Cooking and Dining with Friends
Dinner parties have long been a favorite way to gather friends and family for great conversation over a delicious meal. If you’re interested in putting a fun spin on the traditional dinner party, you might consider hosting a cooking party with a handful of your best friends. A cooking party involves a lot of work but is also a lot of fun and culminates in a dinner party for a handful of your favorite people.
Since you won’t be throwing this party alone, expenses, menu planning, shopping and cooking duties can all be equally shared. Be sure that you create a menu that includes appetizers, a soup or salad starter, an entrée and a dessert. Investigating the perfect wine pairings will give your party an extra flare.
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First Things First: Planning the Perfect Menu
Before you start perusing recipes, determine what general type of food you would like to serve (i.e. seafood, steak, ethnic, vegetarian, etc.) Once you’ve determined the type of entrée you will serve, you will have an easier time selecting the perfect starters and desserts.
Ask each friend to bring their favorite cookbooks and other recipes so that you can all weigh in on the best choices for each course. Be sure to choose recipes that are within your collective budget and abilities. It is also wise to create dishes that can be partially prepared in advance, leaving few items to be prepared at the last minute. That way your friends can sit with their significant others and enjoy conversation in a relaxed atmosphere. When choosing the menu be sure to take into account any allergies that your guests may have.
Once you’ve chosen a menu, be sure to create a comprehensive grocery list, taking into account anything you might have on-hand and what you still need to purchase. If possible, you should shop together and evenly split expenses. Using fresh produce is ideal and shopping at local farmers’ markets will help assure that you get the freshest, local ingredients possible. You may also pick up freshly cut flowers that will make a dazzling centerpiece for your table.
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Adding Special Touches
Even though your guests include the friends that are helping you and their significant others, it is always fun to print invitations that include the evening’s menu. It gives guests something to look forward to.
Printing out personalized recipe books including recipes from each dish you’ve created will give each guest a special keepsake. It is best if you are also able to include nutritional facts in the book such as fat and calorie content, carbs, sugar, sodium and other useful information. Include photos of the friends that are participating and a list of the wine pairings for each course.
Creating personalized nametags for seating arrangements can add a special flare to your table. Printing photos of your friends along with their names may add a touch of class. Nametags can be enhanced with touches such as feathers, rhinestones, shells or burned edging.
Be sure to have candles on your table to add to the ambience and to choose a music playlist for background music that reflects your theme or the taste of your guests.
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Day of the Party
Each friend should assume primary responsibility for at least one dish, though everyone may certainly help with every item. This includes the appetizer, soup or salad starter, vegetable, starch, entrée and dessert. Ask the person responsible for each dish to bring the tools they will need to make their assigned dish. That way, you won’t run out of bowls and utensils and your cooking can flow smoothly.
Designate a meeting time. Be sure that your kitchen is ready in advance. That includes thoroughly cleaning all cooking surfaces, having your bowls and utensils ready in advance, and having your dining table set in advance (unless you need to use it temporarily for meal preparation). It will also help to wash and chop vegetables in advance, measure other ingredients and have them ready in order to expedite the process. You might suggest that your friends do the same.
Have the person who was responsible for each course serve that particular course. This will ensure that you don’t have to do all the work alone and that each person gets proper credit for their part of the work. When serving, the cook should explain what each dish is, what the ingredients are and give a brief description of how it was prepared. Be sure to include any interesting facts such as from which country the dish originates, whether or not it is a favorite family recipe, or any other fun facts.
Like planning and cooking, clean up should be a joint affair. This is also where it is advantageous to have each cook bring their own bowls, pans and utensils. That way, they can bring their dishes home with them for washing. If you decide to wash dishes right after dinner, having several people there to help will make it go much faster and be much more enjoyable.
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© 2011 Jaynie2000