A Stress-Free Party Menu Plan for the Hostess with the Mostest

Make sure your food and drink selection is on point at your next house party with these 10 tips

Joyoti Mahanta

Entertaining should be fun, and not a chore. People come to a party wanting to be well fed, but they also want to spend time with you and your guests. So you need to ensure that you’re not slaving in the kitchen for hours on D-day, and you definitely don’t want to be cooped up in the kitchen as the MIA host. The key lies in preparation. Here’s your guide to planning a quick party menu for your next house party.

  1. Do not experiment: Sure, you don’t want your menu to be predictable and you shouldn’t be serving your signature dishes at every party. But, you also don’t want to treat your guests as guinea pigs. If you try your hand at new dishes every weekend, get them vetted by your family, and then compile a new spread for every party and be comfortable to cook it for a large number of people. Only once you're confident about cooking for so many people that you add the dish to your quick party menu. 
  2. Always keep a buffer: This rule applies for food and time. Start cooking a little earlier than you think you should, and cook for 2-3 guests extra than those who RSVP-ed. Before the doorbell rings, you should be ready and not a sweaty mess. A caveat: Never run out of food. If there is extra, there are several recipes you can whip up from leftovers or you can pack doggie bags for guests, but save yourself the embarrassment of running out. 
  3. Consider your guests’ dietary restrictions before planning a quick party menu: Have a friend who can’t stomach too many spices? Have a guest who is allergic to a vegetable or nuts or is vegetarian on that day of the week? Accommodate special diets with solid options, and don’t make anyone feel like an outcast. If you are making a wholesome meal which has several ingredients, such as a Khowsuey or a Burrito Bowl, make sure you put out all the ingredients in separate bowls and let each guest assemble it according to their likes. And always put out salt and pepper. It’s courteous to do so even if you think your food doesn’t need it. This is key when you're planning an easy party menu. 
  4. Have enough linen napkins/tissues and cutlery: You wouldn’t want your guests spilling food on themselves or struggling to eat their Thai curry and rice with their fingers. Stock up on throwaway cutlery if you have more guests than spoons in your house. Keeping tissues handy encourages the guests to keep their hands clean rather than wiping their greasy fingers on your sofa and curtains (yes, we have hosted such guests, too!)
  5. Do accept help: Efficient hosts are ones who know how to divide the work and get it done. You can get your maid to do the dishes the next morning, or get her to chop the veggies the morning of the party. You could order your ingredients online a few days in advance or ask a friend to bake you her signature quiche or whip up a dip the day before. These are perfectly acceptable. But don’t rely too heavily on your guests for help either. You asked your friend to pick up the apple pie for dessert, but she cancelled on you at 11pm. Doesn’t sound like a good situation to be in, right?
  6. Have enough liquor sponsors: You cannot serve just beer because with an eclectic guest list, not everyone is going to be pleased about that. It is often best to have at least three or four types of alcohol available to accommodate different tastes. Check on preferences while inviting, to save yourself the stress. A fun pre-prepared punch bowl is great for undecided souls. If you have end-of-the-month-financial-constraints, turn it into a BYOB. Trust us, after going through the financial budget of 2016, your guests will understand.
  7. Have plenty of nibbles: If we have learnt anything from the previous parties, it is that people love their appetisers. Many guests snack on the hors-d’oeuvres and eat very little dinner. So ensure you have enough options to accompany the drinks. Platters, and dips-and-dippers are the most popular choices of starters. Opt for a few popular dips from cheesy, pesto, salsa, hummus to guacamole; and dippers like chips/nachos, breads, veggies like cucumbers and carrots, and veg cutlets/drumsticks.
  8. Wisely pair food and drinks: Your guests wouldn’t like to feast on chicken wings while drinking champagne, no matter how much you splurged on the bubbly. A cocktail or beer would be a better combo. If you have limited bar options, ensure that your appetisers and main course will complement your drink menu. So tailor-make a smart food menu and an even smarter bar menu.
  9. Offer a wholesome main course: Wholesome doesn’t necessarily mean a seven-course meal. There’s a reason why most hosts offer biryani for dinner, or a burrito bowl or pot rices or lasagnas. It’s easier on the host and guest. Multiple dishes mean more cooking time and effort; and confusing the guest on what to eat, which can lead to more food wastage. It’s best to stick to a single cuisine and focusing energies on one or two dishes.
  10. Plan ahead: You want to serve fresh and hot food at your little shindig, but that doesn’t mean you need to cook throughout your party. Garnishes and sauces can be prepared the previous day, and you can put the dish together a few hours before the party. Either leave the food in the wok or saucepan that you have cooked it in, so that you can quickly heat it on the stove and transfer it into the serving dish. Else, store the food in microwavable containers so that you can quickly heat and serve. Even desserts can be made the previous day.

    Photograph courtesy: Shutterstock


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