18 November, 2015

How to be the Perfect Party Host

How to be the perfect party host. ©2015 Driving Master Danny

Entertaining in your home successfully takes a lot of work. Careful planning is key, so is making lists. We've thrown a lot of parties over the years in my home, from an intimate dinner for four to a cocktail party for 40, and have attended just as many. Some were stressful, some were a walk in the park. Some took a week to plan, some took months. Here's a guide on how to be the perfect Host. After all, you do want people to come back, right?

1. Clean your house! Top to bottom. Including that thick layer of dust on the banister. And the mass of dog hair glued to the baseboards. If possible, hire someone to clean for you. They'll do a much better job than you ever will, and you can concentrate on other things. Like cooking and setting up the bar.

2. Make sure your bathrooms are in good working order. Especially when you're expecting a crowd. Otherwise your plumber will be joining you for dinner. Bathrooms should be well stocked with toilet paper and towels (and air-freshened).

3. When in doubt: outsource! Not sure of your cooking skills? Cater. Working and too busy to cook? Cater. Drew the short straw at hosting the family for the holidays? Cater. Don't know how to make a martini? Hire a bartender. Short on tableware? Rent or raid your friends china cabinets. There is nothing wrong with outsourcing anything or everything. 

4. Plan, plan, plan! The only party that can be thrown together at the last minute is a visit to a restaurant that needs no reservations. Everything else requires planning. And lots of lists.
Hint: always do a post-party assessment. Write down what worked and what didn't. What foods/drinks were a hit and what was left untouched. Save it. Next time you're throwing a party, use the assessment as a guide. Especially if you're hosting the same event year after year. After a couple of rounds you will develop a full-proof system.

5. Always set your table in advance. I do the table the day before I start cooking. Then I just cover every placesetting with a clean napkin to keep the dust away. The day of the event I simply take the napkins off. Same goes for the bar if you have one.
(Want to remove wrinkles from a tablecloth? Lay it on the table then spray it gently with water from a spray bottle. Smooth it out. In the morning it will be dry and wrinkle free.)

6. Don't assume the guests will be late, have everything ready at least 30 mins before the hour of the invitation. Which gives you time to get dressed (have your outfit picked out the night before) and have a drink alone in peace before the guests arrive.

7. Have a fireplace? Use it. Just do a trial run first to make sure it's in working order. And don't forget to open the flue. Because fire alarms are not conducive to a relaxing atmosphere. And if the alarm does go off, do know how to disconnect it fast (even if involves teetering on top of a ladder in stilettos).

8. Make a playroom for the kids. Far away from you. With a large TV screen and a whole bunch of movies about superheros in space. Better yet, give them access to your WiFi so they can use their devices (just don't let them anywhere near yours.) Put the oldest one in charge. Pay that kid if necessary.

9. Introduce your guests to one another and make sure people are mingling. Circulate among your guests. Change topics of conversation when necessary, or start one when there is dead air.

10. Do not let anyone into the kitchen! Or near the fridge! That's your domain (or your caterer's). Set up drinks and hors d'oeuvres as far away from the kitchen as possible. That's what living rooms are for.

11. Dishes are bound to be broken. So if you're concerned about the well-being of your wedding crystal, don't use it. (I have a massive amount of IKEA wineglasses just for party purposes. Their numbers have slowly diminished over the years.)

12. Make a killer playlist. Let your kids handle it only if their music taste is better than yours. Your playlist should last the entire party. Turn the music on before the first guests arrive so they're not walking into a quiet house.

13. Know the limits of your cooking skills. It's better to present a simple dish that's well executed and plated, than an uneatable mess you found on Pinterest. Don't serve anything you can't pronounce correctly.
Brave enough to delegate part of the menu out to guests? Know their cooking limits. Don't assign cooking to anyone who doesn't know what an oven is (ask them to bring a beverage or a store-bought dessert instead). Be prepared to deal with everyone trying to overtake your kitchen because they don't know how to properly travel with food. Warning: this is how plumbing accidents happen. Guard that sink!

14. Keep an eye on your guest's glass, it should never run dry. But do cut them off if necessary and offer strong coffee (and a call to Uber).

15. For God's sake, relax! Your guests will be able to read your tension from a mile away. And no matter what happens, smile. Even when you have to call a plumber. Or the fire department.When all else fails, just serve champagne. A mark of a great Host is to look like you have everything under complete control.

For party ideas, check out my Pinterest.

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