Planning a dinner party is nerve wracking, time consuming and stressful! Successful dinner parties take precise planning and timing. It’s a very fine line between spending too much time in the kitchen and not enough time with your guests. Over complicate the menu and you won’t see much of your guests. Keep things too simple and they might be thinking, what have I got dressed up for! So, how do you plan a dinner party menu?
So, the invites are out, the date is set and the location is your house. What seemed like a good idea is now a reality. First decide on what sort of an evening it’s going to be, formal, casual, relaxed. Once you have decided on your style then you can choose your menu.
Before you choose your menu dishes, my best advice for hosting a Dinner party is keep it simple! Don’t over complicate any dishes. Buy seasonal high quality products and cook them the best you can. Before you choose ask yourself the following?
How much space do I really have available? The amount of space you have is the easiest way to dictate your menu choice.
Table Space: Is my table big enough when fully set up for the amount guests I have invited?
Fridge Space: (This is an area a lot of people forget about!) Is my fridge big enough to hold my prepared food for the amount of guests I have invited? Don’t forget you need to leave space for wine, water, soft drinks and beer. If you own a cool box these are great for storing all your drinks, freeing up valuable fridge space.
Kitchen Space: Have I got enough worktop space to prepare and plate up my food? Or will I need to plate up in batches?
Oven Space: Is my oven big enough to cope with the number of guests and the food I want to cook? If you have two ovens you can set one at a low temperature for keeping plates and food warm.
Equipment: Have I enough plates, cutlery and glasses for three courses or do I need to wash up after the starter? If you are short on plates a great way around it is to make a cold dessert and serve it in a glass.
Time: How much time do I have? Is it a Friday evening after work? Is it at the weekend but my morning is full with kids activities? Time waits for nobody!! So utilise all the time you have, especially the evening beforehand. Prepare as much as you can in advance.
Choosing your Dishes
You have taken pretty much everything into consideration and you are confident you have everything you need for a successful evening. Now for the menu. As I said keep it simple and concentrate on colour, texture and flavour.
Colours: It’s important to note the colour of your plates; this impacts the way your dish presents. Plain white plates are your best bet, as they will not clash with the colour of your food. Consider what vegetables, meat/fish, sauce and garnish will compliment each other not just taste but visually.
Texture: This is something one is likely to overlook cooking on a daily basis. But is extremely important when planning a Dinner Party menu. It’s all about providing a good balance of texture and variety. So try not to have rich and creamy dishes following each other. Make sure your dishes have a mix of textures; it enhances the meal experience.
Flavour: Don’t have too many strong flavours and make sure they compliment the main item. Try to avoid too much spice, unless you know your guests well. I am not saying stay away from bold flavours but just make sure they are well balanced. Lastly avoid repeating flavours.
Menu chosen next is the prep!!
Days Before your Event
Your RSVP’s are back and you have chosen the menu. Now its time to put things into action. The earlier you start the better. Life does not stop just because you are hosting a Dinner party. Give yourself as much time on the day for tidying, table decorating, walking the dog and getting your final details in order.
Shopping: Do a detailed shopping list and just like Santa, check it twice! There is nothing more annoying than being half way through a recipe and discovering you are missing an ingredient or you did not purchase enough.
Space: Maximise it, start by tiding up your counters and your fridge before you go shopping so that there is plenty of room for your groceries. Make sure you keep your raw items separate on the bottom shelf from your ready to eat items.
Drinks: Purchase the drinks you plan to serve or better yet get them delivered and put them in your fridge or cool box with ice to get them nicely chilled.
Preparation: Make a detailed prep list or as us Chef’s would say, Mise en place. List every individual item you need to prepare. Don’t just write main course!! List all the items on your menu and what process needs to be done.
E.G. For a beef fillet, stem broccoli, parsnip puree, gratin potatoes, red wine sauce dish, this is what your list would look like.
- Trim and wrap beef fillet
- Seal beef fillet
- Sauce for beef fillet
- Parsnip puree
- Cook and blanch Broccoli stem
- Peel potatoes
- Slice potatoes
- Cream and garlic mix
- Cook and chill gratin potatoes
- Cut and tray up gratin potatoes
Good to Know
The more you prepare in advance the more time you will have with your guests and create less washing up. The less you prepare will mean more cooking on the night, trying to juggle three maybe four different items at once. Your kitchen will be chaos and you will have washing up for days!! You are also more likely to forget and over/under cook something.
Do not under estimate how much you can prepare in advance. 90% of your menu can be prepared long before your guests arrive, the more you can get done the day before the better. This way everything is already prepared/cooked apart from your meat or fish leaving you to just reheat your garnish, vegetables and sauce. It is a good idea to serve a cold dessert this can already be fully prepared and garnished ready and waiting in your fridge.
Finally get a good nights rest, its going to be a long day and after nailing your best dinner party yet, you are going to want to relax and continue the evening with your guests.
If you prepare and plan well before your dinner party you can rest easy, knowing that on the day most of your work is done. Giving you more time on the day to make some special finishing touches. Please have a read of our blog on Dressing a table to see how simple touches can elevate your dinner party to the next level.
The Day of your Dinner Party
The day has arrived, you have planned, organised, shopped, whisked, chopped, blended, strained and mixed. You have used every pot, pan and oven tray in your kitchen. Happily, most of your menu is prepared and there are only a few items left on your list to cross off. Please make sure that your dishwasher is empty and is ready to go, it will make things a lot easier when clearing courses! So, how do you ensure everything goes according to plan?
Timing is everything to ensure a smooth running. There are a few things you can do to make sure the evening keeps flowing and its not midnight when you are serving your dessert. Firstly you are in control. So before you start serving your starter make sure everything is almost ready to go. Delaying your starter 10-15 minutes later than stated is perfectly acceptable. Having your guests waiting 45 minutes to one hour between courses may not be! To give yourself the time you need to plate and present your food use your courses to your advantage.
A Welcome Drink
A welcome drink is great for letting your guests mingle and catch up with each other. It’s also your time to get your dinner menu into full swing. Depending on your main course this can be in the oven cooking ready to come out and rest just before you serve your starter.
Seat your guests in their allocated places and once seated serve them the bread, water and wine.
Allow them to mingle a little while you put the finishing touches to your starter. If you are serving more than four guests it’s a good idea to have a helper to assist with serving and the clearing of courses.
Once you have finished your starter, its back to the kitchen for you I’m afraid to reheat your condiments for your main course. Get your helper to clear the starter and load the dishwasher while you are plating your main course.
If you are serving a cold dessert remove it from the fridge to let it get to room temperature. If you are serving a hot dessert then you can put it in the oven on a low temperature.
After your delicious main course, you are on the home straight. But your night isn’t quite finished yet and its back to the kitchen for you. You put the finishing touches to your dessert while your number 2 is clearing the main course and loading the dishwasher.
You will have a sense of pride and relaxation as you sit with your guests and eat your scrumptious dessert. It’s a quick tidy up after dessert and time for a quality mingle with your guests.
Now, all your guests are gone, the pots are washed, the dishwasher fully loaded and your counters are cleared and cleaned. As you are sipping on your well-deserved favourite tipple of choice late into the morning, I’m sure you are thinking, surely there is someone out there who can do this for me??
DaChi’s Restaurant to You is a unique and bespoke luxury dining service. We help people like you, who enjoying entertaining by taking away the hassles of hosting a dinner party. At DaChi’s Restaurant to You we arrange everything for you for; the food, drinks, service, setting up and most importantly clearing up at the end of the night! We love to help people, enjoy their guests and not have to worry about anything but having a good time! If you would like to take the next step and work with us why not give us a call on 07920 720842.