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dinner party a-go-go
how to have a last-minute dinner party 
by Yee-Fan Sun |
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Every good host I know harbors a little bit of the inner control freak. We first start having folks over because privately, though we're far too gracious to admit it out loud, we think we do it better than most. And in our secret egomaniacal delusion, we develop a certain tyrannical idea of what ingredients absolutely have to be in place for any gathering to be a success. The food, the drinks, the décor, the music, the overall vibe… it's a formula that not everyone seems able to master. The only way to ensure all the parts come together the way we like it is, of course, to play host ourselves. Being a great host, however, is a little like being cool: try too hard and you're pretty much doomed to failure. Which is why I'm of the opinion that every aspiring party-thrower should get into the habit of throwing impromptu dinner parties on a fairly regular basis.

No matter how much you like to have every little thing under your firm control, you'll never really have fun at your own parties until you learn to let loose a bit -- and when it comes to learning to go with the flow, spontaneous gatherings provide the best crash course. Without the luxury of days or weeks to obsess over the details, you learn that the food doesn't have to be elaborate, the drinks don't have to be fancy, and the house doesn't have to be magazine-perfect when your guests walk in the door. Last-minute dinner parties are a great lesson in what really matters when it comes to playing host: making sure that everyone, including you, can kick back, relax, and have a great time.

So the next Friday you find yourself with a free evening awaiting you, call up a handful of your favorite folks for a last-minute dinner and hang-out chez vous. In the meantime, check out these tips on how to have a dinner party on a whim without totally stressing yourself out in the process…

1 Don't wait till you're standing in the middle of the produce section at your friendly neighborhood supermarket, waiting to find inspiration. Plan out your shopping trip. Decide what you're going to make for dinner, make a list of all the ingredients you'll need, then head to the market. And don't let yourself get distracted once you're in the store; pick up everything that you need as quickly as possible, then move on.

2 When it comes to the menu, stick with the tried and true. I'm all for testing out new recipes on friends -- after all, where's the fun in cooking up an exciting new dish for just me and the boy? -- but the combination of new recipe and very limited time is just a disaster waiting to happen.

keep on skedaddling folks

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