The first thing I do when I’m having a dinner party is pick my menu. Once I decide what I’m making, I try to work out a plan for the evening. I make a grocery list, decide on the tablecloth/napkins, create a seating chart and then work out the logistics. As they say, timing is everything, so having a blueprint for the evening will keep things running smoothly and allow you to enjoy the evening as much as your guest will. Which is the whole point … right?
I like to set my table the day before. One more thing I can tick off the list. I put out base plate, silverware, napkins and glasses (turning them upside down until right before my guests arrive). I make a flower arrangement with simple grocery store bought flowers and cook as much in advance as possible, leaving only a few things to make on the day and finishing touches to add.
Drinks & Hors d’oeuvres: I usually give this portion of the evening a half hour to forty-five minutes depending upon how many guests we are having and if everyone arrives roughly on time. I suggest going with two to three different hors d’oeuvres, keeping in mind each guest will most likely consume three – five hors d’oeuvres each, prior to a main meal.
First Course: In my experience a first course usually takes about ten to fifteen minutes to complete, so I time the main course accordingly. I usually excuse myself from the group in order to pre-plate the first course. If it’s a cold dish you can set it on the table and then ask your guests to join you. If it’s a hot dish, you can ask your guest to be seated and then serve.
Main Course: Once everyone is finished with their first course, I usually excuse myself and start to plate up (on heated plates of course) the main course. My husband clears the first course plates, while our guests chat amongst themselves. I continue to plate up and my husband serves.
Dessert: I don’t rush to bring out dessert. I like to have everyone finish their main course and have a little break before moving on to the final course of the evening. I always offer coffee, tea or an after-dinner drink.; and once we are ready, I head to the kitchen to plate the dessert. Once again, my husband kindly clears the plates for me. We serve the dessert together and then sit, relax and enjoy the rest of the evening with our guests. There is nothing like mixing it up over good food and drink at home – real life social networking!