So, today’s blog does not include a recipe but it does include information that I think everyone should have at their fingertips. In a day and age when dinner party etiquette has shifted from evening gloves and “proper talk” to tweeting where you are and phrases such as “my trainer won’t allow me to eat that” it is a fine line between what is appropriate and acceptable for a dinner party and what is not. As a chef, caterer and frequent dinner party hostess I usually follow these guidelines when attending, hosting or working an event.
(1.) Always bring something. It doesn’t have to be the most luxurious vintage of the hosts favorite wine or an expensive cake from the most well known bakery in town. A lively bottle of bubbly works beautifully and there are many bottles of Spanish cava or Italian prosecco that are around the $15 mark. Alternatively a homemade treat wrapped up in a cello bag is fabulous! (Craft stores people- grab yourself a bag of 50 or so to have on hand. Pop your goodies inside and tie with kitchen twine. Cute, inexpensive and everyone loves a homemade treat!)
(2.) Expect to meet people you will want to see again and expect to meet some people you could care less if you pass on the street ever again. That’s how it works! Keeps you on your toes…..so bring business cards to hand to those you want to see again.
(3.) If you only know the host/hostess say hello to them and then begin mingling with other guests. As the entertainer they have many obligations and while they will want to speak with you during the night, when everyone is arriving is a tricky time. They are most likely finishing up preparing dinner (if they are cooking) or getting drinks for guests, greeting others as they arrive, etc.
(4.) If you have a food allergy let the host/ess know before attending. Nothing makes me feel worse than when I am not informed about a guest's allergy and am not able to accommodate them. OR if I have to scramble to make an entirely separate dish for said guest. Better to be informed before the day of the dinner!
(5.) Don’t get stuck in the trap of only talking to your significant other at the dinner table. Engage the person sitting across from you, near you, next to you. ***When I throw dinner parties I do not allow partners to sit next to each other. When we move to the table after having cocktails, I assign people seats, intentionally separating partners to elicit more conversation between people at the table.
(6.) Offer to help clean up, even if the host/ess insists that you don’t help. At the least help clear the dinner plates to make way for the dessert course (it’s a somewhat selfish way of helping. “clear” the plates to bring the sweet stuff on faster!)
(7.) Feel out your exit strategy. If the host begins cleaning up and doing the dishes it is probably time to head out. But if they are lingering, offering more wine and still sitting chatting at the table-stay! Enjoy! Drink more wine! Long dinner parties with a table full of wine glasses are my favorite kind......
(8.) Lastly-PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY, unless you are sharing photos, adding someone's contact information. I understand we live in a techy world now, but put your phone away for just a few short hours and I think you'll be surprised at how nice it feels.
Now go, plan a dinner party (or convince some friends with a nice kitchen and big dinner table to!)