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Handling a Dinner Party?

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

So, I've been inviting some friends and the like over every now and then to test my own ability as well as seeing what flavors work with what from another perspective.  While the food is always stupid delicious, I'd like some input on downtime for entertaining.  While waiting for those veggies to finish roasting or a stew to burble up, how do you entertain guests?  Jokes?  Conversations?  Coffee?  Maybe a quick lesson or pointer?

I'm always open for input to see how I can better myself both as a chef and as a person.

post #2 of 16

Gebe Gott uns allen, uns Trinkern, einen so leichten und so schönen Tod! Joseph Roth.
Gebe Gott uns allen, uns Trinkern, einen so leichten und so schönen Tod! Joseph Roth.
post #3 of 16

That.  Plus I let my wife handle the conversational lulls, as well as the times when I need to be cooking or cleaning up.  She talks enough for both of us, and is twice as interesting as me.

post #4 of 16
@BrianShaw, are we married to twins?
post #5 of 16

So I have a few friends who are guys that cook well and we go to their house often for dinner parties.  I'm not saying you're anything like them but what I've noticed about all these guys is that they work slow and methodical and can't seem to multitask very well.  So while dinner is delicious we may not get to eat it until a few hours into the party.  This is not a jab at men, it's simply an observation I've made about dinner parties hosted by men.


Stews - you never want to be burbling a stew when people walk in the door.  Not when it can be cooked ahead of time, even a day ahead and simply warmed up at the dinner party.


I entertain a lot and I put a lot of thought and effort into timing.  I like for guests to arrive and spend 30-60 minutes socializing and drinking before dinner is served.  Any longer and people get very anxious.  Sometimes people really look forward to eating at a dinner party and may have skipped lunch altogether for this so keep that in mind.  


If you have invited the right people then conversation will take care of itself.  I don't like to invite people who don't get along or too many people that don't know each other.  But even so, as long as there is good food, good wine and you're a welcoming host then all will go well.  I would't dream of having a dinner party without a thoughtful cheese board and charcute, artisanal bread and a nice spread or two.  Since I can get pretty busy I make sure to assign specific people to help with things, I don't make my guests do dishes but little jobs that are easy to do like be in charge of coats, open wines, pass out napkins/utensils as needed, or carry platters in/out of the kitchen makes everyone feel useful but not used.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."


"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

post #6 of 16

I agree with everything @Koukouvagia said.

I never think twice about how I'm going to

entertain guests. 

Folks go to someones home for a dinner party,

(it is a dinner party right? not a themed party, or a Bridal/Baby Shower with games?)

with the idea that they'll mingle, chit-chat, have a cocktail, 

have a nice meal and go home.

post #7 of 16
Thread Starter 

@ordo  See, I would be alright with that but I doubt I would get anything done if that came out!

@BrianShaw The hardest part about that is not having a wife....yet.

@Koukouvagia I ended up tossing out an antipasto one time and it seemed like feeding a swarm of birds, watching things disappear.  Mind you, though, these aren't really *big* groups I have.  Mostly a few people, but what I have done is when something is either in the oven or simmering I would go out and socialize myself, keeping a timer in my pocket.  Good food will always attract good friends.  Good wine will make them that much more conversal.

@kaneohegirlinaz People love food, but themed parties are a bit off for me.  Just doesn't sit right for some odd reason..

Thanks for the pointers, everyone!  It's more of making sure I'm doing stuff right and not being a complete anti-social host.

post #8 of 16

At my house it's boarding house rules, keep one foot on the floor at all times, take what you want, and eat what you take. Very informal. koukou said, you don't want to be spending your whole night in the kitchen, you should have a menu that you can finish up in the last 15 min before dinner.



post #9 of 16

I like that @chefbuba , one foot on the floor at all times!

I like to have everything DONE by the time folks arrive 

at our house, and this may be a good point for @TheDavidTerry seeing as

you don't have a co-host so to speak, or HEH! Co host with another guy

and trade off who's house it's at and then who's doing the cooking 

who's 'minding the guests' ... food for thought 

post #10 of 16
It's all in the guest mix.
Invite those you think are interesting to talk to .
Maybe they have a cool job.
Teachers like to talk.
Don't feel you have to carry the conversation or drive the topics.
I always have a short 30-45 min cocktail hour and most often the dinner table convo will be an extension of one or more of those topics.
If you have the right guest mix.

post #11 of 16

Agree with what's said. I only do food for 5-6 people that requires me attending to it and plating, if I have the pans to accommodate. Most everything else is done ahead of time, but sometimes it's special when you come out with 6 plates of perfectly pan seared halibut on a gratin bed of leeks/stock/cream/fennel with a rendered pancetta garnish - instead of family style. Sometimes people sit with food on their lap around a circle in the living room (food that is easier eating with fingers) or around a dinner table with decanters and chargers.  It depends. 


If you have interesting and sociable friends, you won't have to worry about conversation, but I also aim for 30-60 minutes of cocktails and nibble food - cheese, board, bread etc - if there isn't a food theme that requires dedicated apps. Food themes are alright as long as you don't make your guests wear sombreros or a sari.


It also depends on who your guests are and at what comfort level you are with them. Having a movie quiz/predictions with close friends before the oscars might not be a bad thing, but it might be silly playing charades with people you met last week. IMO. No, I personally don't introduce games or quizzes, but have had it trust upon me much to my dislike (you can't talk for 3 hours among civilized adults. . . ? Even if you either dislike them or don't know them?)


The guests are like the paint, and the food is the canvas and brushes. You get the idea. 

post #12 of 16
One theme party that is never silly and never grows old.
The Oscars.
Formal dress with a hired barkeep in a tux.
Lots of snacks including a few substantial luxury treat stations.
Caviar , smoked tenderloin maybe one bite lobster something or other.
Be sure to have a red carpet corner....

post #13 of 16

Well, having grown up on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 

a party was when someone got out their big cooler, a chair, some tunes or an instrument (an ukulele or guitar to make your own music)

went into their carport out front, got themselves comfy,

the rest of the neighbors came over with their cooler, chair and some sort of music.

Someone else brought over the charcoal grill with some of the fish that they just caught on their boat, 

another guy's got something else to throw on the grill,

that's a party island style.

It seemed as though my husband and I had a party most evenings after work, kinda like an Open-House.

We'd sit out front with a coffee or glass of wine with our dog, and neighbors just came over.

We'd chat, share a cup or glass, play with our GSD (touching a pet is been proven to relieve stress-who knew),

stay for a bit and then wonder off to get their supper started.

post #14 of 16

That's my kinda party K-girl.

Gebe Gott uns allen, uns Trinkern, einen so leichten und so schönen Tod! Joseph Roth.
Gebe Gott uns allen, uns Trinkern, einen so leichten und so schönen Tod! Joseph Roth.
post #15 of 16

When I entertain, I try to prep as much as I can ahead of time. But reality being what it is, its very difficult to do all the prep and just sit down. 

I thinks its important to draw your guests out with lots of questions. This keeps the focus on them, you just listen, and you come to know know so much more about them, after all , was'nt that the purpose of the get together ?

Make sure their glass it topped, background music to enhance whatever mood your trying to achieve. 


People enjoy it when you take a personal interest in them. 

Réalisé avec un soupçon d'amour.

Served Up
(177 photos)
Wine and Cheese
(62 photos)

Réalisé avec un soupçon d'amour.

Served Up
(177 photos)
Wine and Cheese
(62 photos)
post #16 of 16
Thread Starter 

I like the idea of the random get-together but the fun part would be bringing the neighbors out of their homes.  Maybe when it gets warmer, I'll have to give it a shot.  The last one I did, I ended up roasting some veggies. Thought it'd be a good idea to sit and shoot the stuff for a bit, maybe even crack a dirty joke.  It's interesting the stories I've heard just by hanging out with people.  Food makes them open up more, I guess.  The fun part is gonna be planning this out....hell, I might even say, "Hey!  Just bring something over and I'll whip it up good!"  After that thought, I need a bigger kitchen...

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