How to Make Your Next Get-Together a Class-Act Affair
To make your next get-together a real class-act affair, here are some easy tips to follow that are sure to put a smile on everybody’s face.
Setting the style
Dress for success
This may not seem obvious, but it’s important to indicate to your guests, whether implicitly or explicitly, how they should dress for the occasion. There is nothing more embarrassing than showing up to a party underdressed or overdressed (except for perhaps showing up uninvited)!
For instance, an extremely fancy handwritten invitation card will signal to your guests that your event will require some level of dressing up. On the other hand, a casual Facebook invite sent randomly to half your friend-list undoubtedly gives off a casual vibe. When it comes to these sort of things, it’s all in the small details. Of course, if you don’t want any misunderstandings, simply state your party requires guests to be attired.
The way you set up your home for your event will also help set the mood.
- For instance, a wine and cheese get-together can be more or less casual depending on how you opt to do the serving.
- If you want something a little more on the formal side of things, set up individual tasting plates for your guests.
- Then, serve the cheese and other accompaniments in courses, just as you would for a typical formal meal rather than opting for the typical buffet-style presentation.
When cleaning up, take away dishes two at a time, rather than stacking them as you might at a more casual affair.
- Enlist perhaps one or two other people in advance to help you with this, so that you avoid the mad rush of helpful guests parading in and out your kitchen trying to load the dishwasher!
- While they might have good intentions, too many people rushing around with glassware is a recipe for disaster (not to mention, it destroys the mood when guests feel obligated to help clean up in the middle of a meal).
As they say in show-biz, timing is everything! If you’re hosting a full course meal including hors d’oeuvres and drinks, plan for an hour buffer between the invitation time and the start of dinner to allow guests to arrive without feeling rushed. This also allows you to anticipate the inevitable latecomers, so that they don’t feel too terribly if you’re halfway through dessert by the time they arrive.
If you’re skipping the snacks and pre-dinner cocktails, serve dinner 20 minutes after the noted invitation time. If you do end up having extremely tardy guests, allow an extra 15 minutes of grace time so that dinner can be served seamlessly without interruption.
Food for thought
Whether you want to put together a full-course meal or something more along the lines of a wine and cheese, the food has got to stand out. Nobody likes going to a party only to have to stuff their faces when they get home because the goodies were lackluster!
Crackers and bread
If you’re serving accompaniments such as trays crackers and bread, you can go one of two routes - classic and simple, or tastefully interesting.
- Sometimes classic is good, because you want the bread or crackers to merely act as a vehicle for serving whatever food actually happens to be the star of the show.
- In other cases, you might opt for variety in order to play with contrasting flavours and textures, and create some strong visual appeal.
- Charcoal crackers or the fruit-and-nut kind are perfect examples of the kinds of crackers that can draw the eye and make an otherwise ordinary spread seem rather extraordinary!
Either which way, presentation is important when hosting an elegant affair. Even the most boring selection of saltine crackers and triangles of Texas toast can seem so much more palatable if presented properly on a beautiful serving tray, rather than being left to languish on a paper plate.
If opting to serve cheese at your event, whether it’s a wine and cheese party or a full-course dinner, try to offer a variety of cheese types and textures. The mixing and matching will not only be visually appealing, it’ll cater to different tastes as well. There are:
- Blue cheeses
- Hard cheeses
- Soft-ripened cheeses
- Semi-soft cheeses and so much more.
With all that variety out there, you should have absolutely no difficulty in picking two or three different kinds to offer to your guests!
- Even most lactose-intolerant guests can enjoy goat’s milk cheeses, which come in a huge range of textures beyond the usual chevre.
- As for the vegans in your crowd, dairy-alternative cheeses such as cashew cheese have become quite popular (and tasty) in recent years.
For the meatheads out there, charcuterie is a must-have for any fancy affair. As with your cheese platter, mixing and matching is a must.
- You’ll want to include both cooked meats such as porchetta, as well as the quintessential cured meats.
- It’s important to play around with different textures and density. For instance, you can have thin slices of shaved prosciutto as well as thicker cubes of porchetta.
- Dried sausages can be cut thick or thin.
Ultimately, you want to give your guests a varied culinary experience.
Fruit and vegetables
Locally grown fruits and vegetables are available regionally most of the year. Why not offer some up at your next get-together?
- Visit your local farmer’s market to see what’s in season. Believe it or not, seasonal selections can really vary from week to week. Spring is the time to pick up interesting selections that you can’t necessarily get year-round, such as fiddleheads, dandelion greens and mustard greens.
- Pair up your fruits and vegetables with cheese and/or charcuterie, or make any number of interesting appetizers and side dishes. Of course, any elegant meal isn’t complete without dessert, which should definitely feature seasonal fruit. Choosing what’s in season is best, as you can take advantage of a fruit’s natural sweetness and full flavour.
Seasonal drinks are always fun! Whether hot in the winter or ice cold in the summer, there are lots to choose from.
- Offer your guests a choice of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, as well as plenty of cold water.
- Sangrias can be easily made at home using cheap red or white wine, add fresh or frozen fruit, soda water or Sprite, and some orange juice. Without the wine, you have a great recipe for a fruit punch!
- Freshly brewed sweetened iced tea is also a fabulous summer drink, and can be made with any variety of teas. When it comes to making iced tea, the key is to add a pinch of baking soda to the pitcher in order to neutralize the bitterness of the tea. Steep for about 5 minutes, remove the bags then add the ice. Optional: add a splash of whiskey or bourbon to make a “hard tea”!
As every fashionista knows, a dinner party is the perfect time to really show your stylish side. This is not only true of fashion, but of home decor as well. Serve your drinks in beautiful pitchers and garnished glasses. A bar cart can also add some extra flair to your presentation, taking you from amateur to professional host or hostess in one easy step!
Of course, you’ll not necessarily want to only serve casual drinks. For instance, if you’re hosting an elegant dinner with several courses, serve three drink options before dinner to go with hors d’oeuvres: wine, liquor and something non-alcoholic (soda, juice, sparkling water). Post-meal coffee or drinks are also generally appropriate depending on the crowd, so plan ahead to have enough in supply for the number of guests who have RSVP’d to your event. For a wine and cheese event, serve at least three different kinds of wine to your guests.
With these helpful tips, you should be more than ready to host your next party with ease. While hosting is no easy task, with proper organization and planning, you’ll be able to throw a memorable, class-act affair that is sure to leave you and your guests satisfied!