The notion of cooking for a crowd can be stress-inducing for even the most experienced home cooks. Guest dynamics, room décor, menu options, and preparation timings are all factors that tend to determine the success of your dinner party.
Well, GastroGays are here to help.
We caught up with the award-winning blogger duo, Patrick and Russell, who told us their top tips for hosting a cool, laid-back, and memorable dinner party.
Embrace an eclectic tablescape
"Don’t feel the pressure to match every piece of cutlery and crockery on your dinner party table. Who has a full six or ten-person set of matching crockery? We certainly don’t! For a laid-back and eclectic vibe, we recommend mixing and matching to create a style that is unique to you.
"You’ll be surprised how bold coloured plates match effortlessly with floral, dainty plates. Try mixing more traditional plates and bowls with modern ones, or mix and match the metals of your cutlery for a casual but stylish tablescape.
"You want to make this experiential, but that doesn't mean recreating a garden centre in your dining room. To add a touch of nature, take a trip to your garden to collect fresh flowers or foliage. If you're growing herbs like rosemary or thyme, these are gorgeous for table styling.
"If you want to go stark and ultra-natural, choose some elegant branches to take pride of place. We did this recently at a couple of events. It was a stand-out style statement and so simple."
Create a playlist worth remembering
Okay, so a good playlist is essential for a great dinner party. And the playlist you choose is all down to what kind of atmosphere you want to create.
"Create a playlist that guides your guests through the night. Start off with something a little up-tempo in the background to encourage mingling amongst friends on arrival, switching to more slow-tempo, acoustic-driven music to enjoy during dinner without distracting.
"Following dinner, step up the tempo to encourage a party atmosphere.
"The music should reflect the experience, so if in doubt, think about what stage of the evening it is and mirror a mood in the music."
Serve up a main with ‘WOW’ factor
"For food enthusiasts like ourselves, a dinner party is a fun way to share some of the amazing local ingredients and prepare them in a new and exciting way.
"A favourite protein to incorporate into our party meal planning is lamb. In terms of flavour, lamb delivers a rich and flavoursome element to your meal with the same effort as beef, pork or chicken. Lamb is incredibly versatile and pairs well with a variety of spices and flavours.
"One way to create a ‘wow’ factor is to serve dishes in a unique way. We love serving up this European Lamb Hot Pot which is served in individual crocks, creating a fun ‘reveal’ when they are placed on the table in front of your guests. It’s got a few secrets in the recipe to easily create that ‘wow’ moment and that ‘mmm’ flavour."
"Many hosts tend to take on all the work themselves and see it as a sign of defeat if assistance is required. By the time dinner is ready to be enjoyed, they find themselves frazzled and exhausted. There’s no need for that.
"We recommend focusing your energy on one element of the meal – the showstopping main course.
"Ask a friend to arrive early to help prepare salads and sides. Nip out to the local bakery to pick up a special cake or petits fours that allow your guests to sample a selection of sweets.
"If you do take on dessert, serve it up family-style in the centre of the table, with everyone handing around the bowl/dish and serving themselves.
"If you stress, it will reflect in your food, so always think ‘stress less, enjoy this process’."
Create an occasion
"Whether you’re hosting a casual mid-week meal for friends or a special dinner to impress, a quick dinner can be transformed into an occasion by giving guests a reason to celebrate.
"Whether it’s to highlight a friend’s recent promotion, the finale of your favourite reality show, making it halfway through the working week, or even the birthday of your pet, by adding an intention to your dinner, guests will arrive in high spirits, ready to celebrate, elevating a simple meal into a memorable occasion."
Have some conversation starters
"Music sets the mood, but the conversation keeps things going. We have a podcast called Chew The Fat where we interview different interesting people involved in the food industry every week.
"If your guests are unfamiliar with each other, sitting elbow-to-elbow is quaint but can be a bit awkward at the start. As you’ll be in and out topping up glasses and delivering dishes from the kitchen, think of some conversation starters to foster table talk.
"Leave a mini stack of hand-written conversation starters if you like, or just prompt chatter yourself whilst you pop in and leaving your guests to chew it over – like “Oh, you guys have all been on such amazing holidays this year, tell the others about where you’ve been” or “where’s been everyone’s favourite place to eat out in the city this last few weeks?”"
Start the night with an empty dishwasher
"After a successful dinner party, the hosts will be understandably tired by the time that last guest leaves. If you have a dishwasher, we recommend making sure it is empty when the night begins.
"Following each course, you can clear the table and stack the dishes straight into the dishwasher. Then, make sure it’s on when it’s full.
"Likewise, never go to bed until the kitchen/dining room is clean. WE KNOW, it can be difficult, but the future you will thank the present you. Waking up to stacks of dishes and utensils all over the place is never nice, so before the clock strikes bedtime, simply switch the dishwasher on and wake up the next day to a tidy kitchen and dishes sorted."
Visit www.trylamb.ie for more recipe inspiration using European lamb.