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hosting a divine 

without losing your mind
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The dinner party is not a party party. Whereas the latter conjures up images of loud music, free-flowing alcohol, standing-room only crowds and raucous revelry, the former is, in many ways, its complete antithesis: the epitome of relaxed, intimate elegance. Hosting your first dinner party feels deliciously grown-up. But with the entire focus of the evening fixed upon you, the host/ess, and the sumptuous spread that you’ve been so gracious to offer, these "simple" dinner parties can very easily turn you into a supreme stresspot. A few tips to help you maintain your sanity …

1 Limit the guest list to 12 and under.
Six to ten is ideal, twelve is manageable – anything larger than that, as far as I’m concerned, counts as a full-fledged party, and you’ll go nuts trying to cook a full meal for that big a crowd. Case in point: I once cooked sushi for thirty people. Although the party was, by all accounts, a big hit, the stress of having to prepare that much food sent me into a frenzied panic that in the future, I will take care to avoid at all costs. Sushi as light appetizers, served in conjunction with other, more low-prep hors-d’oeuvres – great idea. Enough sushi to constitute a full meal for thirty hungry guests – don’t even think about it.

2 Can’t decide on a menu? Start with a theme.
Menu-planning can be a daunting task, especially for the novice dinner party host/ess. Picking a theme will help you narrow down your choices of potential dishes. Feeling Japanese? Start with a miso soup, then move on to either sushi or tempura, serve a seaweed salad as accompaniment, finish with red bean ice cream. In the mood for Italian? Open with antipasti and a fresh-baked Ciabatta loaf, feature a pasta or risotto, pair it with a meat/seafood entrée if desired, follow all that with a salad tossed in oil and vinegar, end the meal with espresso and biscotti. Choosing a theme helps the menu fall easily into place.

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