Plan The Perfect Post-Pandemic Dinner Party
15 July 2021
IT’S INTIMATE, IT’S ELEGANT AND IT’LL BE JUST WHAT WE NEED ONCE WE FINALLY COME OUT OF LOCKDOWN…
Thankfully, the art of hosting was not lost in 2020, despite You Know What changing just about everything. Being forced to find new ways to hold events and socialise in a safe manner, we fell back in love with a more intimate type of gathering: the dinner party.
And, if you ask us, nothing quite beats attending that perfect intimate soirée. You know the feeling – the one of anticipation as you gently knock on the door before being warmly greeted by your host. The smell of delicious home-cooking as you traverse the hallway, the scintillating conversation and good wine that undoubtedly follows; it’s delightful.
What’s not such a delight? When you’re the host of said dinner party. No, that’s not actually true. It’s when you’re the kind of host that isn’t properly prepared for their party. You know the type: looks a bit like the Swedish Chef from the Muppets, flicking food from a whisk and completely frazzled when you arrive. It’s all so… obekväm (that’s Swedish for uncomfortable).
No, there’s nothing quite like an out-of-control host to turn what’s meant to be a relaxing evening into a night you’d rather forget. Don’t be the muppet – be the host/hostess with the most/mostess. The one that glides through the night, topping up drinks and sparking up conversations, and actually enjoying themselves.
Is that even possible? Of course it is. At Flying Ruby Events, we’ve organised over 190 events, from intimate dinners to 750-person galas, so we know how to put on a party. Here’s our ultimate guide, you can thank us (maybe with an invite to your next dinner party) later.
In the words of Flying Ruby’s Founder and Managing Director, Kelly Lewis (and, er, Benjamin Franklin), when it comes to organising a seamless event, if you “fail to prepare, prepare to fail”.
This starts with an event planner’s best friend – the run sheet. “I know it might sound a bit extreme, but if you work out your timings and write everything down (from what time your first course will be served to when your first guest needs to leave), and then you follow it as closely as you can, you should have a fairly seamless night,” explains Kelly.
“We’ve all been to one of those dinner parties that goes off the rails slightly because the host has got the timings all wrong and you’re still waiting for dinner at 9.30pm. Then one guest has to leave to relieve their babysitter, then another one decides to leave too… It’s not good.”
Food For Thought
Next, plan a menu that is not only considerate of your guests’ dietary requirements, but plays to your strengths in the kitchen. Food must also be abundant and not make people violently ill.
“If you plan to host your party and wear the chef’s hat, design a menu that is easily prepared or, even better, pre-prepared,” suggests Kelly. So, the snow crab souffle entrée isn’t a good idea? “Just don’t set yourself up for failure and cook something you’ve never tried before.”
Instead, be smart and opt instead for something like a twice-baked gruyere soufflé, which you can prepare the day before, then douse with cream, scatter with cheese, reheat, and serve. Yes, it’s that’s easy.
Stirred, Not Shaken
Once you’ve decided on the food, it’s on to the drinks. A special cocktail on arrival sets the tone for the evening, but you don’t want to spend an hour before dinner with a cocktail shaker permanently in your hand. Not to mention the noise of it. The solution? A premixed recipe, like the Tommy’s Margarita supplied by The Drink Cabinet. Here’s a recipe from Jason, aka, ‘The Drink Master’. Simple and delicious, you’re welcome.
150ml Agave Syrup (The Simple Syrup Co. is the best and also happens to be our drink master Jason’s side hustle)
300ml fresh lime juice
Pour it all into a sealable container and keep it in the fridge or store it on ice. When guests arrive, serve in a short glass with a rim of salt.
Something To Whine About
Once everyone is seated for dinner, make sure there’s enough wine on the table and maybe even set up a couple of side tables at each end with ice buckets for extra wine. The key here is to make sure there’s enough so your guests don’t need to keep asking you for it.
“And, whatever you do, please serve your guests the wine or champagne they brought with them! It’s not meant to stay in your fridge for the night,” says Kelly.
Providing a steady stream of water is also essential for hosting, but you don’t want to constantly be getting up and down filling everyone’s glasses, so keep a pitcher or two on the table. Throw in some lemon and cucumber if you’re that way inclined.
Next on the list? Ambience – it can make or break an evening. This begins with the lights because no one, we repeat, no one looks good under overhead lighting. If you can’t dim them, turn them off and use lamps and candles instead.
Speaking of candles, the scented variety might be fine for cocktails in the living room, but make sure your dinner table candles are scent-free. That way, people aren’t smelling patchouli and amber as they try to enjoy the coq au vin.
As far as the rest of your table setting goes, it’s very easy to set a beautiful table that makes dinner feel like a special occasion. Think about your theme for the evening and incorporate that into your tablescape. We asked the amazing event stylist Kirra, from Little Lane Events, for some tips.
“If you’re cooking an Italian feast, whisk your guests away to the Italian coastline with some lush olive sprigs and citrus-coloured Billy Buttons,” she suggests.
“Or if you’re looking for a more formal experience, consider a low, soft, tonal hedge of florals running down the middle of the table. You can either do this by using low rectangular vases or ask your florist to display your floral arrangements in narrow rectangular oasis blocks. It will give the illusion that the florals are growing right from your table.” Just make sure that “your arrangement is never too high or dense so that it obstructs the view of your guests,” explains Kirra.
Also, try adding some personal touches. “Create mini place cards or write each guest a personalised menu to showcase what’s for dinner,” suggests Kirra. “Or you could even consider giving your guests a little gift, from a mini scented candle to a locally sourced pot of honey to take home at the end of the evening.”
Finally, remember to enjoy yourself. If you’re having a good time, everyone else will. Your guests aren’t really there for the food (okay, maybe one of two of the hungrier ones are) – they’re there for you. Inviting people into your home is one of the most intimate forms of generosity, and if your guests are worth their salt they won’t mind if the salmon is a bit dry or the black pepper isn’t cracked.
Photography by Lucie Douglas