“Where is the bathroom?” Meredith stood up from the table and inquired of Winston, our dinner party host. The rest of us took a momentary pause from pushing unidentified charred carcass around our mismatched plates and looked up. It was the only excitement we’d had for the past 20 minutes or so, and we were all just happy for the break in what had been an excruciatingly long, uncomfortable silence. Let’s just say that if Winston had designs on creating the perfect dinner party, he had failed quite spectacularly.
“Oh, it’s just down the hall, second door on your right” Winston replied chirpily. He was apparently completely oblivious to the pain and suffering we were all enduring as he happily shovelled the vaguely lamb flavoured lumps of coal into his mouth.
Things settled down after this brief excitement, and we all returned to our agonised musings. Five minutes passed. At the ten-minute mark, some of the guests started gesturing to each other silently, questioning whether someone should check if Meredith was OK. After fifteen interminable minutes, I sprang up and shattered the silence with the pronouncement that I was going to check on Meredith.
I crept cautiously down the hallway, mentally assessing whether I could recall the CPR classes that I had taken some years earlier. I knocked gently on the bathroom door and called out Meredith’s name. Nothing. A couple more tries with the same result, and I held my breath as I tried the handle. It offered no resistance and opened to reveal… nothing. Meredith was not there. Nor was she anywhere else in the house. Meredith had simply walked out the front door and left us all there to stew in our collective juices. As annoyed as I was, I couldn’t say that I blamed her. The night had just been that bad. Perhaps I was just jealous that I hadn’t thought of such an ingenious plan myself.
There are few pleasures in life more sublime than enjoying a beautiful meal at home with good company and conversation. There are few experiences more unpleasant that a dinner party gone horribly wrong, as we found out that night. Perhaps it’s because our hectic, modern lifestyles seem to preclude us from having the time to engage in this simple joy as often as many of us would prefer. The poorer we are in time, the more the art of the great dinner party becomes lost, and we end up wishing that we were like Meredith, fleeing for our lives and sanity.
To avoid such calamities, we thought we’d take a look at a few things that you can do to ensure that your next soiree is more successful than Winston’s.
1. Plan the Guest List
While you might feel sympathetic towards your socially awkward, mouth-breathing cousin Edgar who laughs way too loud at jokes that are not funny and puts the moves on anything in a skirt, maybe leave him off the list for this one. Want to humour him? Invite him when there is no one else around for him to creep out. It’s critical to ensure that you get the right balance of guests who will mesh well with each other and keep the conversation flowing and engaging.
2. Plan the Menu
You don’t have to be a cordon-bleu chef to impress. A well thought out, balanced meal is within almost anyone’s capabilities. With the incredible riches of information available online, you will have no problem at all finding recipes that match your taste and skill level. Just remember, you’re not only cooking for yourself. It’s worth knowing what kinds of foods your guests like and definitely be aware of any dietary requirements. Few things can sink a dinner party more than plonking a delicious Beef Wellington down in front of a vegan!
3. Create the Look
Your table is the centrepiece of your party, so make sure it looks stunning to add to the ambience. For starters, it is certainly worth investing in beautiful, high-quality tableware. You will be surprised at how much of a difference it will make to the look and feel. If you entertain regularly, consider expanding your repertoire with some choice serving ware that can add the right touch. For example, for a more unusual, rustic feel, you might choose to serve your dishes on beautiful wooden serving boards. If you favour a more modern look, something like these incredibly cool Wesco Spacy Trays could be just the thing. Perhaps you’re cooking an Asian themed meal? Some beautiful hand carved Japanese chopsticks, and Japanese style plates are the perfect way to set the mood at the table.
4. Get In The Mood
Sometimes the ambience is just as important as the food and the company. Think carefully about the kind of mood that you want to set, given the personalities that you will be hosting and the kind of food you’ll be preparing. Choose some background music that will fit with this and set it at the right volume. Set the lighting at the right tone and perhaps experiment with a diffuser or essential oils to create fragrances that will stimulate the senses.
5. Wine With Your Dine
Few people do not enjoy a great glass of wine with their meal. It is the perfect complement to the food, and the availability of a multitude of varieties from all over the word makes it exciting to find the perfect wines to pair with your menu. Do your research ahead of time and research the right wine for your meal. Your guests will thank you for it.
These are just a few ideas of how you can avoid the epic dinner party fail. Do you have any other tips for how to create the perfect experience? We’d love to hear from you!