Monday, December 21, 2015

Starving Foodie's top 10 Party Hosting Tips

My Top 10 Tips for Hosting a Party

I thought I would put together a list of my Top Tips for Entertaining that I have learned over the years hosting parties in my home and also things I learned attending other people's parties, blogger events and in studying Event Management at Humber College.

1. THEME
Pick a Theme or a reason to host a party.  People will ask and it will give them a better idea of what to expect.  Example:  I just had an Ugly Sweater Party (post to come).  That indicated that it was a relaxed party and people were encouraged to wear something festive and I even offered a prize for the best effort. And make a list.

2.  DECOR
Try and set the mood with the decor as much as you are able to.  Arrange the furniture if you can to let people sit or stand and have space to move around.  For the holidays I really like the battery pack LCD christmas lights.  Especially the white ones that are little and can be tucked into things to create sparkle and ambiance.  Might not be great for selfies but it's very festive and adds great ambiance.
Try and keep colors to a maximum of 3 main colors otherwise it looks like you just threw things you could find together.  Safe colors are always, silver, gold, white and red.  Red can be for the holidays and valentines day and even Halloween if you know what I mean.

3.  BEVERAGES
I can't tell you how many parties I have gone to that have only had beer or wine.  I don't drink either and always appreciate it if people have bottled water or other beverages available.  I always like to have an assortment of Beer, wine and plain water and I like to do a fruit infused water and a juice.  I also have a whole assortment of flavours of tea.  I could make coffee but it seems like people prefer cold drinks with their food.
Set up a bar area where people are able to get refills on their drinks or water and also if you are busy greeting people or organizing the food they don't have to wait for you to serve them a drink.

4.  APPETIZERS
What I have learned over the years is that nobody shows up at the same time and you need to be able to have some food set up and ready for people to nibble on when they arrive and wait for all the guests to arrive.  I love a good cheeseboard but don't forget that there are a lot of people that are gluten intolerant, lactose intolerant or don't eat pork products for religious reasons.  So if you are going to set up cheese and charcuterie make sure you add some assorted nuts and dried fruits.
The cheese is best when it is softened for about a half an hour but don't leave soft cheeses out for a long time as they can develop bacteria very quickly.   Sometimes it's hard to judge.  The last time I had the cheeseboard ready and people didn't show up until an hour after the start time.  This time I didn't have time to set up all the cheese but got help from one of the guests to set the rest of it up.

5.  HOT/COLD FOOD SAFETY
After taking a food handlers course I learned how important it is to keep food at the proper temperature.  Don't leave your party food out for hours.  Try to not leave hot or cold food out for more than an hour.  You don't want to be that person that makes your guests sick from the food.
Take the food away and serve up the next course after no more than an hour.  For my Holiday party I borrowed a Pro Catering sized Chafing dish that could fit 2 large try inserts.  I had one with Mac and Cheese and one with Lasagna.  I also had a Crockpot that had meatballs and guests were able to return for seconds and the food was kept warm.  One thing I really dislike is where people cook it all in different stages and then just place it all on a table like a Potluck and half of the food is cold. Not only does it taste bad it's a food safety thing.

6.  SERVING DISHES/UTENSILS
Try and have all of your serving dishes and utensils ready for your food.  Also have some platters, bowls and serving spoons and knives handy in case people bring things that they need a dish for.  Case in point.  My friend brought a chickpea salad and needed a bowl.  Another friend brought a cake and it needed a serrated knife. Be prepared for unexpected dishes.  Lay out the appropriate utensil for the dish it is supposed to be used for.  Cheeseboard has special cheese knives and spreaders.  Casseroles require large spoons.  Bread, don't forget the serrated knife.  It's common sense but you would be surprised on how many people forget about this. It happens a lot more when you host a Potluck because most people just bring the food and don't think about the serving part.

7.  FOOD SELECTION
Try and see what dietary restrictions people have and try to accommodate as much as you can or inform them what the menu is so that they can bring something or are prepared in advance.
I like to make things from scratch but I always seem to run out of time to make all the stuff I want since I have limited space in bother my fridge and counter.  It's ok to use some store bought convenience items to simplify your prep and make your time management easier.
St. Hubert Poutine Bites

There are a lot of fun appetizers you can pick up that you can just heat up and serve.  At my Holiday Party I tried St. Hubert's new "Appy Hour" Poutine Bites, #insideoutpoutine, mashed potatoes with cheese and gravy inside them.  They were very quick to heat and serve and something different and bite sized.  Even my friends 1 year old was able to eat one.
Don't forget to have a variety of foods here too for the people with restricted diets.  But also you are not a restaurant and you don't have to make 20 different meals.  Just make sure you provide options if you can.

8.  PEOPLE
I have found that the best parties are all about the people and if they are like minded even if they have different backgrounds and ages.  Invite people you know but sprinkle in new people but make sure that you either introduce the new people to each other or let people know who the people are in advance and how you know them so that everyone feels comfortable.  Also if people can't respect your time and show up at the end of your party and expect everyone to accommodate them then it's your choice to not invite them to other parties.  Also if people like to be the centre of attention or dominate all conversations it sort of puts a damper on everyone feeling like they are participating.  It's challenging if they are friends and family but hopefully it will all work out if you get the mix right. And what about kids? Can you keep you space safe for them?

9.  KEEP IT CLEAR
This applies to 2 different areas.  Keep the details of your event clear.  With your start and end times, the location and how to get there.  TTC or Parking info if needed.  What to bring or wear if it is a themed event.
Also keep your space clear.  I have a small space and I try really hard to clear things away before the next courses now because it leaves a lot less of a pile up at the end of the night.  If you have space to store the dirty dishes and deal with them after the party or you can get rented dishes or hire help then that's great but if not consider disposable dishes and cutlery.  They are a lot nicer than they used to be and trust me you don't want to spend hours washing all the dishes and serving platters by hand after the party.  The older I get the more important this becomes.  People don't care that they had their food on a disposable plate if it's a nice one and the food is good.  People remember a mess and bad food and people they don't like but if you have a small gathering under 6 then go for it and you can do a sit down with all the proper place settings.  Consider the space and the amount of people and if you are going to be doing the cleanup all by yourself or you have a bunch of people to help.

10.  THE END OF THE PARTY
At the end of your event there are a couple of things that you need to keep in mind.
Are they ok to get home or are they intoxicated or extremely tired.  Consider a way of dealing with this.  If you are having a house party sometimes you have a lot of food left and some people would love to take some home.  Have ziploc bags, tupperware or aluminum foil at the ready in case they want to take something home.

This happens a lot with dessert because people are too full.
Make sure you say goodbye to everyone when they are leaving and thank them for coming.
A nice touch is if you have a small token gift for them to take when they leave.  I always forget because my friends come and go at different times.  I had candy canes and little baggies with tea on a small table in the hallway and still forgot but if everyone leaves at the same time it's a lot easier.  It never happens in my case and as one friend put it there is an "after party" of stragglers that will hang out after most of the people have left.

I could probably write a whole lot more things I have learned over the years but these are pretty important to making a party seem like it's a snap to host.  My friends have come to expect me to have a Holiday party and start to ask me about it  weeks before December.  Last year I skipped it because the year before I spent 2 weeks prepping and days afterward getting things back in order.  That's why I keep trying to change it up and find better ways so that I can enjoy the party too.

And yes the most important thing is that you are able to enjoy the party that you are hosting or what's the point of doing it.

I would love to go all out and do as much as I can and as much as my body will let me do.  I like to entertain when people enjoy it and appreciate the effort that goes into trying to create a great meal and a great party.  If people are ungrateful stop inviting them or just stop doing it.

I wasn't going to host a party this year but I had a reason to that made sense for me.

So I hope these tips are helpful.  I know it's a long one but I think these things are common sense until I see that people don't know how to do them.

One last tip from my guests comments.  If you bring beer or wine to a party or food you don't take it back with you unless the host tells you to take it.

And one last from me.  Don't bring the host things they don't have space for or don't need.  Find out what they need and bring that.

Go forth and Party and Enjoy!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS and Don't drink and Drive.

*Disclaimer:  St.-Hubert's Poutine Bites were sponsored by Group St.-Hubert, Retail Division and I have been compensated for the product but the opinions expressed are my own.

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