Lessons Learned in the Last Thirty Years:

  • Never try a new recipe for the first time on your guests
  • Start small. Entertain with snacks and small dinners before tackling a formal dinner party
  • Always start off with small groups of really good friends
  • Unless you can afford to hire help, focus on food that can be prepared ahead
  • Know your guests. It is so much better to know about food allergies and preferences before you start to plan

Before you start planning:

  • Check all your equipment beforehand
  • Check local stores to see what is actually available.
  • If something has to be special ordered, find out how much lead time the vendor will require and if there is a minimum order. ( ie… you might not want to have to buy an entire wheel of a specialty cheese )
  • Count your dishes and silverware before you start to invite people.
  • Make sure that you either have nice table linens or a tested creative alternative
Big or small, simple or elaborate, you always need a plan. Why? To make sure you can create the experience for your guests that you want.

Without a plan, you might create an experience for your guests that you weren’t expecting

Any plan should include the following

  • Money Matters – money cannot buy love or friendship, but it will determine what you can put on the Menu
  • Menu – with of course tried and true recipes with ingredients you can actually buy in your area
  • Use a variety of equipment…..ie you are courting disaster if everything on the menu has to be done in the oven Note: This includes the pots and pans you need.
  • Set the ambiance – do your decorating and have your music ready before hand
  • Timing – have at least a rough idea of when all the little tasks need to be done.
  • Refrigeration space available- surprisingly, this is the one most commonly overlooked
  • Unless you can afford help, make sure you give yourself time to actually spend with your guests

Tips for Keeping the Money on Track

  • Use locally grown and produced food, in season if possible
  • Only buy what you need. For instance, you might only need one red pepper for that stir fry, not a kilo
  • Don’t put a lot of heavy courses in one menu. Nobody will be able to finish the meal, no matter how wonderful

Menu Planning 101

  • Play to your audience.
  • Mix up flavours and colours with each course
  • Don’t run two heavy courses back to back
  • Remember to consider how you want to decorate the dishes for each course.
  • Be realistic about your skill level … and that of any volunteers that are working with you. It will be easier to find help next year if the experience is a positive one.
  • Always have a plan B, like a pan of lasagna in the freezer.

Menu Themes:

  • Regional or National Foods
  • Seasonal Holiday – No shortage of these
  • Literary – foods from your favourite author
  • Ethnic Celebrations
  • Historical – such as the Victorian era or a Medieval Feast
  • Go back to basics with a Classic Menu
At the end of the day, the only thing that ever sat its way to success is a hen. source unknown