Dining Do’s & Don’ts

October 26, 2014

MAIN DINING McElheran's Do's and Don't Bernhardt Haven


So you’re thinking of having a dinner party? I’ve hosted countless Sunday family dinners and dinner parties with friends, and after a few embarrassments and plenty of mad fun along the way, I’ve learned a thing or two. Here are my top tips for throwing a dinner party for friends, family and clients alike.


DO: Have purpose for your party

It’s good to have something to toast. If the party has a reason it will make it more fun. You can host a dinner for any reason you can dream but obvious occasions are Thanksgiving, birthdays or achievements. Some other possible considerations are: It’s the season finale of Game of Thrones, It’s your double 25th Birthday, or It’s the longest day of the year! The cause for celebrating is as endless as your imagination!


DON’T: Be limited by your space

So you think your 900sqft loft is too small and not stylish enough? Or your mausoleum of 3000sqft is too big to feel intimate? Wrong. Always remember that it’s the people you bring together and the conversations that unfold that make the gathering memorable. As long as your guests are engaged and having a great time they will be more than willing to overlook spatial limitations. Yes, a creative night time table scape on a roof top patio overlooking the city’s skyline is spectacular, but it definitely isn’t required for a dinner to be fun and beautiful.


DO: Create a Party Atmosphere

Your public living spaces, including your kitchen, shouldn’t be left the same as they are every other day of the week. Try rolling out the pretty linens, filling the room with fragrant flowers, bringing out the special dinnerware, playing mood music, offering nice soaps and lotions for the guests to use, lighting candles, lots of candles if necessary, and never forget to look your best by wearing something pretty.


DON’T: Overlook your guest’s dietary restrictions

Part of being a good host/hostess is wanting your guests to feel important and comfortable while they are in your home. Make sure to ask about allergies and or dietary restrictions before you plan your menu. It’s also important to let everyone know if there is a serious restriction like a nut allergy, as you don’t want to serve anything, at any time, with nuts. You want to serve dishes your guests can eat and enjoy, not send them home sick, or even worse, to the hospital.


DO: Write out the menu

People like to know what they’re eating. If you’re serving a complicated or uncommon dish then consider listing the ingredients. The more ingredients you can list for every dish the more comfortable your guests will feel trying something new.  



DON’T: Skimp on the alcohol

Wondering if you have enough wine? or whether you should serve an aperitif? Don’t be scared to buy that extra bottle. Do it. It’s always better to have more than not enough, as it loosens people up and gets the conversation flowing. It’s important to pair great food with the proper wine. Do a little research to choose what drink will go best with the food being served. 


DO: Serve appetizers and dessert.

Guests should be able to nibble on a little something when they first arrive. It doesn’t have to be something elaborate and time consuming. Try putting out a bowl of olives and a chuck of old cheddar and call it a day. The same goes for your dessert. Always finish with a little something sweet. Homemade is always a winner, a scoop of Vanilla bean ice cream with salted caramel drizzle is an easy, crowd-pleasing option.


DON’T: Be limited by your fears of cooking.

Never avoid throwing a party because you think you aren’t savvy and skillful enough in the kitchen. There are a lot of options available for any non-cooking hosts/hostesses: Try your local deli for easy inspiration, hit up your local pizzeria and order an assortment of pizza’s and salads or hire a chef and let them do the work for you. For a less expensive option try asking for help, chances are you know someone who wouldn’t mind helping you in the kitchen on your big night!


DO: Be Flexible and Stay Calm

Be willing to accommodate any last minute guests. If your Brother-in-laws best friend is suddenly in town, be ready to add a little more broth to the soup. If your homemade vinaigrette suddenly spills before you get a chance to serve it just clean it up and try your best to jazz up some store bought dressing with a few herbs and some citrus. The internet is full of sites with easy and fast recipes and or substitutions.  Remember if you come unglued your guests will sense your stress and may not relax and enjoy the evening as much. You want your guests talking about how great the food is, not how agitated you seem.


DON’T: Rush to clean up

Rushing around and cleaning up right after dinner might set the tone to your guests that it’s time for them to leave. You most certainly do not want your guests to feel rushed out the door. One of the best parts of dinner is when all the food had been cleared and everyone lingers at the table to partake in some great conversation. Open another bottle of wine to ensure both glasses and bellies are full. You can also serve a digestive or desert wine if you prefer, from there you can just sit back, relax, and let the lively discussions take over.