If you're new to the dinner party scene, you want to make sure your first experience goes as smoothly as possible.
To help make sure you're on the top of your game, we've enlisted the help of professional chef Carine Ottou, who's one of 25,000 hosts on the world’s largest social eating platform, VizEat.
So, whether you're cooking for the masses or having an intimate gathering, here's Carine's lowdown on how to have your best dinner party yet.
1. Check food preferences
"It's always polite to ask your guests in advance if they have any food intolerances, allergies and preferences because you most definitely don't want to serve chicken to a vegetarian, eggs to a vegan or mac and cheese to a guest who's lactose-intolerant."
2. add fancy twists to family favourites
"Preparation is key when it comes to dinner parties so don't create extra work for yourself when choosing dinner options.
"Pick a family favourite that you know works, like a pan-fried salmon, a beef stew or a tasty soup, then make these meals dinner-party ready by adding garnishes like a swirl of crème fraîche and cracked black pepper in your soup, extra dumplings or herby gremolata to top your stew, and a couple of sprigs of dill or a cheesy crust on top of your baked salmon."
3. decorate, decorate, decorate
"People eat with their eyes so make an effort with the decoration."
Get the guests talking with a elegantant and refined table theme. This beautiful rose gold cutlery adds a splash of colour and personality without being too gaudy or try-hard. Compliment your copperware with a few of these lovely lanterns, perfect for tealights, placed down the table and these sophisticated Champagne flutes. Flowers make everything look nicer, too, but make sure people can see over them!
4. Create a relaxed ambiance
"Around half an hour before your guests arrive light some candles to help make your home feel warm and inviting. Put on some background music which will help break the ice, just make sure the playlist is long enough for the whole evening and changes with the mood of the evening."
5. Give your guests some time to settle in
"It's polite to offer a welcome drink." These delicious fruity gin cocktails look really pretty and will set the bar high for your evening. Any why not offer some nibbles while you are awaiting for your remaining few guests to arrive. You could opt for toasted ciabatta slices topped with pesto and mozzarella, a platter of cured meats, olives, crackers and dip, or just a bowl of crisps.
6. A seating plan is optional
"If my guests know each other, I would definitely let them choose where to sit to keep it casual and fun. However, making a seating plan comes in handy for two scenarios; if the guests don't know each other, or if it is more of a formal dinner."
7. Before serving, Warm up your plates
"As any restaurateur knows, there's nothing worse than being served a cold dinner. So pop your plates in the oven 10 minutes before you're about to serve the main dish."
8. Invest in a wine cooler
"Nobody likes warm wine, especially if it's of the white kind. To stop you from travelling back and forth to the fridge for refills, shop around and stock up on some wine coolers or a small drinks cooler."
9. don't go O.t.t on the dessert
"After canapés, starter and a main dish, your guests will (hopefully) be pretty full. So don't serve up anything too gigantic, rich and intimidating. These individual pomegranate panna cottas can be made ahead of time, they're low in sugar, and they look pretty impressive and sophisticated. You could also offer a lighter option for dessert, like fruit salad, so people don’t feel awkward if they’re trying to be a little virtuous."
10. Pack up leftovers in bags for guests
"Everybody loves a doggy bag, so make the lovely gesture and package up your leftover food. Plus this means you won't be stuck with mountains of food for the rest of the week."
Carine photograph by © Karen Harvey