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Menu... please?
how to plan a perfect dinner party menu |
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Mixing and matching
Once it comes time to narrow down your menu to a do-able array of dishes, keep in mind that you’ll want to feature flavors that contrast but don’t clash. Serving a spicy cajun shrimp with hot Mexican beans and rice will no doubt result in tastebuds so overwhelmed by the assault of flavor sensations that guests will be rendered unable to taste anything. Balance a spicy dish with a mild dish, a sweet dish with a savory dish.

Accommodating picky palates
Hey, we all have our personal taste quirks, whether it’s due to allergies, environmental concerns, philosophical beliefs, or just plain whimsy. So the chances of concocting a menu in which every single dish pleases every single guest is pretty much an impossibility. That having been said, it never hurts to be sensitive to the needs of your guests. Find out in advance whether anyone’s vegetarian or vegan, or if there are any allergies you should know about. You don’t need to tailor the entire menu to any single person’s needs, but you’ll want to make sure that there’s at least one substantial dish in which they can partake. You might also want to consider letting people sprinkle their own nuts on their salads (nut allergies are fairly common, and many people simply don’t like them), and grate their own cheese. Or offer an assemble-your-own dinner – taco/burrito bar, make-your-own pizzas, shish kebabs, handrolled sushi.

How many dishes and how much to cook?
You’re far better off creating one stellar entrée than attempting to juggle three complex main courses, all of which require extensive last minute preparation. If you’ve never thrown a dinner party before, make life simple: serve a salad (or other appetizer), a single entrée, and a no-prep dessert like sorbet, ice cream or fresh fruit. As for quantity, I always make one or two servings extra – you never know how hungry your guests are going to be, or whether there’ll be any gate-crashers.

If you’re dining communal-style – as is traditional for many cuisines – I generally try to estimate one dish for every two-three guests. So, if I were doing a Chinese meal for a dinner party of ten, I’d probably make 3-5 dishes, depending upon how ambitious (or insane) I happened to be feeling.

o o o o o

Keep it simple, keep it fun, make plenty of extra, and when it comes time to plan your next dinner party, you’ll be entertaining stress-free, guaranteed.

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the good host(ess)'s guide to table settings 
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