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Dinner Parties Part I

August 4, 2010

When planning your first dinner party (or if you’re an experienced host or hostess), just remember: there are as many kinds of dinner parties as there are kinds of people. Seriously, there are. Stiff and formal- Beef Wellington and Champagne potatoes, spicy and confident- Chicken Jalfrezi, fun and casual- Burger and Fries. See what I mean?

Welcome to my first part of a multi-part series on excellent dinner parties.

Some of the best dinner parties are casual ones. Long, cozy evenings spent with friends, good food, and great conversation. Planning this sort of night for a first dinner party is fairly easy. You know who is coming, you know what they like, and you don’t have to stress about getting everything perfect. What’s better?

Even for a super casual dinner party, when all your guests are well-known friends, it’s still important to spend time thinking about your guest list.

  • Don’t be overly ambitious. For a casual dinner party, easier is always better. Can you make chicken kiev in your sleep? You can have a more complex menu. If you’re up to grilled cheese, you’re up to grilled cheese. Anything you can do confidently will be wonderful.
  • Ask questions. Make sure you know what your guests like. Have several that hate fish? Make sure to know that ahead of time. Even more important than picky guests are food-sensitive ones. If you’re planning on making your famous Peanut Curry Chicken, make sure none of your guests has, say, a peanut allergy. It’ll be hard to live down sending a friend to the hospital with your cooking.
  • Don’t designate an oddball. If you invite a bunch of couples and one singleton it will be awkward no matter how close all of you are.
  • Diversify! It’s better to introduce a few fresh faces at every dinner party. Don’t be afraid to introduce different people based on age or profession. The best dinner party I’ve ever attended had a 30-something eco architect, a 40-ish visual artist, a mid-20’s aircraft engineer, three transplant South Korean musicians, a 65 year old chemist and myself. None of us had really ever met each other besides the host.
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