A collapsed soufflé, ice-less G&Ts, stressed out hosts, or the moment when the music stops…and the room hushes to an awkward silence.
We’ve all been there – either at our own dinner parties or someone else’s – and while it’s tempting to show off your culinary prowess to foodie friends with a gourmet degustation, at the end of the day a dinner party is really just an excuse to get your nearest and dearest around a table for a good night in.
So take the pressure off, drop the pomp and ceremony and have some fun at your next soiree, with these top 7 dinner party hacks bound to get you and your guests in the mood!
Third time lucky
The number one rule of dinner parties is to only cook something you’ve cooked successfully twice before. As they say, the third time’s a charm, so unless you’ve attempted it a couple of times before, forget that amazing looking Sous Vide duck in the cookbook your hubby bought you for Christmas and go with something tried and tested.
We recommend a signature dish. You know you’ve got one, the dish you’ve been making and improving on all year, the dish you cooked for that special occasion that everyone in the family loves. It’s like the $600 dress you wore to your friend’s wedding overseas – hardly anyone has seen it, so you might as well whip it out again, sit back and enjoy the praise.
Ice it up
Remember those ice trays you attacked last Thursday night after you put the kids to bed and rushed to the kitchen for an emergency Hendricks and soda? Well, you forgot to fill them up and now your guests are waiting for the clink in their Campari and you’re iceless!
Avoid this all too common mistake by stocking up on ice the week leading up to your party. This takes some prep if you have a three ice tray home (like we do), but making a concerted effort to fill, freeze and pump out as many cubes as you can will ensure you’re cocktail ready by Saturday night. So what are you waiting for? Make like Walter White and ice it up.
Prep makes perfect
If you like the people you’re hosting for dinner, and chances are you do, then why would you want to spend the whole night slaving away in the kitchen, instead of enjoying their company? The best dinner parties are hosted by people who have done enough food prep prior to the party to enjoy themselves during it.
Plan your menu to be quick, easy and delicious, something you can serve ceremoniously at the table is always a great way to get out of the kitchen quicker and involve your guests in the meal. A large slow cooked piece of meat placed at the centre of the table with a few generously served sides and a smiling host is much more welcoming (and warming) than a finicky plate presented perfectly by a flustered friend.
Try a dessert platter
The truth is, good desserts are really hard to make. There’s a reason Pastry Chefs get their own prefix, making attractive and delicious desserts is an art. If you have the skills, time and patience go for it, but for those looking for a simple solution, the dessert platter is the way of the future.
Simply grab a few sweet treats from the gourmet section at the supermarket, like homemade Turkish Delight, dark chocolate dipped oranges, add a bunch of red grapes, fresh strawberries, and a gloriously decadent soft cheese, such as Fromager d'Affinois, and place it all on a large platter with Tucker’s Blueberry Fruit Bites for the perfect accompaniment to your after dinner port and coffees.
Spritz up your water
Hydration is the key to avoiding the dreaded red wine headache the morning after, and if your mates are anything like ours there will be plenty of good bottles of red to get through over the course of the evening, so you’ve got to find a way to keep the water flowing.
Place large jugs of water on the table and in the fridge (ready to go) to ensure people have easy access to plenty of H2O. For guests avoiding booze altogether, its always nice to add bubbles, lime and mint to a few jugs for a spritzy and fresh non-alcoholic option.
Taking some time to formulate the perfect playlist is essential to the success of your dinner party. If you want to go old school, whip out your records, CDs or mix tapes from the 80s to get everyone grooving along while reminiscing about the days gone by.
For those who can’t be bothered putting together their own lists, a really easy way to ensure the tunes keep up with the party is to pick ‘mood’ playlists from Spotify. Start out with the ‘Lazy Sunday’ list, then move on to the ‘Mood Booster’, finishing up with ‘Good Vibes’ and ‘Dance All Day’ to get the party going – just make sure you have a paid subscription so your favourite tunes aren’t interrupted with ads.
Ok, so the dinner party game is a sad cliché and something originally reserved for boring old people who have nothing to talk about but their kids. And while we hate to be the bearers of bad news, you may very well now be one of those boring old people who talks about their kids, which means…it’s time to bring back the games!
We’re not talking keys in the bowl, 1960s style, or (perhaps even worse) Scrabble, but there are a heap of new games out there designed to take you and your mates to the next level after the post-dessert sugar coma hits – turning an 11pm finish into a near all-nighter at the deal of a deck. Our top picks? Cards Against Humanity, the slightly less offensive Love 2 Hate, or Say Anything.