Sep 27 2010
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Now, I have hosted many parties in my short life: impromptu dinner parties, lunch parties, brunch parties, garden parties, winter solstice parties, children’s birthday parties, Thanksgiving parties…I could go on for quite a while. But, I’ve never hosted a luxurious dinner party. So, when Foodbuzz challenged us to host a luxurious dinner party I hit the web to get ideas on how to host one.
To my utter surprise, there is not a lot of information out there on how to host a luxurious dinner party – needless to say a small intimate dinner party. There is plenty of information on how to throw huge and elegant wedding bashes, but since I cannot seat 100+ in my home, I had to turn to other sources.
I quickly emailed the two people I knew would have detailed thoughts as to what a luxurious dinner party would entail. Could I hold it in my home since my dining table is in my kitchen? Would I need a server? These are just some of the questions I had. Surprisingly – well, maybe not – I got quite different answers from both sources, but good advice none the less.
So, what do you need to put together a luxurious dinner party??
1. Know your budget.
Know what you can afford, and plan accordingly. I wanted to keep my decorations under €100 and food and drinks around €100. I wanted to go all out – to celebrate my birthday – but I have done Thanksgiving for 15 guests for €50. Anything is possible with careful planning.
2. Get Help.
Your guests want to see you – not your back-side in the kitchen constantly running back and forth wiping beads of sweat from your brow in between conversations. You don’t want to turn into the caterer – you want to be the host. Not only will you have more fun (I know I did), but your guests will really love it.
If you don’t know someone you can hire for your event, turn to family for help. My husband catered our dinner so we could enjoy a wonderful ladies evening. I invited all moms. And all you moms out there know what a meal at home can be like with the little ones – my fork “fell” down, can you get me some more milk, my grape fell on the floor, etc etc. So, this evening was just for us – the only exercise we had to do at this meal was lift our utensils. It was like going out to eat in my own home with my own home cooking. You should try this at least once in your life.
Your server(s) should be wearing black pants or skirt and a white dress shirt.
3. Theme & Ambiance.
Picking a theme is very very important. This is what can make or break the “luxury feel” to your evening. Important things to remember: low lighting (notice the comparison shot without low lighting above is not as inviting and feels less intimate), lots of candles, ambient music, and decor taken from your meal’s theme. Incense or delicious smelling candles (please stick with one scent) enhance the mood for you and your guests – this is not the time to break-out with a can of flower-scented bathroom spray.
I chose an Iraqi-themed evening to celebrate recently finding out that I am half Chaldean-Iraqi. Most of my friends (and guests) only know Arabic cuisine in the form of portable fast food. I wanted to show them a more elegant side of the Middle East. It was a very suspense-filled evening with a lot of oohs and aahs.
I decorated with lanterns and tea glasses filled with candles as well as rose petals in rich colors. I went with vanilla scented candles for a relaxing Autumn feel.
Once you have decided on a theme, pick food to match and keep it SIMPLE. The more complicated your meal is, the more help you will have to hire to be able to enjoy your evening (keep your budget in mind!). Just because dishes are simple, doesn’t mean they can’t be elegant and delicious. This is where presentation plays a big role.
In this meal only 2 items (from the same course) needed to be cooked by my husband – everything else I was able to prepare myself in advance. Leaving less room for error and more room in my budget. All he had to do was elegantly prepare each dish. To know how I wanted each dish to be served, I provided him with a detailed drawing and organized everything in the form of stations.
Your guests should never go thirsty. For a small number of guests, decide on specific beverages ahead of time:
Champagne – every guest should be greeted with a glass – served off of a silver platter. Sip this together until all of your guests have arrived. Then, proceed to the table together.
We enjoyed a glass of Moët & Chandon garnished with a rose petal on each glass. If real champagne is not in your budget, a sparkling wine will do just as well. I lucked out and found some on sale.
Cocktails – To keep the number of hired help down, pick out one to two pre-mixable cocktails that match the theme of your evening so that they can just be poured into your guests glasses. Again, this reduces the number of waiters you will need because you will not need a bartender specifically dedicated to making the 20 different drinks your guests decide to order…also eating into your budget (alcohol is expensive).
Since there were only 5 of us, I decided on one cocktail for our evening – a Pomegranate Martini which tied the traditional tart and fruity flavor commonly found in the Middle East to the culture of Western cocktail fair.
Non-alcoholic Beverages – Choose two theme-appropriate beverages to complement you meal. You may opt for a cold tea, a sprtizy beverage, and/or water.
Here I opted for Lemon Verbena & Orange Blossom Fizz and water.
Wine – If you decided to enjoy wine with your luxurious meal, pick wines that match each course. And, try to pick wines from the region you will be serving food from.
While there are plenty of wines produced in the middle east, unfortunately, there are none to be had in the region in which I live. So, I went with the second best option of pairing delicious closer-to-home wines with each course. See the menu bellow to see which wine I paired with which course.
Warm Beverages – serve tea or coffee at the end of your meal with dessert.
I served the traditional (decaffeinated) Arabic coffee which is easily had here in Germany.
6. Table Setting.
Your table should be set with a cloth napkin arranged for each guest, a place card with each guest’s name on it, and all the silverware you will use for the evening (such as a soup spoon if you are going to have soup). Wine glasses can be set ahead of time, or before each course arrives to the table. This depends on your table size. Nothing can annoy a guest more than a cluttered table.
I opted to keep my table settings simple, yet elegant. Each table setting has a decorative plate topped with a folded napkin, a place card, and is adorned with rose petals from my garden.
In the end the meal was a great success. My friends and I had so much fun – one of my friends even vowed “revenge” for the wonderful meal. They all wanted to know how I pulled it off. ORGANIZATION and the right recipes. Everyone’s favorite course was the Intermezzo, and nobody believed that it took me roughly 30 minutes to make…and I was able to make it at my leisure a week in advance!
And, what was the most luxurious aspect of the entire evening? The fact that I didn’t have to pick up any body’s fork or run to the refrigerator 10 times in between bites to eat. It was just utterly relaxing.
Now, let me share my menu with you (I will be posting the recipes in more detail throughout the week):
Course 1 – Entrée: Sumac Shrimp served on a bed of Bulgar Salad
Wine: Kurt Angerer – Kies Grüner Veltliner
Course 2 – Soup: Shorbat Rumman – Pomegranate Soup
Wine: Lamberti Santepietre — Merlot
Course 3 – Intermezzo: Hibiscus Tea Sorbet
Eue de Vie: Maraschino Liqueur
Course 4 – Main Course: Rack of Lamb with Roasted Figs served on a bed of Cardamom Rice and a side of Jajeek
Wine: Domaine de Mont-Auriol – Merlot
Course 5 – Salad: Sabich – Eggplant & Cucumber Salad
Wine: Wein Galerie aus Franken — Rotling
Course 6 – Dessert: Saffron Labneh drizzled with Rose Petal Honey
Beverage: Ceylon Tea and Arabic Coffee