The Dinner Party; More Than Just Food
Things to Consider when Planning a Dinner Party
Most successful dinner parties are planned well in advance. By doing so you will not only relieve yourself of unnecessary stress but you will guarantee that the night goes perfectly smooth and that you are there to enjoy the evening as much as your guests. The following are some items you will want to consider and plan well before the night of your next dinner party.
Each part of the puzzle is pre-planned and prepared at a designated time.
- Send invites with occasion, theme (if any), time, address and an rsvp contact.
- Confirm attendees.
- Include other items on your shopping list that you may also need, i.e. coffee, tea, mixers, alcohol, wine, candles etc.
- Polish all the cutlery.
- Check the glassware and wash and polish if need be.
- Check your crockery. Do you have enough? Is it chipped?
- Choose your table settings if any.
- Do you have enough chairs?
- Set the table for a test as you will on the day.
- Choose the music for the dinner? Play list or CD’s?
- Organise candles or lighting for the evening. Do not underestimate the music and lighting, a dinner party is about all the senses not just the ones on your tongue.
- Tidy up.
- Know the number for your local taxi, or make up a spare bed or two in case some of your guests are unable to drive.
- Match wines to your menu.
- Are there any dietary requirements your guests may have? Celiac, Vegetarian, Allergies etc.
- Chill the wine.
With all of these tasks out of the way you can get back to focusing on the food you will be serving. The key to success on the food front is to plan, plan, plan and plan, and by that I simply mean the following 4 items:
Write out Your Menu
This is what you are serving, and to see it written in front of you keeps you on track. Even the best and most practised musician’s play to a song list, plus it is vital to the remaining 3 items.
Write a Shopping List
Write your shopping list from the menu and the recipes you will need on the night.
Write a Prep List
If you don’t write it down, there is a good chance you will miss it. Professional kitchens work from prep lists all day right up to service time, if you do the same (even days before) you will have a stress free night.
Write a Running Order
Ever wonder how when you’re at a wedding (a good one that is) how the kitchen manages to get everyone fed on time and how one course flows to the other so seamlessly? Well I can assure you, the kitchen is not winging it. They are running to a very precise time flow. Each part of the puzzle is pre-planned and prepared at a designated time. This blueprint for how and when the kitchens tasks will be done can be called everything from a ‘Running Order’ to ‘Work Flow’. Whatever you call it, the important thing is to make sure you have one.
Below is a sample menu, prep list and running order are for a dinner party, I have not included a shopping list as that is pretty self explanatory. Let’s assume in this case the guests are arriving at 7:00 pm and dinner will be served at 7:40 pm.
Canapés:Asparagus and Prosciutto Bites with Reduced Balsamic Vinegar
Chilli Lime and Gin Marinated Oysters
Homemade Spiced Cashews
Crab, Pickled Ginger and Avocado Stack with Baby Herbs and Lemon Vinaigrette
Salmon Fillet with Wilted Spinach and Lemon Beurre Blanc
Grilled Peaches with Amaretto Mascarpone
3 Days Out
- Reduce Balsamic
2 Days Out
- Lemon vinaigrette
- Chilli lime & gin marinade
- Prepare spiced cashews
1 Day Out
- Order oysters, salmon & crab
- Blanch Asparagus
- Cut Prosciutto
- Beurre blanc prep
- Amaretto Mascarpone
On The Day
- Set the table in the morning, (that way you get this task out of the way early while you still have time).
- Pick up seafood
- Pick crab
- Clean salmon fillets if needed
- Clean oysters if needed (check for bits of shell)
- Pick spinach
- Dice avocado
- Cut baby herbs
- Wrap Salmon
- Halve peaches (leave them out of fridge now, to allow them to come to room temperature).
- Assemble asparagus bites
- Top oysters with marinade
- Sear Salmon
- Make reduction for beurre blanc
- Tray up canapés
- Clean up canapé mess
- Line up first course plates
- Serve drinks
- Dress asparagus with balsamic syrup
- Serve canapés
- Assemble crab stacks on first course plates (do not put herbs on yet)
- Preheat oven to 180
- Remove mascarpone from fridge to allow it to come to room temperature.
- Dress crab stack with a little vinaigrette
- Drizzle a little dressing around stack
- Top crab stack with dressed herbs
- Bring plates to the table
- Seat guests
- Clear first course
- Cook salmon in oven 5-10 minutes, depending on thickness.
- Prepare beurre blanc
- Line up main course plates
- Remove salmon and allow to rest
- Blanche spinach
- Plate up
- Clear Main course plates
- Grill peaches
- Finish peaches in oven
- Line up dessert plates
- Serve dessert
- Relax you’ve done well!!