With The Holiday celebrations around the corner, let me share my top 10 tips on how to compose the perfect dinner party menu that will blow your guests mind and have you join in the fun!
I love having my loved-ones over for dinner; wether it is my BFF for girls night bitching session with lots of champers or my little bubble for a 5 course dinner, I always try to compose a menu taking in account the tips below.
The ART of composing a menu:
Here is where cultural traditions and your party style come in to play. And by all means make it your own and forgo official protocol whenever you can.
But for kicks, let me share with you the “official western ” menu sequence: hors d’oeuvres, soup, fish, meat, sorbet-palate cleanser, salad, cheese, dessert, and mignardises.
I NEVER serve this sequence and I find it quite outdated to be honest. I say make up your own rules, as long as it flows and it is delish, who cares!
I often do botanical-exclusive dinners at home and rarely my guests notice ( actually they do and love it). It can be grazing off several dishes in the middle of the table or a 5 course platted-service and anything in between. Variety for me is key and keeps me from getting bored. I also never really serve the same things twice, certainly not the same menu, keeps me on my toes. Rarely do I try new dishes out in advance ( actually never) and that sometimes can be a surprise, but my guests don’t mind.
My top 10 tips for creating the perfect dinner party menu:
1. Go for delicious versus impressive. Serve yummy food and your guests will be impressed.
2. Pick a theme and make it flow, what I mean is, if you pick pasta as main then make the whole menu Italian as well as the decorations and the goodie bag.
3. What type of setting are you planning for? Are you hosting a sit down dinner or a buffet ? Are you serving on plates or passing platters? Is it a formal, semi-formal or casual affair?
4. What is your budget? Let’s get real shall we? No reason ever to serve a glorious meal and having to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the rest of the week alright! Just allocate the budget as following: 10% for decoration, 40 % for food and 50% drinks. (if your guests are not like me aka love the wine, than your wine budget can of course be adapted) (food in season is always budget friendly)
5. Ask your guests in advance in they have any dietary restrictions to avoid awkward moments at the dinner table.
(click on each menu dish above to go direct to my recipe)
6. When composing your dishes remember we eat with our eyes first. Try to think ahead on what plate or bowl you will serve each dish in and how it will look at its best. A little drawing on how to plate it up always helps. Generous portions tend to smother the plates and stews may look unappetising on a plate but great in a Le Creuset pan. Think how to show it off in it most flattering presentation.
7. Go for seasonal! I know, it’s my pet peeve but seriously, nothing but advantages: food in season is cheaper, people crave instinctively comfort food in winter and light, fresh food in summer. Table settings in colours of the season bring harmony and peace.
8. Think of your kitchen space, tools and appliances when planning what to use and how. If you plan a 5 course meal that require the oven for all 5, you better have 2 ovens. Do you ve enough counter space to plate up 12 plates at the same time and keep it all warm?
9. Ask advice! I always ask my wine merchant what to serve with the menu I created and I may consult a wine connoisseur friend as well. I know what I like to drink but don’t necessary know what goes best with the food. Ask your butcher for cooking times and have him or her get the bird ready for you. Check with your fishmonger how he would serve the lobster. These are the ingredient, product and produce experts you can rely on.
10. Plan so you can enjoy the evening! Make things in advance, prepare as much as you can and let your guests help you. There is NO point in hosting at home and being stuck in the kitchen all night by yourself!
Written and photographed by Sandra Slawinski without commercial deals. I used all my own tableware some from my mama, some bought in ZaraHome, Dille&Kamille, H&M home and vintage markets.