Entertaining do's and don’ts
The art of great entertaining is easy to learn, but can be difficult to master because there is a lot that can go wrong over the course of the evening. The good news is that with a little planning and these tips, you’re almost guaranteed to have a great party. All you need are some friends!
Do #1: Do plan ahead
To paraphrase the military, “Proper planning prevents pretty poor parties.” While some people can pull off a party without a second thought, most of us need to sit down and apply some thought to our party. As soon as you can, settle on theme, menu and (if possible) guest list. Knowing the theme and the guest list will help you plan what to cook and knowing your guest list ahead of time will help ensure that you can ask about food allergies, food preferences (vegan/vegetarian), etc.
Once you know what you're going to cook, move on to Do #2.
Do #2: Do get help from the grocery store
Some people have a romantic image of cooking everything for a party from scratch. These are the people who are exhausted by the time the party rolls around and can’t talk to their guests because they’re too busy cooking. Feel free to buy things like chips, desserts, breads, cold cuts, pre-sliced cheese, even pre-cut vegetables from the store. All of that adds up to big savings on your time.
Do #3: Do cook as much as you can ahead of time
Once you know what you're going to buy and what you're going to cook, divide your list of items into those that can be cooked the night before (sauces, dips, soups and some meat items) and things that have to be cooked right before the party (fried items, shrimp, etc.). If possible, when planning a menu, try to build a menu so that you can make as much as possible the night before and only have one or two items you need to cook at the last second.
Don’t #1: Don’t turn your guests into your guinea pigs
If you’ve never tried a recipe before, a big party isn’t the best time to unveil it. You are under enough pressure as it is -- don’t make it worse by stressing out about some dish you’re not sure about. This rule is definitely more applicable to dinner parties than finger-food parties, but don’t take any unnecessary risks.
Don’t #2: Don’t serve the vegetarians a raw veggie tray only
Nothing can kill a party for a group that has made a reasonable food decision faster than showing up to find their dining options are cold carrots or cold celery. Plus, there are fantastic meat-free party appetizers you can serve: stuffed mushrooms, eggplant rollitini, pasta, gazpacho, paella with vegetables, etc. Don’t look at vegetarian food as an obligation, but as a challenge.
Don’t #3: Don’t worry about it
Food cooked by other people always tastes better than food people cook themselves, so everyone will find something they love. If you planned ahead (see Do #1), you'll have enough food and drink. People won’t mind they're eating some store-bought food. Parties are supposed to be fun for the guests and the host/hostess so relax, have a glass of wine and enjoy it.