10 Tips for a Perfect Dinner Party (our so-called 3ozuma)By CairoCooking • May 21, 2017
I have a love-hate relationship with gatherings. I love hosting my friends and family (and even people I hardly know) and cooking for them. I enjoy having people around and making sure they’re happy and satisfied with food and drink in a warm home. However, I hate the planning, and the hesitance and panic that I sometimes encounter when I have a planned event. Before each gathering I suffer from minor anxiety… And after each one I say ‘I need to invite people more often, it’s always so much fun!’ If you are anything like me, these little pointers might help you let go of some of the tension…
1. Prepare in advance – the earlier the better
Know the number of people coming in order to plan an accurate menu. A crowded dining table for a small group is as bad as a limited one for a large group. Write down your menu, and accordingly your shopping list and essential to dos, a few days in advance. This will give you plenty of time to change dishes if ingredients are missing and make your order in case you are catering all or a few items.
2. Have your cutlery and tableware ready
You don’t just need to prepare your food menu in advance, but also choose the serving plates and spoons you will use for each food dish. Which salad will go in which bowl? And what about the dressing – do you have small bowl for extra dressings? Make sure you got your entire cutlery out and cleaned a day or so before your gathering. Also, choose your favourite serving plates and spoons and set them up on the table the way you would serve on gathering day to make sure you have everything you need. You might decide to treat yourself to a new salt and pepper set or a couple of much-needed serving spoons!
3. Make sure your menu includes at least a couple of home-cooked dishes
Even if you plan to cater most of the food, try to serve one or two homemade dishes. Home cooked food makes your guests feel special. Prepare a dish that you enjoy cooking and that your family relishes, this love will come through to your guests. Check our simple entertaining recipes for inspiration.
4. Serve healthy options for your clean eaters
Have you noticed how lately some guests eat nothing except perhaps salad? In today’s new wave of Paleo diets and clean eating frenzy, while you can’t cater to every taste, you must make sure your dinning table does carry a couple of vegan as well as low fat foods for those following special diets. These dishes can be so appetizing that they can get the whole party (including those not following special diets) going for them. Check our ‘Health Kitchen’ category for some mouth-watering options.
5. The drinks table
Put together a drinks table with soft drinks and water as well as a full fledge tea and coffee setting. It allows you to serve your guests without moving back and forth from the kitchen and it’ll also invite your guests to help themselves keeping your gatherings relaxed and intimate. You could also put some chocolates or special treats on this table.
6. Little décor goes a long way
Use some candles or fill your vases with your favourite flowers to express your style to your guests. These little details also add warmth to your home and make your guests feel special.
7. Take time to rest on the day, seriously!
Try to relax for a bit before your guests arrive. Stay in bed for half hour or watch your favourite show – it will allow you to be a better host and you’ll enjoy your time more. Also, it will allow you to handle the next point better (check next pointer).
8. If something goes wrong, keep your calm and smile
Your guests don’t care about burnt rice, or a forgotten dessert. All they want is good company. If something goes wrong, it is totally ok, stay calm, keep your smile and you can also joke about it!
9. Spend time with your guests
Finally spend time with your guests, be there, enjoy the discussions and have a good time. Your presence is more important than the food. Your guests are here to spend time with YOU. Preparing a meal for them should not mean you are slaving away in the kitchen while they’re left alone. Choose dishes that do not require too much preparation before serving – frying is a perfect example for something you don’t want to do after your guests have arrived. If you think a dish preparation will be a hassle, cross it out from your menu!
10. Lastly, don’t waste!
In bigger gatherings or parties, a lot of food remains untouched – especially those dessert platters that a lot of our guests tend to bring along. Sometimes the leftover food is so much that, even if you decide to keep for your family, you won’t be able to store or will have to eat for weeks. Make sure you have enough fridge boxes for the leftovers that you are keeping. And also consider distributing meals to the needy around your house. For that you will probably need some plastic and foil plates. And even better, you can arrange with the Egyptian Food Bank (short number 16060) to come pick it up right after your guests leave.
You might also consider a more pragmatic option. My friend informs her guests that they could leave cash for charity in an open envelope she will leave at the entrance table instead of buying dessert or a gift to her house. That way a trip to the confectionery is saved, the special desserts you prepared get the attention they deserve, and everyone paid a little back to the community.