Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The perfect dinner party If money is no object

Yes, it's true - some of the finest chefs in the city will come to cook for you and your dinner party guests. The catch of course is that it has to be at the right price. This dinner party idea is for the cash rich and time poor.

Here in Australia, some of our finest are available costing anywhere from $200 per person including matching wines and staff (Daniel Alps from Strathlynn, Tasmania)to the going rate in Sydney of about $3000-$5000 (the food costs are usually on top of the chef's fee).

So, if money is no object do not be afraid to contact your favorite restaurant and see if the chef will come to your home and whip up one memorable dinner party.

Stay tuned for more dinner party ideas soon.

In the meantime, you may like to take a look at this wildly delicious party tray:

The Hostess with the Mostess

Friday, January 25, 2008

A Tantalising Thai Dinner Party

I'm not sure about where you live but here in Sydney, Thai food is so popular that most suburbs have at least one Thai restaurant if not 20! This may be a bit of an exaggeration but you get the drift - it's capital "P" for popular!

So, when you're planning a dinner party at home it makes sense to serve your guests a type of food that people seem to love. Thai food is your perfect option. It's exotic, clean and light and best of all, delicious!

Thai cuisine is known for its balance of five fundamental flavors. Most Thai dishes tend to incorporate all of these flavors if not most. These flavors are:

- hot (spicy - chili)

- sour (vinegar, lime juice, tamarind)

- sweet (soft brown sugar, fruits, sweet peppers)

- salty (soy sauce, fish sauce)

- bitter (which is optional)

The great thing with Thai food is that instead of dried herbs they use a lot of fresh herbs and spices and fish sauce. The aromas are sensational.

Since 95% of Thais are Buddhists, they leave religious offerings of fruit at the base of a Buddha statue with burning candles, incense and the like in restaurants. There is a peacefulness that this brings as you lay witness to the scene. You will also often find photos of their much loved and long serving King.

You could re-create a Thai space in your dining room by adding the smell of a subtle incense and making the lighting softer than usual. If you don't have a light dimmer try lighting the dining room with some candles or lamps to create a lovely ambiance.

If you can get hold of some Thai classical music this would be lovely for background sound - or at else some other oriental-inspired music.

Thais don't generally use chop sticks to eat - rather a fork and a dessert-like spoon but if you want the Asian touch (Thailand is in South-East Asia) feel free to provide each guest with a pair of chopsticks. Consider a wooden or bamboo place mat at each guest's place.

As a centerpiece to your table you could fill a long shallow bowl with water and place floating candles atop. You could also try to purchase some exotic looking flowers. On my trips to Thailand, orchids and the like have adorned the table settings. The whole experience of eating is pure pleasure.

For starters you could serve one of their delicious soups like a hot and spicy Tom Yum Goong (spicy and sour prawn soup) or a Tom Yum Kai which is similar but with chicken.

You could also serve Thai fish cakes, spring rolls in rice paper, curry puffs, satay chicken or deep fried chicken wings - with dipping sauce of course.

For main - stir fries, whole fish, Thai curries (green, red, yellow, Masaman, etc) or the ever popular noodle dishes like Pad Thai or Pad See Yu. Don't forget the steamed rice served in a covered rice bowl in a central position on your table, so people can help themselves.

A platter of fresh exotic fruit or a mango sticky rice dish is wonderful for dessert.

You see, there are just so many recipe choices for your Thai meal. I would suggest checking the Internet for free recipes or getting hold of an easy Thai recipe book - like the one I suggest below.

Most of the ingredients you will need are easily available at your local Asian specialty food store.

You see now busy home cooks can bring the fantastic flavors of Thai cuisine into the kitchen with a simple trip to the grocery store. Nancie McDermott, experienced cook, teacher, and author of the best-selling cookbook Real Thai, presents this collection of 70 delicious recipes that focus on easy-to-find ingredients and quick cooking methods to whip up traditional Thai. With recipes like Crying Tiger Grilled Beef, Grilled Shrimp and Scallops with Lemongrass, Sticky Rice with Mangoes, and Thai Iced Tea, along with McDermott's highly practical array of shortcuts, substitutions, and time-saving techniques, anyone can prepare home-cooked authentic Thai meals -- as often as they like.

Stay tuned for more dinner party ideas soon.

The Hostess with the Mostess

Monday, January 21, 2008

If you are time poor why not buy a course or the whole meal to serve at a dinner party?

We need to cover off as many dinner party ideas as possible and I have been to dinner over the years where a friend has made no secret of the fact that they bought the dinner from a restaurant prior to us coming over.

This makes a lot of sense when you are busy but want to serve a delicious three course meal. Chances are you have a favorite restaurant and probably favorite dishes there.

Why not share this food with your friends? It's just like shouting your friends for a meal but instead of enjoying one-another's company in a busy restaurant, why not take the dining experience to your home?

You can really relax - set up the table beautifully and just re-heat the meals if they need to be served hot. Remember that the meal has already been cooked so it just needs to be reheated - not over-cooked.

You may even want to pre-buy just one course if the dish is time-consuming to make but would match your menu perfectly.

Anyway, just another dinner party idea for you to consider.

Stay tuned for more dinner party ideas soon.

In the meantime, you might want to take a look at this Toastess Classic Cordless Warming Tray - perfect for this situation:

The Hostess with the Mostess

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Funny dinner party scene from Bewitched

A bit of light relief today in the form of a clip from the television series, "Bewitched". Watch Sheila's dinner party scene. It becomes quite funny as Samantha uses her powers against an unkind hostess..

Of course I couldn't help but looking at how the table was set.. and wouldn't it be lovely to have the hired help to serve each course so the hosts could remain with their guests the whole time.

Check it out:

Stay tuned for more dinner party ideas soon.

The Hostess with the Mostess

Friday, January 11, 2008

Start a share group and meet over dinner

A friend of mine recently invited a group of women to a dinner party to see if they might be interested in forming an investors group.

That is, that each of the women would contribute $500 as an initial outlay and invest the money into the stock market.

She picked other women she thought might be interested and she picked right. The group formed and they continue to meet on a regular basis to check in about how their investments are going and to discuss the new shares they're considering.

Then, each month they rotate and meet at another group member's house for dinner.

The point of this post and from the previous couple is that dinner parties can serve a dual purpose. You can meet to discuss issues with friends (like this investment group do), or you can provide support and encouragement to your friends by sharing goals and aspirations.

Yes, you can meet anywhere but don't you think sharing a meal together adds that little extra?

But then, the regular catch up dinner party with friends and acquaintances is also great.

Stay tuned for more dinner party ideas soon.

In the meantime, if you're wanting some fabulous cheeses for that cheese platter then look no further than this Dutch cheese assortment:

The Hostess with the Mostess

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A Come As You Are In 2012 Dinner Party Idea

This dinner party idea inspires people to think about the future and who they would like to be four years from now.

If they are completely happy and satisfied in life this could mean simply coming as whom they are today - or they could come dressed as the person they wish to be.

Send an invitation to your guests stating that your dinner party will be set in 2012 and they should come as the person they'd like to be then - in 2012.

The invitation alone will ignite thought and really get people to think about what they want in the future. They will assess their life and see if any change is necessary. For some, this will be fleeting while others may spend more time reflecting. Although this might sound heavy going, it can actually be lots of fun and people are generally light-hearted in these situations. After all, it's just another excuse to catch up with your friends but with a little more creativity attached.

You'll be surprised at how creative some people will be given the opportunity. Maybe someone will come dressed in a bikini because they're hoping to travel a lot in 2012! Or maybe someone will come dressed as a flamboyant artist because they want to further explore their artistic abilities. Or they'll come in a power suit because they want to do that law degree they've dreamt of.

This gives you a greater opportunity to understand and get to know your friends more. You may never have known your friends' true passions without this night.

Dinner parties are fantastic in that as you eat, a good conversation generally flows. It's a wonderful opportunity to connect with people in a relaxed environment and without distraction. You can really focus on catching up with one-another, sharing stories and ideas and even your dreams!

By having a theme such as this, you can expect that part of your conversation will be about people's desires in the future. You may like to start off the conversation yourself but this is the idea for the night.

Or, if you want to make it more natural, as guests arrive they'll probably ask one-another who they've come as because that's the whole theme for the night.

You can be as relaxed or as formal as you'd like to be in terms of the meal itself - a three course meal is lovely in that it prolongs the evening and everyone enjoys a delicious meal. And in 2012 I don't suspect the food will be very much different from today.

Stay tuned for more dinner party ideas soon.

In the meantime, you may want to check out this book. This is what the author says:

You never know when it is going to happen -- when you will experience a moment that dramatically transforms your life. When you look back, often years later, you may see how a brief conversation or an insight you read in a book changed the entire course of your life.

Gay Hendricks had an extraordinary, life-altering experience during a conversation at a party. The gift he received in that meeting became his touchstone for creating the life of his dreams. Now, in this wonderful gem of a book, he passes on to all of us the pivotal insight he gained in that magic moment.

The Hostess with the Mostess

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Host a dinner party so you and your friends commit to 2008 resolutions and goals

The New Year is a time to reflect. It's also a time to think about the things in our lives that we wish to change in some way. This dinner party idea combines the company of trusted friends, goals and a lovely meal.

Think about it. How many of us actually share our New Year's resolutions? How many put a lot of thought into them? How many take them that seriously?

Why not host a dinner party and in the invitation send out some tips to consider when setting out your New Year resolutions. Your friends may have some resolutions already or otherwise this may prompt them to take a look at things they could improve in their life.

Ask your guests to come with a list of their resolutions and during your meal, each take a turn and share why you'd like to improve e a particular area in your life.

This is a lovely way to better understand your friends and where they're coming from. If you're really close, the resolutions will probably come as no great shock and people will only share what they feel comfortable with sharing publicly.

For the dinner party itself you could make it as simple or as sophisticated as suits. You could ask your friends to bring a dish each or to bring a course each. You could even order in some pizzas or make your own. Simple.

Tonight's dinner party is more about sharing and providing support. When you publicly state your New Year's resolutions to one-another it may make you more motivated to actually carry them through. You almost become accountable to your friends - especially if you plan to meet say quarterly to check in with the same group about how you're all going. Even if people have got off the track, meeting again may inspire them to start afresh and not give up!

Imagine if you knew that in three months, you'd be going back to update your friends on how you've progressed. This is a great way to maintain your motivation levels (which are generally high at the outset) and to provide peer support to one-another.

Life is fun but we each have certain challenges to deal with and the support and encouragement of those close to you helps. You could even start a new family tradition - this doesn't have to be only for friends.

You may even consider sending each of your guests home with a gift - a journal to keep track of their progress like the one below:

Stay tuned for more dinner party ideas soon.

The Hostess with the Mostess

Thursday, January 3, 2008

An Ancient Roman Dinner Party Idea

Did you know one of the great Roman rituals was to have a dinner party?

If a Roman held status in the community it was the accepted rule for the family to host regular dinner parties. Just as the Romans went to Roman baths to network and influence their local dignitaries, dinner parties in the home were another means to help further the career of the host. The Romans were truly class conscious - remember learning about the Plebeians and the Patricians?

In the old Roman days things were very much separated into male and female roles - so it was the wife's role to prepare every aspect of the dinner party since the husband had been at work all day. But it was the servants who worked the hardest during the entire afternoon gathering and preparing everything for the meal.

O.K. - who is lucky enough to have home help with cooking these days? We may have to cut a few corners but you can still have fun with a Roman Dinner Party idea.

Invite your guests over by sending them a photocopy of a world map with an arrow to Rome and date it the 9th century B.C. or use a parchment scroll with your text painted in ink then sealed with wax and tied with an elegant ribbon.

Ask guests to come dressed Toga and all! If you want to all out, check these on amazon.com:

Or as guests arrive you could adorn them with a white sheet each. Togas looked like a white sheet about nine yards long and were arranged very carefully, in a stylish way. Elaborate jewellery was also popular.

To create an atmosphere in your dining room display anything you have that is made of marble or mosaic or hang a mural as a back drop. Drape garlands of ivy or myrtle over tables or hanging overhead. Drape gold lame where it looks effective.

Imagine if you could create the appearance of columns. If you want to go all out you could arrange to hire some columns. These are sometimes used as props for weddings and the like and I've found these inexpensive columns on amazon.com:

The Romans ate at rectangular tables which were low to the ground and surrounded at three sides by low couches. The men would recline as they ate - the women would sit. But we can be equal these days! The tables would hold jugs of wine and bowls of fruit along with tepid water so the Romans could clean their hands between each course.

One thing to keep in mind with a Roman dinner party is that the appearance and flavour of the food had to be just right - they were meticulous with their presentation.

The meals were often served in Samian pottery for their elegant appearance so earthenware or some rustic looking pottery serving bowls and urns would look effective.

Imagine a crisp white table cloth scattered with red rose petals or a gold metal bird cage as a center piece.

The background music should be soft and gentle - the lyre was the most popular instrument as were flutes and harps. You get the drift.

The most widespread vegetables used to create meals of the day were made using broad beans, lentils and chick peas, lettuces, cabbages and leeks.

The available fruits at first were apples, pears, wild cherries, plums, grapes, walnuts, almonds and chestnuts. Also dates that were imported from north Africa.

In the Roman days the dinner was made up of three main courses just is as the case today but there could be many more created to impress the guests.. which is what the Roman dinner party was all about.

The first course, the starter, could consist of eggs prepared in many different ways. Also available to guests would be a selection of salads, vegetables, shellfish, snails or the Roman delicacy - roasted, stuffed dormice which are small rodents! Usually the dormice were stuffed with minced pork, pepper, pine kernels, and liquamen which was a fish sauce.

As for the main course, this would invariably consist of some meat dish like beef, lamb and pork - or fish. The thing to remember is that you can try to cook an authentic meal but you can also create what you think would look great and work. Like a large roasted chicken or meat served on a lovely platter set in the middle of the table and surrounded by succulent roasted vegetables.

For some authentic dishes try these websites:

The Ancient Roman Dishes Collection

Around The Roman Table

The dinner party would end with a dessert such as fruit, cake or pudding.

The Roman meal would take place over a few hours - they would take breaks between courses to allow each course to digest, to chat and to drink more wine.

Wine is a must - it was the beverage of the Roman world like it was with the Ancient Greeks. Mulsum was a very popular honeyed wine.

After the meal guests would assemble in a main room to listen to poetry being recited or for a reading from one the classics and then they would be given a tour of the mosaics and art works so as to further impress.

So there you have it. This is a fun idea and certainly something different for your next dinner party.

Stay tuned for more dinner party ideas soon.

In the meantime you might like to visit my amazon.com dinner party store.

The Hostess with the Mostess

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

A vegetarian guest is coming to my dinner party - what can I cook?

You are inviting guests to an upcoming dinner party and you do the courteous thing by asking the people if there's any food they don't like or can't tolerate. One person gets back to you and says they're completely vegetarian. Lucky you asked don't you think?

Many meat-eaters I have met have said they find vegetarian food bland and boring but this is far from the truth. You can create a wonderful menu and the meat-eaters won't even realize that they have eaten entirely vegetarian food.

You do have a couple of choices though. Firstly, if you're really keen on a particular dish you could create a vegetarian option. For example, if you're cooking a meat lasagna, you could also prepare a smaller vegetarian lasagna dish and your guests won't even realize they are eating different dishes.

In this case, it's a good idea to reassure your vegetarian guest that you are doing this so they know you have catered to their needs so they can completely relax and enjoy their meal without trepidation.

An important point to remember when having a vegetarian guest to dinner is that you should not cook the vegetarian food in the same oil that you have just cooked a meat dish in first - do the reverse.

The other option of course is to cook an entirely vegetarian meal and my suggestion is to combine a theme with this idea. In this case I will use an Italian theme as an example.

As your guest arrive you can serve some hors devours - like crackers and eggplant dip or slices of tomato with mozzarella and basil layered on top.

For a starter you could serve an eggplant parmigiana antipasto dish - followed by a vegetarian lasagna or a pasta with a pesto or Napolitana sauce. The great thing about eggplants (the French name is aubergine) is that they are known to be a satisfying substitute for meat with their lovely chunky texture. For dessert you could serve some Tiramusu which is the most recognized Italian cake or something as simple as pre bought gelato.

Want some great vegetarian recipes? Try this cook book:

Stay tuned for more dinner party ideas soon.

In the meantime you might like to visit my amazon.com dinner party store.

The Hostess with the Mostess