Lexington, KY – Gone are the days of impeccably dressed wives greeting their guests in frilly, lace trimmed aprons, menus with tomato aspic rings and cheese fondue, and men sipping scotch while talking politics by the fire. Today’s entertaining at home is far more attainable, freeform and satisfying.
Although the idea of hosting a dinner soiree or a Saturday brunch may sound appealing, the notion of cleaning, cooking and playing host can be quite overwhelming. Despite our demanding schedules and tightening budgets, how do we recapture the essence of hospitality in our homes? Here are 10 ways to do it successfully:
Don’t Break the Bank
It is important to set a budget prior to inviting your guests, considering the number of attendees will affect your overall cost. Determining your budget will help you decide what style of event to host and what food to serve. It will also help remove the temptation into luxury that you cannot afford. Set a budget and stick to it.
What’s in the Pot?
Are you planning a dinner for four or an affair for 40? Smaller gatherings allow you to plan a menu according to the dietary restrictions of your guests. Larger events require a variety of foods and beverages to meet everyone’s needs.
Your company does not expect to be fed rack of lamb, truffle mashed potatoes and a vintage bottle of wine. Sharing a meal you feel comfortable cooking will make the notion of entertaining much less intimidating. My most memorable meals have centered around simple fare and great conversation. The food can be as uncomplicated as arranging platters of breads, cheeses, dips, olives, fruits, vegetables and chocolates for guests to graze on.
Aside from beer and wine, flavored iced tea or sparkling water is a thoughtful addition for non-drinkers and designated drivers alike. Have bottled water handy for large gatherings and filtered water available for small dinners.
When planning a full meal, consider the amount of cooking required. Chop, marinate, assemble and mix ingredients ahead of schedule. Many recipes can be prepped days prior and finished just an hour or two before your company arrives.
Rule with an Iron List
Make lists. Grocery lists, cleaning lists, to-do lists. Several party-planning Web sites offer free checklists online. Evite (www.evite.com) provides an excellent guide that allows you to organize your event from three weeks out to 15 minutes before the doorbell rings.
I have attempted, without success, to grocery shop, sweep floors, decorate and make food, all while yelling at my kids, making my husband feel guilty for not helping more, and pulling my hair out in a frenzy. Word of warning: this tactic does not work. Finish as much of the cleaning, cooking and decorating ahead of time. You and your household will be grateful.
Full Theme Ahead
Use your own interests to create a fun, memorable experience for your guests. The party possibilities are endless. Are you a movie enthusiast? Host an Oscar party this season. Do you enjoy playing video games? Consider hosting a Wii tournament.
My husband loves brewing beer, and this year we hosted a beer tasting featuring his gold winning brown ale. Over 30 friends filled our home for a fun afternoon of music, food and beer sampling.
A cozy Saturday morning brunch, a late night dessert buffet or an outdoor cigar night are just a few simple ideas to add interest to your next event.