How To Host A Perfect Dinner Party, According To Ina Garten

One of my goals in life is to at some point become the kind of person who hosts effortless dinner parties on the regular. We all know these goddesses of food and home who pull off lovely evenings with whatever they’ve got to work with, whether they live in a sprawling house or in the smallest (or in my demographic, most “post-grad half-decorated Ikea chic”) of city apartments. If you’re one of them, I demand you teach me your ways as you flit about from room to room pulling perfect quiches out of the oven. Thankfully for people such as myself, The Kitchn spoke with food pro Ina Garten to gather some of her best tips for a smooth evening. Here are some highlights of what she had to share!

  • Prep in advance: “I do a game plan about how I’m going to make everything…I take a blank piece of paper…and superimpose the recipes on the schedule. I work backwards, starting with the final recipe that has to be finished, then second, then third. Then I can look at the plan and see, ‘there’s nothing for me to do before 5:00.’ I know before I even go shopping whether I have enough oven space, and that I can actually do the menu.”
  • Put guests at ease as soon as they arrive: “Make sure there’s music, so it feels like a party when people walk in the door. Put the drinks out on a bar so people can serve themselves.”
  • Eat in the kitchen to so the host doesn’t have to dash away during the meal: “If I have to get up from the table and go slice the chicken, I’m still at the party, and people don’t feel like they have to get up and help.”
  • Keep it cozy: “An ideal party size is between four and eight people — once you get to 10 it feels like there are two different parties at the table.”
  • Dress it up: “I use my best linens, best china, best glasses. It’s a small thing that doesn’t take any more time — but it makes an evening feel more important and special.”
  • Give the table an ambiance: “I always do candles — it feels festive.”
  • Don’t trouble guests with washing dishes: “Everyone’s allowed to help with anything except the dishes. I do the dishes that night. We have a system. [My husband] Jeffrey clears the table — he stacks them neatly and I fill the dishwasher with the dishes and soak any pans overnight.”
  • Keep the vibe fun! “Whenever they feel that you are stressed, the fun stops…Everyone always says, ‘you look so relaxed!’ But they don’t see me in the last 15 minutes [before guests arrive], when I say to Jeffrey: ‘Don’t talk to me!’..We all get stressed in the last 15 minutes, but don’t show your guests that.”

[The Kitchn]

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