By now you all know that my goal in life is to be as casually elegant as Ina Garten and as fun and energetic as Dorothy Draper. We all need something to aspire to, and for me, that’s it. I have a long way to go. But in my quest, I’ve also picked up a couple of tips, should you find yourself with scads of dishes to cook, as the host or hostess of a little soiree.
1. First and foremost, before you ever touch a pot or pan, begin with a clean kitchen. If that sounds a little backwards, think about it. You’re about to tear everything between those four walls up, and you want to start with a clean slate. I’m not saying you need to use elbow grease to clean the front of your stainless steel appliances yet, but your counters and floors should be clean, dishwasher should be empty,and you should not have any leftover dirty dishes lying around anywhere. Not that you ever would.
2. Speaking of cleaning, wash as many dishes as you can while you’re cooking. Those ten minutes you need to let a sauce simmer? Perfect for washing the utensils you used for stirring, and cleaning the bowl you used to make something earlier in the day. I can guarantee you won’t want to do the dishes at the end of the evening, and it’s even worse to come downstairs to a sink full of dirty plates the next morning.
3. Set your serving dishes out ahead of time. Figure out which recipe will go in each dish. This ensures that you have exactly what you need, and you won’t be running to the upstairs closet to pull one more tray off of the high shelves. If you’re just starting to build your kitchen collection, there are so many places you can look to for inexpensive serveware. I adore Crate and Barrel and cb2 for their selection and prices. If you have a neutral kitchen, find a color you enjoy and use it to brighten things up. If your kitchen speaks for itself, you can never go astray with white serveware.
These are my beloved Parker Bowls in their springy, tropical colors.
Cuatro platters from cb2.
4. Order food. Seriously. Don’t make it all yourself. If you don’t like cooking, don’t make any of it. If you only make one dish to perfection, only serve that one dish with Chinese takeout alongside. I made pulled pork for our last get together, and I know a lot of people love eating coleslaw with it. I hate coleslaw, and have no idea how to make it. You know who makes great coleslaw? Whole Foods. Problem solved.
5. Along those lines, don’t be afraid to take your friends up on their offers to bring something. A party can never have too many bottles of wine or enough brownies. Think seriously about what you can suggest because at least half of your guests will ask. We’ve been known to solicit folding chairs and extra silverware when we’re hosting large enough crowds.
6. Pick some flowers up on one of your grocery trips. They don’t have to be fancy, nor do they have to cost that much. Two or three stems of lilies make a bold impact and give your house a fresh scent. Daffodils are always bright and cheerful. And gerber daisies come in any color on the rainbow and won’t break the bank either.
7. Take the following day off. If you are working, call in sick (I won’t tell). If the next day is a weekend, don’t over-schedule yourself. That won’t be the day to make a trip to Home Depot, return those jeans you bought at the mall, and try and sneak in a car wash and a Target run. Inevitably, you’ll still have some cleaning ahead of you, and then you deserve some time to relax. The only thing you should schedule is a nail appointment.
8. Finally, and most important, only invite people you love to your home. That way, whatever goes wrong (because something always goes wrong) won’t faze you or your guests. You want the evening to be about spending time with the people you can’t get enough of, not about running around frantically, making sure glasses are full and plates are hot. Your friends are there to see you, not to be wowed by what you can put on the table. And if you even think the latter is possible with the folks that compose your social circle, find some friends who aren’t so judgy judgy.
There’s cv, making a puppet out of a wine bottle decoration. When friends come over, you can have all kinds of fun.