With Thanksgiving being less than a week away for my friends south of the border, I thought it would be a great opportunity to share some tips and tricks for entertaining this season.
PSST – Not a huge fan of reading? Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the post or click here to watch my first YouTube video on the same topic! 🙂
Set the plan
Before you can get excited about any of the fun stuff such as what food you’ll serve or what you’ll wear, you need to decide on the key details. When would you like to have your gathering? Are you hoping to have an intimate brunch with your best gal pals, or is this going to be a hot and spicy evening with several people that lasts into the wee hours of the morning? Every successful party starts with a plan!
Set the mood
An integral part of hosting a dinner party or even a casual get-together is the mood that you set from the minute your guests walk through the door. It’s all about ambience, so light a candle, play some nice music and you’re set!
Set the menu
Let’s be real, the food is what makes or breaks a function. I mean, really, what’s a dinner party without a good dinner? Go with what works for you, whether that means picking up food from your favourite restaurant or cafe, or whipping up a completely home cooked meal. For me, I like to throw some homemade goodies in with some pre-cooked items from my local grocery store. Remember, it doesn’t matter how it gets to the plate, it’s the presentation that counts. Here’s what a night of festivities would look like for me and my pals this time of year:
Finger Food: Charcuterie
Nothing beats the delicious combo of spicy Havarti and genoa salami…nothing! It doesn’t take much to create one of these, just one or two cheeses, some meat and if you really want to kick it up a notch, add some crowd-pleasing fruit like grapes or blueberries. Talk about finger-lickin’ good!
Appetizer: Cranberry & Mandarin Salad
Mix up some fall flavours and colours in this simple salad: spring mix, cherry tomatoes, mandarin slices, dried cranberries and chopped almonds; trust me, it’s so good! Add a little balsamic vinegar on top and your guests will be singing an ode to the food and to you.
Entrée: Butternut Squash Ravioli
Give me any form of butternut squash or sweet potato this time of year and I am a HAPPY camper. I’ve made butternut squash ravioli from scratch before and, though it is a lot of work, it is totally worth it. If you’re not good under pressure or think the idea of creating anything from scratch is just a little too much, do what I did and buy some! Whichever way you go about it, you’re going to love it, and your guests will, too!
Dessert: Apple Pie or Crumble
This crowd-pleasing dessert perfectly rounds out an evening, and when you pour some hot vanilla custard on top, you’ve got perfection! In years past when I’ve served this, one of my guests threatened to never leave until he got another slice! Winner, winner, apple-y goodness to finish dinner!
Set the table
Now, to define your gathering. Honestly, there are a lot of finer elements that come together to make a guest feel welcome and comfortable in your home, and walking into a dining area with a nicely laid out table is half of the battle. It doesn’t take much to wow your guests, either, just pay attention to the overall flow and feel of the table. Centrepieces that add to the theme or the vibe of your gathering are also always great, and you simply can’t go wrong with a bouquet of flowers. To keep with the theme, I went with a bunch of (fake) white dahlias surrounded by some autumnal decor. Classic!
Set the pace
It’s really important for any host or hostess to remember that entertaining is supposed to be FUN! Yes, some aspects of it can be stressful, but, especially at this time of year, it’s all about spending time with your family and/or friends. You, as the host/hostess, set the pace and the tone of your gathering. Try to stay calm at all times and to keep the pace at one that works for you. If you need time after cocktails or between courses to coordinate things in the kitchen, so be it. You’re human and everyone makes mistakes, so if something doesn’t happen according to plan, laugh it off! Let loose and have some fun, it’s your party! 🙂
Want to see how everything came together for my party? Watch here!