Entertaining is my dopamine, it feeds my soul, it is essential to my being. I love to set a themed table that creates perfect ambiance allowing the dishes to shine. I then bring together simple ingredients that make taste buds do the Macarena! I believe entertaining is about delivering a full experience where lights, colors, scents, flavors and sounds work together in full harmony to create unforgettable moments. It's all about creating a fun and relaxed atmosphere that keeps everyone at ease, including myself! Here are some tips to hosting fun and memorable gatherings.
1. Create a menu - Do not forget to ask your guests about any food allergies or dietary restrictions you should be aware of in planning your menu. You do not want anyone to go hungry or feel awkward refusing food. Create a menu around the main dish. Make food that can be partially prepared ahead of time. Not all dishes have to be made from scratch. It can be semi-homemade or store-bought. My personal favorite is to use seasonal ingredients. This way you will be using produce that's packed with flavor. Don’t forget the dessert - it’s the best way to ensure everyone’s night will end on a sweet note. Dessert can be made well in advance or you can just pick up something from a bakery.
2. Prep the house - Tidy up the house, it is part of creating a welcoming home. Don't forget the bathroom. Keep it stocked with extra toilet paper, hand soap, use and throw hand towels and a scented candle.
3. Set the table - Table can be set the night before. This is fun for the kids to get involved. I'm a bit of a formalist when it comes to setting the table. I love to use all white and occasionally solid black plates on chargers, I believe solid color plates is a beautiful canvas that enhances any dish. Build a centerpiece around a theme, it came be as simple as what’s in season. Purchase seasonal branches like a type of evergreen or branches with berries, citrus fruits or mini pumpkins that can be placed directly on the table with some votive candles adding color and vibrancy. You can never have too many candles! And yes, dim the lights! Sometimes, if I have a mixed guests list, I like pre-assigned seating arrangement. You can really elevate the conversation and enjoyment of your guests by placing particular people together.
4. Curated playlist - Music sets the mood for any party and it’s one of the easiest ways to create an ambiance. It also prevents awkward silences. That said, it should be in the background not competing with conversation.
5. Breathe - After the food has been prepared, sink has been wiped clean, table has been set, music is playing and candles have been lit, now give yourself some time to get primped and polished. Pour a glass of water or a little pre-party vino and give yourself a few moments to relax. Finally, enjoy the party… for it’s not only for the guests but for hosts as well.
Maitri Shah is a food stylist, home decor curator and dinner party maven. Follow her @styledbymaitri for more insights on the art of entertaining.