How To Take The Stress Out Of Entertaining

How To Take The Stress Out Of Entertaining

Entertaining has nothing to do with spending large amounts of cash or impressing people. It’s about creating memories and moments that your friends and family will cherish. Your guests are there to enjoy being with you, and they’re grateful you invited them in the first place! The secret to elegant entertaining is surprisingly simple: Create a relaxed, friendly atmosphere where you and your guests feel welcome. Here are a few fundamentals that have never let me down. 

  • Avoid being overly ambitious when creating a menu. Choose recipes that allow you to do as much preparation in advance as possible. The idea is to be glued to your dining room chair, not chained to your kitchen stove.
  • Start with the best possible ingredients and do as little to them as possible (this cuts down the margin of error). A three-course meal including salad (or another simple appetizer), entrée, and dessert is appropriate for all but the most skilled entertainer. 
  • It’s irrelevant who makes the food and where it comes from. Serve take-out food, pre-purchased gourmet food, or drop off a casserole dish at your favorite restaurant and have them prepare a stew that you can reheat while you toss a store bought salad. My mantra is, if the baked down the road makes a better tart than you do, then by all means purchase his!
  • If you decide to cook the entire meal, choose a foolproof menu. Avoid soufflés and sauces that will collapse or curdle if you’re fifteen minutes off schedule because your guests are enjoying one another over cocktails, or someone is running late. Savory stews, soups, and casseroles are wonderful because they can be prepared (in large part) ahead of time.  
  • Food is like theater and first impressions count for everything- so make the first course simple but spectacular. If your meal begins with a bland brown soup, the performance can only go downhill from there! Choose a dish that is visual as well as delicious and that balances color, temperature, texture and taste. By adding chopped chives to the brown soup along with a dollop of nonfat yogurt, or serving a salad of baby greens with grilled prawns, chopped mint, and feta cheese, you set the tone for a wildly colorful evening. The idea is to appeal to all the senses and make your dishes exciting. By adding vivid garnishes, you layer flavors and textures, which is the best way to add your touch to store-bought dishes- or your own!
  • Allow twenty to thirty minutes per course. My dinner parties usually end at the table, unless someone wants to smoke cigarettes or cigars, in which case we adjourn to another room to continue talking or to smoke after I’ve served coffee or dessert. 

--Colin Cowie

 
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