As private chefs we spend our working hours planning, prepping, and executing meals and parties for clients, but at the end of the day we’re still excited to invite friends over for an impromptu dinner party. Our secret? After learning from the best (like the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten), we follow these five tips for simple but fabulous entertaining:
1. Two Homemade Dishes
When hosting a dinner party, make only two dishes, but make them really good. A perfect roast chicken served alongside a fresh green salad with homemade croutons will wow your guests, yet is manageable enough for a weeknight dinner party. Trust us, cooking is fun but also tiring, especially when you have to shop, get the house ready, and plan your outfit. So, go easy on yourself and just cook a few really delicious items.
2. Supplement with Store-Bought
Don't be afraid to rely on store-bought for the other dishes you serve, like a berry pie from a local bakery, or something you just assemble together — like a simple antipasto platter or lovely cheese plate. Your local market is full of delicious yet simple appetizer and dessert items. Make sure you take advantage.
• Soft goat cheese drizzled with honey and served with wafer crackers or bread and walnuts
• Prosciutto wrapped around bread sticks
• Sliced cucumber and warm pita bread with tzatziki
• Baguette slices topped with blue cheese, melted in the oven, and topped with a drizzle of honey
• Olive tapenade and mini mozzarella balls with baguette rounds
No-Bake Dessert Ideas:
• Store-bought pound cake served with fresh berries and a lemon yogurt sauce
• Bakery-fresh chocolate cookies and fresh strawberries
• Warm brownies (from a bakery or a box) topped with vanilla ice cream
• Chocolate sorbet with raspberry sauce
• Fresh dates, clementines, and good-quality chocolates
3. Opt for Make-Ahead Meals
Never make a dish that requires lots of last-minute work. You won’t be able to hang out with your guests if you are stirring risotto during the whole cocktail hour!
Dress up your house! Set your table before your guests arrive, place fresh flowers and candles around entertaining areas like your living room or den, and make sure you have some music playing softly in the background. When guests walk into even the smallest apartment that has a beautiful set table, music playing, and fresh flowers in a vase, it sets the mood for a fun evening. Simple white votives flickering in juice glasses and one bouquet of brightly-colored blooms from the grocery store placed in bud vases and scattered around a room can make all the difference.
5. Serve a Signature Drink
Always offer a signature drink. This can be your “wow” factor. A signature drink can be as simple as beer or liquor from the same region as your meal, like a Sapporo if you’re making Japanese, or a bourbon and soda if you’re going Southern. What’s important is that it marks the night as different and sets the tone for the menu to come. Naturally, serve it cold in a pretty glass as soon as your guests arrive. (Photos courtesy of Apples & Onions)
Signature Cocktail Ideas:
• Prosecco with a spoonful of lemon or raspberry sorbet mixed in the glass
• Gwyneth's "The Best Dirty Martinis"
• White wine sangria: Mix a fruity Sauvignon Blanc, sliced citrus fruit, and a cup of lemonade in a pitcher
• A bottle of Rose Champagne — it’s so chic