There is something special about being invited into someone’s home, especially to small dinners and/or celebrations. As much as it is important to be a gracious guest, one must be an even more gracious hostess. So when it is your turn to be one, here are a few pointers…

dinner party

by dinnerseries on Flickr

Choosing Guests

Choosing which friends to invite is not always an easy task. One must consider the mix of the various characters you will be having in one room. First and foremost rule would be, to invite people you LIKE.

Second, mix old friends with new acquaintances. And third, keep in mind that one can have a fabulous evening eating simple meals amongst good company, while one can have dire moments eating a fabulous gourmet entrée with just one off character.

Conversation is key, mixing good talkers with good listeners is as essential as the quality of the dishes you are serving, from appetizer to dessert.

Choosing Tableware

The key to getting away with not being a great cook is having quaint and charming tableware that speaks about you as a hostess. Depending on your personality and budget, tableware doesn’t have to be expensive.

Antique fairs and flea markets often have the most interesting and unique serving trays, glasses, carafes, tea sets and china. Choose charm and quality over quantity. You don’t want knives that break in the middle of slicing a steak do you?

The Presentation

Unless you have an amazing chandelier, overhead lighting especially fluorescent ones is a big no-no. Keep the lighting low to keep the mood warm and cozy. Opt for indirect lighting from wall sconces, lamps or candles on the table. Adding a vase of fresh flowers for your centerpiece together with a nice tablecloth and napkins also add to the eye candy.

Aperitifs and Canapés

To stimulate your guests’ appetite and add ease to introductions and small talk before dinner begins, serve light drinks such as champagne, white wine or rosé. Pass around small trays of canapés such as cream cheese on crackers or vegetable sticks (carrot, cucumber and celery) with a cheese or sour cream dip.

The Main Entree

Decide on this at least 3 days before your event. That should give you ample time to buy your ingredients, learn how to cook it (in case you haven’t) or change your mind. A few easy main course suggestions are Roast Chicken with Green Salad, Fillet of Beef with Grilled Vegetables, a Salmon Fillet or Sausages with Mashed Potatoes

Eating Outdoors

If your home is blessed with a nice garden, a veranda or a pool, you MUST entertain outdoors. First off what to sit on, if you don’t have outdoor furniture. Either have a picnic on the grass with the cliché red-checkered piece of fabric or simply bring your indoor furniture outside, kinda like an Alice in Wonderland tea party.

Lighting is again important. Place tea light candles in little glass jars or bowls, hang rice lights above the dining area or bring out your table lamps. Refreshing drinks are a must.

Highly recommended are Pink Champagne, Shandy, White Wine Shandy (a blend of white wine and lemon lime soda), Fruit juice for the non-alcoholic and always lots of ice cubes.

For the main course, if you are having a picnic, foods you can eat with just a fork are best; Lasagna, Shepherd’s Pie, Baked Potato, Wild Rice salad to name a few.

Desserts

It is another MUST to offer dessert, as very few people do not like them. A few no fuss desserts are Ice Cream drizzled with Kahlua or chocolate syrup, Peaches and Cream and Strawberries and Chocolate.

Nightcaps

Coffee, tea and wine are common nightcaps that gently ease off the feeling of the full stomach. Serve them in charming cups, mugs and wine glasses, respectively.

The Thank You

Thank you letters are no longer a must nowadays. However, if you can extend your gratitude in other ways, then why not? A thank you for coming, from the hostess and a thank you for having me, from the guest are pleasant repartees to hear from each other a day or two after, either via text, email or a phone call.

So you see! The trick is in the genuine camaraderie you maintain throughout the course of the meal and the subsequent friendships you attain thereafter that most truly whet our appetites!

About the Author: Samantha Samonte is a writer for Culinary One, a blog about culinary careers, cuisines and food in all its scrumptious glory. She spends the rest of her time living life to the fullest in the company of her laptop and creative writing prowess.