Years of the eighties and nineties — something that used to happen.
Look at dining rooms. The dining room is more apt to be the home office of a start-up or den of a struggling writer. Lately, whenever I’ve been lucky enough to be asked for drinks or dinner it makes me feel really special to be invited out. There were times when I thought nothing of making a curry or chili on a Saturday to entertain thirty of forty people that evening, but, then as a working mother, entertaining three children on Saturdays was all I could manage.
Don’t be intimidated by the popularity
of sophisticated TV chefs, and …
- you don’t need a holiday to entertain friends sharing platters over plated courses.
- Dinner for four, six or eight becomes easier with practice–the more times you handle the drill, the easier it gets.
- For Holiday Cocktails, put out a ham with a variety of cheeses, breads and crackers and they’ll all come–happy to snack off of festive paper plates!
- When a guest offers to bring something, say, “Yes, please!”
- If not a salad or dessert, then they know to bring a decent bottle of wine or a six-pack of craft-beer.
- To host a party, you don’t need a huge budget, just a slow-cooker for that bolognese sauce, chicken curry or turkey chili.
- Google a good recipe and be sure you make enough for leftovers the next day. And remember: Doubling or tripling that recipe can be tricky when adding salt and spices, so hold back and season to taste in stages.
- When inviting up to eight guests call or text your invitation in advance and when they respond, “YES! YES!”
- Follow up with the time and a mention of what you’ll be serving, as someone will be either allergic to seafood, or doesn’t eat meat, gluten, sugar, dairy, etc. Then you’ll know to add a veggie casserole to your menu.
- You needn’t drastically alter your menu, because picky eaters know to snack ahead of time–and are adept at pushing their food around the plate to make it look as though they’ve enjoyed the food.
Choose Your Style
In keeping with the season and climate, narrow the style of your dinner or cocktail party down to informal, more formal, or formal. Let’s choose the less formal:
- Informal/Casual: no ties (dress code) or tablecloth (tabletop); drinks and canapes/snacks (cocktails) followed by a two to three courses buffet style — perhaps seated in the kitchen — dinner of lasagne or risotto, salad, bread and large paper napkins. Make the formality somewhere between a kitchen supper and a seated dinner.
- But when there’s a guest’s birthday, engagement, or promotion to toast, for dessert serve cake and champagne or Prosecco in old-fashioned, mismatched champagne glasses (from your local thrift shop) or flute glasses from Anthropologie.
Invite the person during a phone conversation or by text when organizing a dinner party, because you want every guest to
- feel really special. That’s your number one job as a host, and don’t forget it (even if you hugely dislike your brother’s girlfriend). Every guest is important and if a guest is bringing a date, you want to know the date’s name, and a tidbit about them that will make it easy for you to introduce him or her and seat them beside a sympatico guest.
- Give the invitee a deadline as to when to get back to you with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no,’ and how many to expect (just the invitee or will there be 2 of you total?), because there may well be someone else you’d like to invite (but don’t say that). You don’t want no-shows, especially since you’ll be setting the table ahead of time. Say, “Can you, please, let me know by Friday the 10th, if you can come for dinner on the 20th?”
- Make it clear that you’re cooking dinner and will be expecting them to show up— and you’re not just ordering take out when they decide to show up.
- Depending upon how soon out your invitation for dinner was extended, follow up your phone call or text with a reminder a couple of days ahead of time: “Looking forward to having you both (or you and George) for dinner Saturday night, please come at 7:30.” You might add, “we’re having a roast.” In other words, let them know it is not burgers on the grille for when they show up (unless, of course, you will be grilling).
- When you know the guest is really really fussy about what s/he drinks and eats, suggest they bring a beverage, and do ask about food allergies.
- Regret, by declining the invitation: When an invitation doesn’t feel special enough for you: don’t accept, because you’ll probably end up as a no-show, if a better invitation comes along (and that’s really rude); or regret if you know you’ll be really really late, because you’re attending another event first (which is equally rude when the cook is timing dinner).
- Get back to the host in a timely fashion with a call or text with your YES or NO within 48 hours.
- Accept or decline promptly: When Accepting: state who, exactly, you’re accepting for: “Janet will be out of town on business, so it’ll just be me flying solo,” or “I’m bringing my latest crush Hugo, if that’s alright.” Add a tidbit about Hugo, so your host knows something about him that might be of interest to the assemblage of guests. A good guest just doesn’t randomly bring their own guest without clearing it with the host ahead of time — even if your plus one is a dog.
- Verify the time you’re expected.
- When you’re running late, phone ahead, which will allow the host to hold dinner for your arrival, or simply insist that the host starts serving dinner without you.
- Ahead of time, offer to bring a beverage or a “dish” meaning a dessert or a hummus and chips for the cocktail hour. However, if you’ve offered to buy or make the dessert, you better not forget your obligation.
- Don’t fret about a HOSTESS GIFT, bring a good bottle of wine or six-pack of craft-beer.
- Be a self-sustaining guest. Find out where to leave your coat tucking your phone into a pocket or simply turn it off. Ask what you can do to help out, or offer to: Help pass smacks, make drinks, light the candles, put on the music, clear the table or fill the wine glasses.
- Most importantly, introduce yourself to every guest that you don’t already know.
- When there is a guest you don’t like, make a beeline for him or her first and get it over with. Once you’ve been polite, you’re not duty-bound to talk to that person beyond that.
- Every guest is special and no one should feel trapped by good manners.
- Cooking for family and friends is about as personal as it gets.
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Accepting A Compliment