5 quick tips for dinner party success

1) Plan your meal around your crockery!

This is a MUST and so few books tell you about this simple tip! Most of us don’t have 36 dinner plates, so if you’re entertaining 12 friends you can’t produce a three course meal which requires the same serving dishes!

Whenever I sit down to plan a meal I always think about serving plates. The dinner plates are immediately in use for the main course, which leaves bowls and side plates. So… if I decide to use the side plates for the first course, that means dessert must need bowls. If I decide to use soup as a first course, then the dessert must be able to be served on side plates.

Another quick and easy tip is to buy 12 glass tumblers to supplement your crockery. This gives you one extra option for serving courses – as you can do prawn cocktail in glass tumblers just as easily as individual trifles.

 

2) Plan your meal around your cooker!

You can’t serve a meal that needs the oven at different temperatures, or will use the entire hob for all three courses. It just isn’t practical! So plan a meal which makes the most of your catering facilities. As a golden rule I always try to make at least one course COLD. This means at least one course will be in the fridge, freeing up the hob and oven for the other two. (Yes – I have done all three courses hot – but this means careful timing with the oven as the dessert goes in as the main course comes out.)

 

3) Plan your meal around your serving skills!

You want to enjoy your party – so don’t cook things which will be a nightmare to dish up quickly. Aim for simplicity or individual portions when you can. This makes it far easier to serve. E.g. individual chicken breasts rather then a whole chicken which you have to carve, individual trifles rather than a whole one which needs to be served (and however good you are ends up looking like a sloppy mess in the bottom of people’s bowls).

 

4) Pick a tried and trusted menu!

NEVER ever try something for the first time at a dinner party unless you are supremely confident you can pull it off.

I’m a really confident and experienced cook but I will NEVER do something I haven’t tried before when I’m catering for 12!

(If you’ve tasted my hideous offerings before then you’ll know I’ll occasionally try something new when I’m only entertaining another couple – gooseberry delight springs to mind… why I ever thought sickly sweet syrupy gooseberries would go with cold semolina I don’t know… but in my defense it looked good in the book!).

 

5) Make sure you have contingencies in mind for timing issues!

It’s really hard to cater to time exactly. So make sure you have options in place so that your broccoli doesn’t turn to a limp green mush and your chips don’t char!

This might be turning everything down, or keeping things warm in the oven, or indeed – starting later then you think. I rarely turn on the hob to steam the veg until everyone has arrived.

No one will mind waiting an extra 15 minutes – especially if you have wine to hand. But folk really don’t like gnawing on burnt parsnips (my last failing).

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Flexible and fun!

We contacted Red-Herring-Games for a party for a special occasion. Why going to restaurants to eat is the preferred activity to mark milestones is beyond me and my friends.   The choice of mystery was obvious, looking at the options from New Zealand on the web Red Herring stuck out from the international options.  A quick look at the site and games showed subtlety as well a range of choices.  The numbers you could have for each evening was important,  Red Herring had scaling options a good range of scenarios but most importantly were Jo and team being flexible, responsive and helpful.

Rachel McWilliam, Arts Development Officer, Lincs Inspire

Thank you Red Herring Games for the marvellous 'Murder!  Cargo Connections?' event that you organised for us as part of Museums at Night at the Fishing Heritage Centre in Grimsby. The whole evening went so well and was brilliant fun.  I know from all the feedback that our visitors had a fantastic time. It was really good working with you and I have no doubt that we will do again in the not too distant future.  

A. Nonymous (council employee)

I would like to thank you and your colleague for helping contribute towards our successful conference last month.  Everyone really seemed to enjoy the evening and it was rewarding that so many delegates were able to participate in addition to the main "Actors".  Our conference evaluation froms included the following comments:
  • "Enjoyed the evening entertainment!"
  • The evening entertainment was great and the confusion made it great fun!"
With thanks and best wishes.

Sarah Spencer (Cleethorpes Chronicle)

I had no idea what to expect before purchasing a ticket for Old, New, Borrowed, Blue, which was being staged at a nearby hotel, and feared it might involve taking part in some way. However thankfully for me no acting was necessary, just some amateur sleuthing. "Wedding guests" of which I was one, were called upon to move from room to room in the hotel in groups, questioning a number of possible murderers with the aim of solving the mystery of the dead bridegroom. The interviewees were really fun characters and gave us all some good laughs. Of course they all had motives and it was a case of identifying the shiftiest. The wedding theme was particularly good, as it fitted well with the venue, the buffet that was part of the evening (with a wedding cake in the middle) and the fact that everyone had been able to dress up to fit in without going to the trouble of fancy dress. I didn't think I had enough "evidence" to actually accuse anyone but later regretted not even writing down my first guess as it wouldn't have been too far off the mark. The evening was great fun and everyone seemed to enjoy it and take part. I would definitely recommend Old, New, Borrowed, Blue as good for getting even reluctant or first-time mystery party-goers involved.  

Alan Young (Personal Touch Mortgages)

What a cracking nights entertainment! We don't get out much nowadays with 2 kids and this was exactly what we were looking for in a good night out. Lots of fun with tongue firmly in cheek and everyone kept guessing whodunnit right to the very end. Would definitely attend another!!!!!  

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