I love hosting. Not a lot of people do because of the time and money involved, but I for one, throughly enjoy it. There doesn’t even have to be a reason to celebrate. Random special events bring me joy, so I make an effort to elevate some normal days for my friends and family.
Pasta. Whenever I host dinner parties, I always choose to make pasta. It’s relatively inexpensive, it’s easy to cook, and it feeds a lot of people. I can feed like 4-5 people with a box of Fettuccini and $3 bottled Alfredo sauce. Aside from adding some type of protein, the biggest thing that will take your store-bought sauce to new heights is FRESH HERBS. Go to the grocery store and smell some herbs. Buy the ones you like and put them on everything. It’ll change your life. My go-to for my pasta dishes are rosemary, thyme, and parsley. Chicken Alfredo is definitely my favorite dish to serve, but I’ve also done cacio e pepe, aglio e olio, carbonara, and good old spaghetti with ground beef.
Appetizers. No matter what I’m serving, I always make a cheeseboard. Why you ask? It’s because it looks pretty and I love cheese. It’s also a no brainer and one less thing I have to think about when hosting. I also get the same cheeses every single time: brie, fromage d’affinois with herbs, a mild blue cheese, and some variation of goat cheese (regular or blueberry or honey). Get a nice plank of wood or slate or marble and arrange your cheeses. Fill in the gaps with fruit and nuts. Serve with a jar of jam/marmalade, and if you’re feeling fancy, add a pâté or foie gras. Don’t forget the olives. Set this up ahead of time so if your guests come early/or on time and you’re still cooking, they’ll keep themselves busy by taking pictures/eating it.
Drinks. Don’t stress about finding the right wine pairing for whatever you’re serving. Simply ask your guests ahead of time what they would like to drink. The best wine is the one you like.
Mood. Turn off most of your lights and light up some unscented candles and scatter them around the table. This creates the perfect intimate mood for your small get together. Play some chill Frank Sinatra-type music and you’re good to go.
Don’t stress. After going through all this trouble to set up the “perfect” dinner party, the moment you sit down to eat is the time you relax. Not everything will be perfect, and that’s not the point. The point is to make your guests feel special, so if they feel that, you’ve done your job.
Clean up. Definitely don’t ask your guests to help clean up, but if they offer, take them up on it. The easier this whole ordeal is for you, the more frequently these gatherings will happen.
Time. Whenever I invite people, I always specify an end time. I usually do 6pm to 9 pm since that’s the most convenient for everyone. Like I said, the less obtrusive and the more pleasant this is for you, the better. Make sure to let your guests know about the end time upon invitation so they can start making exit moves around that time. This way, you don’t have to worry about kicking them out because they already know when to go.
As a side note, sometimes, hosting a small group of people is just not fiscally possible on certain budgets. In this case, before you even plan anything, make sure everyone is on the same page about the menu and how to split up expenses. When this is the case with my girl friends, we decide on what we’re going to eat and then I’ll give them the grocery receipt and they’ll work it out amongst themselves and reimburse me for their share of the meal. This process is not awkward at all and it shouldn’t be.