Now that we’re living in a city again we’ve been hosting many small dinner parties. (Insert excitement here)
For me, planning dinner parties wasn’t part of my childhood and I think the closest I ever was to dinner party planning before now was helping getting parties ready/catered when I was a nanny in New Jersey. (A fun, influential and important part of my life- I spent my late teen years on the Jersey Shore as a support for a lovely family with three children)
So how the heck to plan a dinner menu for guests?
- Ask for allergies, dietary restrictions, food preferences. (I’m happy to accommodate a food dislike if I’m hosting at my house and if a guest has diabetes then I’ll be sure to make a lower carb high fibre meal etc.)
- Choose a theme.
- Pick something you are a little passionate about, it helps get the creativity flowing.
- Color– We once did a pink/red themed meal featuring salmon, beets, sweet potato purée and beef.
- Country– We’ve done Mexican and Italian themed meals.
- Around the world- Tie in foods from all around the world and try to match a flavour from each course with another.
If you want some different food ideas try searching specific ingredients you’d like to use with social media. Try searching #beeftenderloin or #beets on Instagram, you’ll be surprised with the results and perhaps become inspired too.
- Do as much meal prep in the morning or the day before the event. Cut veggies, prepare and plan garnishes, portion proteins and write out the full menu to ensure you haven’t forgotten any groceries.
- Make food that you are confident you can make. It can still be your first time trying a new recipe but read it over and review the skills involved before you get over your head.
- Get creative when things don’t work out. I once made beetroot puffs that flattened out. I continued to bake them as the instructions called for rather than starting over. It turned out that after baking they looked just like macaron cookies so I ended up making savory macarons instead. Luckily if that didn’t work out I had enough time to try again. They were my first attempt so I made them hours before guests were coming.
- Double and triple check that you haven’t forgotten any ingredients before your guests arrive.
- Be prepared your guests may show up early and don’t be upset if they show up late.
- Have the table ready for your guests before they arrive. If you are planning to plate in the kitchen have the silverware on the table. If you are planning to serve at the table have the table set and ready. For an added touch, I like to label some dishes with washable markers or make personalized placemats for our guests.
- Have hors d’oeuvres prepped and ready for when guests arrive so you can greet them with a treat. Make sure to have everything that you will need out and ready, don’t forget napkins! I get out all of the plates and serving platters so I can mentally plan how everything will be served. This also makes transitions between courses easier.
- Read up on some plating tips if you aren’t confident in plating. I found the ones here very useful.