How to Select a Mouthwatering Dinner Party Menu

Vegetable wrap party platter at a Potluck party

I remember hosting my first ever dinner party. I cooked for about 20 people. The food was sufficient for about about five at the most. It was the most embarrassing affair of my life. Back in the days when I was a new bride, every little problem looked amplified manifold. As luck would have it, we also had invited people over who actually had above average appetite. That is, if you count the average as the quantity all four of us eat at dinner as a family.

I am dead serious.

As my husband sprinted out of the backdoor to BUY more rice (which I later pressure cooked, only to serve soggy, mushy about cherry on top), I sat in the dining hall, mortified at the way my guests looked hungry, their expressions of not-so-subtle dissatisfaction making me feel the biggest nincompoop in the world.. Ever since, I have been petrified that my guests might go home hungry. So I learned to cook plenty.

Over the years, experience has taught me many things, but the best thing that I learned was that it did well to plan ahead.

I did a Pampered Chef party yesterday, and it almost didn’t happen, but because I do like to plan ahead of time, the situation was rescued. But more on that later. It was then that I decided to write about party planning on my blog first thing today.

If you are considering hosting one for the first time it is essential to focus on the menu well ahead of time. Especially if you are someone fresh out on your own in life, and if you’re not prepared it can turn into a high pressure event.

Fortunately there are things you can do to take the pressure off the occasion. After all, you are supposed to enjoy it. It’s understandable that you’d want to impress your guests but there are ways of doing this that work beautifully without stressing you too much.

First, think of what kind of party do you want, and what kind of age group you are catering to. If it is a family party, think about what kind of engagements would keep everyone busy. What kind of drinks to buy, make a list of things you need ahead of time. (Bottle openers, toothpicks, a clean towel in the bathroom – everything counts. Have you ever been stuck with five bottles of wine and no opener? Trust me, these little things can throw a big spanner in smooth proceedings). You could decorate the place by the chosen theme, do some flower arrangement, keep games….list is endless.

No party is a party without the food part. Let’s face it. When you think of the party, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? In my mind, it’s food. Whether it’s theme based, cuisine based, or simply what you want to offer, food is the life of any party. And even for the most seasoned party hosts, making a menu and more importantly, executing it, can be intimidating.

So here are some ways that might help.

cucumber beans bite

It helps to start by narrowing down your options according to your guest list. Think about which people to invite and ask them for likes, dislikes and anything they cannot eat. The last thing you want is to serve up roast beef only to find you have two vegetarians sitting at the table. This information will help you narrow down your dinner choices and you can then proceed to see which options will work best for all concerned.

It’s good to get inspiration from other people as well. Look online for recipes and suggestions for dinner party menus. Remember people will be seated for the meal so you can plan a proper three course meal to be enjoyed at length.

You don’t always need to opt for complex meals either. Some meals are designed to look amazing and yet take little to no time to put together. You might find something that is quick to prepare before you pop it in the oven to cook for several hours on a low temperature. A little last minute preparation and your whole meal is done.

A similar example would be to prepare a dessert that can be made and chilled in advance. This means all you have to do at the last minute is to take it out of the fridge and serve it. Or some lamb racks that you can marinade and pop in the crock pot to get flavorful, glamorous looking food without sweating over it for hours.

Jamaican pork chops 2014-03-04 007

Another great option is Potluck. Everyone gets to bring in something. The host usually co-ordinates the menu by broad categories, like someone gets the appetizers, another gets a dessert and so on. But this is good only for informal dinner parties. For formal affairs, food arrangements is on the host.

Of course if you are really stressed about the idea of cooking you can always opt for dinner party catering. There are several excellent options to choose from and companies that are experienced in providing full dinner party catering menus for your needs. You can even have the meals cooked in your kitchen in some cases and served fresh by the chef.

As you can see it makes sense to ensure you can get the best results at all times. If you are able to do this you can enjoy having a good reaction to your efforts. Many people will appreciate you cooking a meal on your own, but some will appreciate being hosted in the right way – even if someone else is doing the cooking. It is still an experience and a chance to enjoy some great food without having to cook. For many this alone is a real treat.

Whatever you decide to do a regular dinner party could turn out to be the highlight of your calendar. Why not make it a monthly event that everyone can start enjoying and looking forward to? It’s a great way to enjoy good company. Like my set of friends so. You can’t beat that fun.

party pic

10 comments for “How to Select a Mouthwatering Dinner Party Menu

  1. April 14, 2014 at 3:47 AM

    When we have our annual dinner parties, our kitchen looks like it exploded and massive amounts of food came out – I bet it came only from learning from experiences such as your own! But I bet now everyone wants to come to your place because you are such an incredible cook 😀
    This is a fantastic guide!

    Choc Chip Uru
    Choc Chip Uru recently posted..CCU Undercover: Cake, Bake & Sweets Show Part #3My Profile

  2. April 14, 2014 at 8:49 AM

    You poor thing on your first dinner party. I would have been as mortified as you were. I always over cater and end up eating the stuff for 3 days afterward but like you, I need to know there’s more than enough.

    Good post, Minnie!
    Maureen | Orgasmic Chef recently posted..Pork BBQ Stuffed Baked PotatoesMy Profile

  3. April 14, 2014 at 12:48 PM

    Thankfully, I’ve never experienced your mortification! You poor thing!! But planning is key most definitely. What I want to change in our desi system is the amount of dishes! I swear I cook almost 12 or more dishes when I have a party and I don’t want to anymore! Why can’t we do it the gora way? One dish, salad, appetiser and meetha! I’m on a mission to change it 🙂
    Coffee and Crumpets recently posted..Pan Cubano | Cuban BreadMy Profile

  4. April 15, 2014 at 9:09 AM

    Before i had a problem after party is too much leftovers, but now i get the idea with my group that what quantity i have to make. but just last saturday, i made for 60 people and 20 people didnot show up , so imagine the leftovers, it was good that every one took it home, but i get the idea that for these many people what to do. So its like every time its new experience for me.
    Linsy recently posted..Gobhi Matar Butter Masala / Cauliflower – Peas Butter MasalaMy Profile

  5. April 15, 2014 at 12:39 PM

    What a shock!!! I wouldn’t dare making any party after this embarrassment, you poor girl. But you are a fighter for sure 🙂 Lovely tips, I always make A LOT more and end up making plates for my guests to take home.
    Amira recently posted..The Tunisian DeblahMy Profile

  6. April 15, 2014 at 3:29 PM

    You invited 20 people to your first dinner party? Oh, Minnie! You really threw yourself into the lion’s den, didn’t you? I think we’ve all had dinner parties go bad and you’re right, advance preparations are the key to success. In fact, this post is chock full of good advice, no matter how many dinner parties one’s thrown. Thanks for taking the time to put it all together.

  7. April 16, 2014 at 7:58 PM

    Oh, that first dinner party – what a humbling experience. I think we’ve all been there in one way or another. You certainly have been doing your homework since then. 🙂 Great ideas and perfect timing. We’re having a family reunion this weekend and I’ve been working on the menu and such all week. No theme other than just love and laughter. 🙂
    mjskit recently posted..Green Chile Pathiri with Pinon Nuts and Queso FrescoMy Profile

  8. April 22, 2014 at 7:10 PM

    Thanks for these helpful tips. I’ve learned my lesson to keep things simple and do as much cooking beforehand as possible- otherwise I wind up spending too much time getting up and down from the table to go do things in the kitchen, and then my husband is left with all the entertaining to do!
    Fran @ G’day Souffle’ recently posted..Vanilla Ice Cream with Chocolate Mint Leaves and Mint-Infused GanacheMy Profile

  9. April 24, 2014 at 1:31 AM

    I think I’ve cooked at most 3-4 families (which means including kids, so less amount of food). I can’t do 20 people… I’ll call in sick. LOL. Thank you for the helpful tips. Planning ahead of time really helps, and write down everything so that I can “visually” see what’s going on… It’ll be fun to hear everyone’s stories like this. I am sure each one can contribute one funny story. 😉
    Nami | Just One Cookbook recently posted..Family Fun in San Luis ObispoMy Profile

  10. May 15, 2014 at 6:49 AM

    Gosh nothing like jumping into the deep end, with a first ever dinner party for 20, you must have been absolutely mortified not having enough food to feed your guests. I have never cooked for that many, but I do regular dinner parties for friends the most being 6 people, but usually just 4. Always cook more than you need, as it can always be eaten the following day. It is also ideal to get as much preparation done beforehand, so you do not leave your guests alone for long periods of time. It is also difficult trying to find different dishes to cook if you have the same friends over on a regular basis, sad I know.

    I have looked on various websites to get ideas, and I decided to make some suggestions of my own, of previous dinner parties that I have had, and all the recipes on my site I have actually cooked tried and tested.

    I have also looked at some of your other recipes, and they look very appetising. Good luck for future dinner parties
    Karen Freeman recently posted..Asparagus Wrapped In Parma Ham With Poached Egg, Beef Wellington & Creme BruleeMy Profile

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