Staying in is the new going out and if we embrace this, I think we could all come to enjoy the good old fashioned dinner party a lot more in 2020! We asked Sydney caterer Kate White, of Katering, for her tips on being the host with the most without losing the plot!
If you want to make sure you enjoy the occasion as much as your guests, Kate says don’t forget to keep it real. “Easy entertaining is about making your guests feel relaxed, so it is important that your entertaining style is a reflection of this or your home or your style. Don’t try to be anything you’re not!”
Great life advice, we say!
A golden rule is never to try a new recipe for the first time on your guests: far too stressful and risky!
“I love Asian food, so relish the chance to cook fresh light food for my friends,” says Kate. One of her favourite dishes to cook for friends is master stock spatchcock twice cooked with a green mango salad and nahm jihn.
She also loves grazing boards, and this way of eating helps make guests instantly relax. “I love that this becomes part of the décor but you have to be generous so invariably a lot gets wasted, although I usually pull it out again for my four children and it gets eaten!” The majority of her wedding and event clients request grazing boards these days, although in the current climate, Kate says they’re sadly not very Covid-friendly.
If you do go down the platter or grazing board route though, remember to be practical. Make sure your platters are small for six-to-eight people and break this up along the table, so when serving 20 people you would have three to four platters of each dish, for guests to share amongst themselves. “Large platters cannot be lifted or handed around by the guests as they are too heavy and too big for the space.”
Kate thinks shucking oysters to order can be fun and a talking point, but if that’s a little beyond your skill level, having friends round for risotto is another favourite of Kate’s. Remember you’ll need to stand in the kitchen to stir for this one though! “Alternatively mud crab pasta is also a winner for easy entertaining with the casual vibe.”
Possibly the biggest dinner party faux pas is leaving guests feeling hungry (the shame!) so Kate says know your quantities, including 180-to-250g of meat per person. “Most home cooks over-cater from my experience! Be generous!”
Creating a sense of occasion starts with low and ambient lighting: lots and lots of candles and dimming overhead lights where possible. Great linen, of course, always helps. “At the moment I am loving the monotone colour palette; beige and soft pinks mixed with neutrals and dove greys. People are really giving their table the detail: in the flowers, candles, crockery and cutlery, textured linens and soft florals. Its all about the tablescape!”
Kate says she’s crazy for good glassware, cutlery and crockery to give her table interest. “Again, due to my relaxed style, I love uneven ceramics, textured plates and platters. Oversized, always! And I love soft linen tablecloths with neutral colour palettes to work off and add the pop of colour or added interest. Adding some old with the new always is interesting.”
Don’t forget the other senses either. “Music is another very important part of entertaining: have a playlist organised in advance. Dinner music first, then liven it up later in the night. If guests want to dance, let it happen organically. Since Covid, no dancing has been allowed at weddings or in clubs, so be prepared!”