Tag Archives: munchies
Researching and hosting a one-hour special called “Entertaining Disaster” (aired at 4 pm December 28, 2009, on CBC Radio One), gave me food for thought.
The myriad of tales about doing things wrong when it comes to the dinner party thing — probably my favourite way of sharing good times with family and friends — made me think about how to do it right.
Here are my top dinner party tips gained from years of experience. Many of these — like most lessons in life — were learned the hard way. The menu that follows is also the result of much trial and error.
• The ideal number of guests (including two hosts) is definitely six — a number that is intimate without being potentially boring. Eight is workable but you risk the conversation breaking up into small groups.
• I like to invite people who don’t know each other. It’s a bit of a crap-shoot but mostly works out splendidly as there is more likelihood of new topics to be discussed and discoveries to be made than if guests are already friends. Even a clash of personalities or opinions can work out well.
• There are three types of munchies that I always serve before dinner with drinks. These are not filling and whet the appetite for dinner. Best of all, they require no work. They are: Unsalted roasted dry almonds (I buy them in a bulk food store where they are always fresh); Miss Vickie’s Original chips, and stuffed jumbo green olives (pits are a no-no at a dinner party).
• I am a strong believer in the buffet-style of serving. Plating food for each person does not leave guests free to choose what they like and in what amount. This applies to everything except soup.
• It is crucial that most of the meal be cooked ahead, preferably the day before so that you, the charming host, are available to be just that instead of slaving over a hot stove away from your guests. Soup is a good starter even if it involves extra dishes and should be garnished at the last minute. Best entrees are braised meat dishes that actually improve if made ahead. Mashed or baby boiled potatoes and mixed roast veggies also keep well once cooked. Forget flambeeing, serving steak, risotto or other dishes involving other a la minute techniques, for obvious reasons.
• I like to serve a couple of desserts — one should probably include chocolate. Making one dessert and buying another is a good idea. Ice cream and some kind of fruit sauce are both good garnishes. Again, we’re talking self-serve.
• Music is crucial to a soothing mood. It should be gentle and not intrusive but not of the Muzak genre. Bryan Ferry’s CD As Time Goes By is my all-time favourite. Nat King Cole, Dinah Washington, Miles Davis, John Coltrane and some world music are also good.
• Dimmers and candle-light also create a cozy ambiance — the key factor, in my books, for a soothing evening full of warmth, good conversation and a feeling of well-being.
Here is a menu that includes three of my top dishes to serve at a soiree chez moi. They are fall/winter foods. Watch this space as warm weather arrives in 2010 for a menu designed for spring/summer.