Last Tuesday evening, I hosted a small dinner party at my apartment. To honor the fact that the next day was, at least according to the calendar, the official "first day of summer," I chose a menu that reflected the warm and bountiful season upon us:
**Salad: Blueberries, Feta, and Mint
**Sourdough bread (to dip and sop-up all of the garlicky goodness from the shrimp dish)
**Dessert: Homemade key lime pie
After I play hostess, I always seem to have a plethora of tips/shortcuts in my head that I intend to write down. For the next time I have people over. But, more often than not, I don't actually take the time to sit down and jot notes. Until today.
Here are some of my tried-and-true entertaining tips for all of you fabulous hosts/hostesses out there:
- Prepare your menu: If you don't have the budget to offer your guests a meat/poultry/fish/vegetarian option, then find out, ahead of time, if anyone has any allergies/dietary restrictions. God forbid you serve shellfish to an allergic, or present pork to someone who's kosher/halal.
- Fresh flowers: I buy 2-bunches from Trader Joe's - divide them in to various smaller bunches - and place multi, colorful bouquets all over my apartment. Flowers smell nice, brighten up your space, and last for about a week!
- Tidy up! If you don't have ample time to clean, I understand. However, at least make your bathroom a priority: Clean your toilet bowl and have an extra roll of toilet-paper handy/in a logical location. Use a Windex-like spray to wipe your mirror clean of toothpaste and water stains. And, if you're really type-A, provide paper hand-towels by your sink. I hate having to wipe my just-washed hands on someone's gnarly shower towel! Blech.
- For casual get-togethers: Use paper/plastic plates, napkins, utensils, and cups. Everything is disposable and makes cleanup *much* less of a nightmare.
- Do as much as you can ahead of time: Block time out of your busy schedule to prepare/cook as many of the items on your menu as possible, within reason. For this most recent gathering, I made the key lime pie on Sunday afternoon. Thank goodness, because crushing graham crackers by hand took me a good 20-minutes!
- Write down what you're serving and what you're serving it in: Jot down every appetizer, beverage, entree, and dessert. Assign a serving dish and serving utensil to go with each. You may realize that you do not, in fact, have a soup ladle or something as common as a bottle opener!
- Do not make plans the night before: It was tough, but I managed to keep my Monday evening free so that I could attend to any last-minute cleaning - organizing - and prepping. Since I get off of work at 5pm and my guests would arrive on Tuesday night between 7/7:30pm, I did not want to rush/stress any more than I had to day-of.
- Clean as you go: This is a priceless tip that I learned while interning at the Marriott WTC in college. Especially when cooking, don't let dishes, utensils, cups, etc. pile up - clean them as you use them.
- Once all of your guests arrive: Give them about 30-ish minutes to enjoy a beverage(s) and appetizers. I like to serve the "main course" at the 30-minutes-post-everyone's-arrival mark.
- Have fresh plates/bowls/utensils on-hand for each course: I prefer plastic and paper products for entertaining, as most of my gatherings are on the casual-end of the spectrum. Plus, I do not have enough dishes or glassware to serve more than 4-guests at one time. Sigh.
- Cheese plate: An hour before your guests are scheduled to arrive, take your cheeses out of the fridge and arrange on a platter (I like to follow Artisanal's "Cheese Clock"). Accompany with proper knives/spreaders.
- Bread: For a crispy crust and a warm interior, heat oven to 200-degrees F. Place sliced and/or whole bread on a cookie sheet and allow to warm for approximately 12-minutes (for slices) and 15-20 minutes (whole), respectively. If you have less time on your hands, raise the temperature to 300-degrees, and cut warming times in half.
OK, so now you've read mine; do you have any great entertaining tips to share? I'd love to hear from you!
Until we eat again,
The Lunch Belle