Dine & Dish

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Dinner party dos and don'ts

Hosting a dinner party is no small task. First-time hosts tasked with hosting a dinner party for family and friends may not realize just how big a commitment such an undertaking can be. As a result, hosts often find their first dinner party to be somewhat overwhelming.

But dinner parties need not be an exercise in crisis management. In fact, first-time and even veteran hosts can put the following dos and don'ts of dinner parties to good use to ensure their turn as host goes off without a hitch.

DO serve your specialty. While experimenting with new recipes is part of the joy of cooking, such experiments are best avoided when hosting a dinner party. Instead of trying a new recipe, serve a dish you have prepared numerous times in the past. Making such meals is like second nature to home chefs, and that can greatly reduce the stress of hosting a dinner party.

DON'T worry if it takes longer to serve a meal than you planned. Even if you are making a dish you have prepared dozens of times in the past, expect things to move a little more slowly when hosting a dinner party. This is especially true when hosting a large dinner party because you will have to prepare a much larger meal than usual. So don't worry if the meal is served later than you had planned.

DO make a list and check it twice. In the days leading up to your party, make a list of ingredients you will need to prepare the meal. Once that list has been made, check your refrigerator and pantry to make sure you have enough of everything to prepare the meal on the scale it needs to be prepared. After you have made your list and checked your pantry, read the recipes again just to make sure you didn't forget anything before you head to the store to buy whatever you need.

DON'T ask guests to bring essential items. While guests will often volunteer to bring certain items, it's best that hosts don't ask guests to bring anything essential to the meal. That's because guests might be late, which can delay the meal, or they might just forget, forcing hosts to make last-minute trips to the grocery store. Guests can bring items, but it's ideal if they bring items you won't need to serve the meal, such as a bottle of wine or even premade desserts.

DO ask guests if they have any dietary restrictions. Many guests, especially older guests who might be managing certain health conditions, might have dietary restrictions that govern what they can and cannot eat. Ask guests to let you know if they have any such restrictions, and if those restrictions are foods they can't eat or simply foods they don't want to eat. That's an important distinction that can make a host's job easier.

DON'T make meals that require a specific taste. Certain types of cuisine are destined to produce mixed responses, and hosts should avoid such foods so no one is forced to dine entirely on appetizers and dessert. For example, Indian cuisine tends to be very spicy, and not everyone likes their food to pack such a potent punch. Stick to cuisine that is flavorful but not so extraordinary that it may upset the stomachs of your guests who don't often indulge in such foods.

DO start early. In addition to preparing your entree earlier than you would when making dinner for your family, start preparing sides or other parts of the meal in advance when possible. Some recipes include storage instructions for chefs preparing meals in advance, so heed those recommendations to take some of the pressure off come the day of your party.

DON'T go overboard. While it may be tempting to stun your guests with a seven-course meal, aiming too high may lead to disaster. A simple meal with an easily prepared appetizer, a delicious entree and a light dessert will make for a memorable evening for everyone, and your guests will appreciate both your efforts and the time they get to spend with you throughout the night.

Hosting a dinner party is a thoughtful gesture that should be fun. While hosting can be stressful, following a few tricks of the trade can make hosting duties that much more manageable.