Overcoming Dinner Party Disasters
December, 2011 · By Coryanne Ettiene
After days of planning, hours of cooking and moments spent rearranging the floral display while you anxiously await your guests to arrive, the last thing on your mind is the wine reduction sauce simmering away on the stove top until the door bell rings and you notice for the first time that the house no longer smells of sweet red wine but of burning food. The calm smile that you had planned to greet your guests with has disappeared and you are now the image of a panicked host awaiting on a night of dinner party disasters, starting the second your guests arrive.
A dinner party disaster, while on the face of it, is a recipe for, well, disaster. But, the calm host who faces her trails with confidence and humor will give her guests a night they can both laugh about and enjoy without letting a few disastrous moments get in the way of their evening. With a little preparation, anticipation and entertaining know how, you can be better prepared to handle your next dinner party disaster, and end the night confident that you and your guests enjoyed themselves despite the unexpected.
Disaster 1: Cooking Disaster
Burned food, cooking failure or even not having enough food is a hosts worst nightmare. But with a full pantry and a little creative genius you can turn your disaster into a winning moment by thinking on your feet. First of all, stay calm, your guests have come for your company and to enjoy themselves, they have not come to act as a food critic. Laugh at your failure, share your mishap with your guests and then dive into your pantry and serve up a last minute option.
I always keep bread, olives, deli meats and cheeses on hand – not only to offer as a midnight feast should the party keep going in to the night, but also because I have learned that those unexpected guests and the potential for a slight coking disaster are common place among my dinner parties. And when all else fails, your local Chinese should deliver in 30 minutes, and everyone loves a take out.
Disaster 2: Late guests, no shows and a delayed start to the party
Your dinner is timed to perfection and every course must be served on time to deliver mouth-watering dishes. The only thing that can dampen your culinary menu is to start serving the first course too late and you are missing 2 guests. Despite your enthusiasm to serve the best meal of your life, your guests should be your priority, serve another round of drinks, make adjustments in the kitchen and make the guests that have arrived on time feel welcome and appreciated. When your late guests do arrive, bush off the late start as if it gave you more time to enjoy the cocktail hour, never let a guest feel they have foiled your evening.
However, if your late guests turn into absent guests, the party must go on. If you have tried to connect with your absent guests and you cannot reach them, it is perfectly reasonable to begin your dinner service 30 – 45 minutes after the start of your party. Should absent guests arrive after you have begun serving dinner, welcome them in as if they have arrived at the perfect moment, offer them a drink, a warm smile and what ever dish you are serving.
Disaster 3: Power Failure does not mean party failure
Your first course was served with style and grace and then the power went off just as you were finishing off your braised lamp chops, but there is no need to panic. While the romantic dinner for 8 may not be the theme you were going for, a well-illuminated room makes for a memorable evening. Serve what have prepared, reach into your pantry, light your candles, and if all else fails, hope that your local pizza delivery is still delivering.
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