Inviting friends around for dinner as an adult always felt like such a strange concept to me. The notion brought back memories from my primary school days where every Thursday my childhood best friend and I would alternate going to each other's houses after school. At her house we always had macaroni cheese and I don't remember what we ate at mine, pizza maybe? And so I always wondered why adults wouldn't go out and meet up with friends at a nice restaurant instead. As I've aged though I've been able to appreciate the simple act of inviting friends into our home and sharing food. Unlike at a restaurant you get to set the tone of the evening yourself and you can linger for as long as you like over dessert.
Aside from making sure you stick to recipes you're confident in putting together and making as much in advance as possible, here are some of my tips for ensuring the night goes smoothly and everyone has a good night, including yourself because it would be no fun at all being left feeling frazzled in the kitchen and missing out on all the conversation!
|Crosta and Mollica Tarallini* + Grissini Breads*|
• Keep it simple and let little touches do the talking. Maybe you've got a really beautiful table, a quirky mis-matched dinner service, or incredible food presentation skills. Little things make a huge difference!
• You don't need to make everything! Buying some pre-dinner nibbles will save a lot of time. You also don't need to stick to traditional dinner party conventions - perhaps ask your guests to bring dessert, or you could, of course depending on the amount of guests/kitchen logistics, set up a mini pizza party topping station. Everyone can choose their own combinations and have fun pitching in and getting a bit messy.
• Sometimes it's really fun to get dressed up and feel super fancy, but it's also fun to keep things really laid back. I've been known to throw on a really nice dress, but answer the door totally barefoot or in my favourite bunny slippers. It's incredible how such a little detail can change the whole vibe of a gathering.
• Set up a bar cart so guests can help themselves to drinks. You don't need to have all the cocktail making tools, just think cute glasses, straws and plenty of ice, all tailored to your aesthetic. Or you could make a big bowl of punch and alcoholic or not, it would be perfect either way. It requires a little pre-planning, but comes together quite easily.
• Be aware of dietary requirements in advance and, wherever possible, make something that everyone around the table can enjoy together. Making a separate dish if need be is totally fine but, speaking from personal experience, sometimes it's really nice and somewhat of a rarity to be able to eat the same thing as everyone else around the table. And if that's not possible, making sure there's at least one element that everyone is able to dig into, perhaps a nice side salad, is a lovely touch.
• Don't skip dessert! It can be something as simple as fruit and ice cream, as indulgent as a melt in the middle chocolate sponge, or as creative as ice cream sandwiches. The latter is my personal favourite and is as easy as making (or buying!) a simple batch of cookies and slapping some ice cream in the centre. They're customisable too and easy to make gluten or dairy free!
• Put together a playlist to set the atmosphere. Also always have a game on hand because you never know when an occasion for a round or two of cards against humanity, or even a good old fashioned game of snap if you're feeling nostalgic will present itself.
• Finally I like to set up a little station in the bathroom full of useful necessities (floss, tampons, paracetamol etc) because you never know when they'll come in handy and guests don't have to feel awkward about asking.
I'd love to hear your ultimate tips for hosting the perfect evening!