Your guide to entertaining post isolation

We recently caught up with Asaf Smoli, Director at food&desire on his ideas for throwing the best post-isolation dinner party. Here’s what he has to say…

20 years later, as one of the Directors of food&desire and Half Acre, I’ve helped people host and have hosted thousands of dinner parties.

It’s all about the food, drink, friends and good conversation. A dinner party is simple, it’s made unique by what the host and guests infuse into the evening.

Here are some ideas to throwing the best dinner party.

Simple rules that I stick to:

  • Guests can always sense a stressed-out host! To help you enjoy the night, have everything prepared well in advance
  • Although it’s tempting to pull out the blow torch and attempt to impress your friends and family with theatrics, it’s best that you don’t try anything too tricky or out of your comfort zone
  • Don’t be scared to use specialty suppliers to assist you in your masterpiece
  • Work out your timings for the evening. I always find that after a few vinos, I’ve lost track of time and I need to re-focus. Your guests might be hungry at this point, so make sure you know what time you want to serve dinner. Having nibbles already laid out as friends and family start to arrive can also help you manage your guests hunger

Lastly… Don’t overthink it! 

Create a delicious menu

Have your menu well thought out at least a day before your dinner party. I love going to the market to get inspired but I usually have some ideas in mind before I go shopping. My preferred style of dining is usually shared. It allows your guests to engage with the food and it’s also much easier on the host.

Stick to a certain style or culture of food – it’s fine to do a blend of Asian dishes or a mix of French, Spanish or Italian dishes – but I would never serve a curry with a caprese salad!

You have to think of how all the dishes will go together on the guests plate – particularly with shared food. Your dishes should not overlap with similar flavours, herbs and spices. It’s much easier to let the produce and seasonality do the talking. Also, be sure to make note of any dietary requirements!

Every so often I’ll do a plated entrée, something lite or delicate – fish ceviche or barbequed vine wrapped quail, but I don’t mind a good pasta for the right audience!

When creating a shared menu, I often serve 2 to 3 meat options, these options will usually contain fish, red meat and white meat. You’ll need some yummy side dishes to compliment the hero items. Try to avoid too many dishes that need last minute finishing!

Choose your dinner party atmosphere

Is it formal or relaxed? This is about who you are and what you want your guests to experience. The look of your table will set the mood and experience of the night. Your friends may have been to your home before, so it’s really about reinventing the vibe. Fresh flowers from the market or foliage from the garden adds that third dimension.

Set the mood with candles, dimmed lights, and home fragrances.

Linen napkins are also a nice touch. And don’t forget the bathrooms – hand towels, flowers and a scented candle.

Cue the music

Just like your table, music plays an important part in setting the night off and elevating it! Create your playlist ahead of time and pick the songs that best reflect the evening’s mood. Don’t be afraid to allow your guests to participate in the music selection throughout the evening. If your guests start dancing….be proud!

Cocktails, wine and drinks 

When choosing drinks, consider what your guests will enjoy as well as what will go well with your menu. I love to create a mini bar with a champagne bucket for ease of drinks, and it also adds to the festivities.

If you’re spoiling your guests, a cocktail or champagne on arrival really sets the scene. Nothing say “celebrate “ quite the sound of a bottle of champagne opening.  I always like to have a wine that has a story  associated to it….it may be a vineyard I visited or a wine that deserves everyone’s attention.

For the dinner party that gets a little wild it’s about serving whiskies, digestives or anything you can think of that’s a novelty.

Most importantly just remember you’re not there to perform brain surgery….so have fun!