How to throw a mid-week dinner party with your eyes closed
Mid-week dinner parties are the stuff of nightmares. Especially for the working mother who, on top of having to pull something together during her lunch break, also has the added pressure of needing to appear 100% capable and on top of everything. It’s the stuff of nervous breakdowns.
To find answers and solutions to making this mother of a social meltdown just a little more bearable, I checked in with two working friends in New York City. Bobby Bujisic is an in-demand make-up artist and man of style and Alice Hampton is one of the most glamourous women I know. She is Executive Director of Global Communications International at Clinique and has an office view of Central Park you would trade your husband for.
Here are their tips and tricks, and a few tried and tested of my own. Deep breaths everyone and pour yourself a wine pronto!
My tips –
I find a lot of pressure can be alleviated by getting up really early the morning of, and at least accomplishing the following –
- Lay the table. This way when you get home, the hard work is done and you are free to address the nightmare cooking in the kitchen.
- Fill up the ice trays. Nothing says disaster like no ice.
- Turn on the dishwasher. It would be good to have some clean plates to eat off.
- “I’m not one for formal dos. I like my grub gatherings to have a family feel. Very relaxed. So the first thing I address is the music – George Michael, Sade and Fleetwood Mac are always on my playlist.”
- “Atmosphere and good lighting really helps! I stoke up every candle in the house for instant ambience.”
- “When it comes to cooking I have one word for you – PASTA! A big old rustic one, with bread and olive oil and balsamic on the side. I know it’s a massive carb hit, but you’re drinking lots of good red wine anyway, so it’s all good!”
- “For after dinner, I always have good coffee on hand and some bloody great chocolate. Perfect and easy!!”
- “I think setting the right mood for your guests is essential to the success of a great dinner party. It’s worth taking the time to pre-compile a few dinner party play lists on your ipod or iphone so you have instant music on loop throughout the evening.”
- “If you don’t have time to race out and get flowers, then lots of tea lights in small glass votive candle holders add instant ambience and can set an intimate mood in a matter of seconds. Dim the lights down low and top this up by burning a beautiful scented candle or two – I like Jo Malone or Diptyque.”
- “Always have really good nibbles that don’t expire quickly (e.g; soft cheeses and dates) in the fridge ready to plate up with some crackers (I like lavosh) plus any fruit (grapes / strawberries) or veggies you may have so that your guests have something to nibble on while you are busy getting the main meal ready.”
- “Good quality champagne and white wine should always be kept in the fridge ready to be popped open at a moment’s notice.”
- “When it comes to food, I am a huge fan of sharing platters. Guests guests can pass them around and you don’t have to worry about individually plating every meal up; this also allows guests to interact more which adds to the social element and means you only need to make or buy three or four different things.”
- “When it comes to dessert on a week night, I keep it simple with a store-bought lemon tart served with berries or ice cream. Or perhaps some chocolate covered strawberries on a platter with some cheese. I think keeping it light is key.”