How to Enjoy Entertaining
Stress Free Entertaining
Love it or Hate it?
Entertaining can be very stressful, especially when you have a full-time job and have very little time or you don't entertain regularly. Not only do you have to plan the menu, you have to buy the food before you can even begin the preparation of the meal itself.
If you have to entertain business associates or people you don't know very well you may be under even more stress.
Here are tips to reduce the stress of the preparation and the event itself so that you can relax and enjoy the fruits of your labour and the company of your guests.
To help you plan a future event keep an Entertainment Diary of who was present, when you invited them and what was on the menu. If you then invite them back you will know what you served on their previous visit.
- Decide on the dynamics of the group of people you are inviting. If there is a gathering of 6 or more, consider their personalities. Will they all be comfortable or is one person an extrovert who will dominate the conversation throughout the evening?
- Pick several possible dates that suit you before you consult your guests. Make sure you haven't got a particularly heavy load of work just before the event. You don't want to be tired before your guests arrive.
- When you contact your guests find out if any of them have special dietary needs. Are there any foods they don't eat? Can they suggest several foods they like?
If your supply of drinks is limited then ask what they like to drink and make sure you have some in stock. Have a variety of soft drinks available, especially if some guests will be driving.
Planning the Menu
- Plan your menu well ahead of the event. If you do not entertain regularly then don't choose three complicated courses that you have never cooked before.
- You may like to consider a simple cold starter that can be assembled easily on the night or a dessert that can be made the night before. Always try to spread the preparation so that you don't have to spend all day cooking. You'll be exhausted by the time your guests arrive!
- Write out your shopping list well-ahead. Don't forget to check your ingredients cupboard for spices or flour or herbs etc.
- Check your wine stock. Do you need red or white wine?
You can buy non-perishable goods at any time prior to your entertainment event. This makes your final shopping much quicker and you can focus on buying fresh vegetables, meats, fish or dairy products. Alternatively, if you have a reliable butcher or fish monger, then buy and freeze your products before the real event.
The Night Before the Event
- Prepare anything you can the night before the event. If you have decided to make a beef casserole dish for your main course, for example, you can easily do all the preparation beforehand. You can brown the meat, chop all the vegetables, add the herbs, mix in wine or beer or whatever the menu recommends and put in a casserole dish with a tightly fitting lid. The next day you can put the casserole in the oven and cook slowly for about 3 hours. It's so easy you can almost forget about it!
- Your dessert can have a pastry base. You can either make the pastry the night before or cheat and use frozen pastry! You can prepare the filling the next day. Choose a dessert that you can cook during the day and serve cold at your event.
- Decide if you will have a flower arrangement or candles as your table centrepiece. If you choose to do a flower display make sure your keep it compact. You don't want to have your guests trying to peer over the flowers to have a conversation!
- Check your tablecloth and napkins are washed and ironed.
On the Day
- If you have managed to keep to your plan you should be looking forward to the event. You've prepared the main course apart from accompanying vegetables, you've made the pastry base for the dessert and you now feel confident you have plenty of time for the rest of the preparation.
- Make the dessert filling, cook the dish and leave aside to cool.
- Set the table with the place settings. Put out the wine glasses.
- If you still don't think you have plenty of time to do the flower arrangement then choose candles as your centrepiece.
- Choose the music you may want to play quietly in the background.
- If you've decided to serve cheese will you serve it after the dessert or serve it 'French-style' before the dessert?
- Put all your serving dishes out ready and all your crockery close by.
- Think about topics of conversation your guests may wish to touch on. Do they have any unusual hobbies that you're interested in? Often people like to avoid topics such as politics or religion. Sometimes, though, a group of people may be genuinely interested in politics and a balanced discussion may take place. But it may be wise to keep the conversation light, non-committal and social, especially if your group includes your boss!
Before the Arrival of your Guests
- Pamper yourself with a soak in the bath.
- Decide on what you will be wearing.
- Pour yourself a small glass of wine.
- Assemble your easy starter. Try a simple salad with flaked tuna, prawns, olives and garlic croutons. You could serve it with some warmed bread.
- Check the casserole is cooking well. The aroma should be obvious that all is going to plan.
The Arrival of your Guests
Welcome them with a cheerful greeting and serve them with a glass of chilled wine or champagne and a few nibbles. Don't overdo the nibbles as you don't want to spoil their appetites for the meal you've planned so carefully. You're full of confidence. You've planned well and everything is in place for a stress free, relaxing and enjoyable meal.
Accept your guest's compliments on the meal. Enjoy their praise. You deserve it.
During the Meal
Keep the conversation flowing and don't rush the courses. Take your time to digest each course and relax into the mood. If you're not sure whether to serve cheese before the dessert, then put them both on the table and your guests can make their own decision.
At the End of the Meal
Serve coffee or tea. Have a choice of de-caffeinated fruit teas, like green tea, that are popular late at night. Serve some small home-made brigadeiros. These are bonbons that are sweet , very popular in Brazil, and easy to prepare.
After the Event
Give yourself a huge pat on the back for a successful event.
But don't forget to make a note in your Entertainment Diary with details of your guests, the date and the menu. Note their food and wine preferences, too.
Next time you entertain, follow your careful planning routine and you'll be really looking forward to having a great time.