“I try to greet my friends with a drink in my hand, a warm smile on my face and great music in the background, because that’s what gets a dinner party off to a fun start.”

– Ina Garten, famous and beloved cook

Hosting a gourmet dinner party allows you to socialize with friends, family and acquaintances with style. It’s exciting and fun to put together your own dinner party, reflecting your interests and the season. There’s nothing like providing people with fresh, delicious fare that is beautifully presented, to make them feel welcomed and appreciated. Here are five essentials to hosting a gourmet dinner party that your guests will enjoy:

1. Choose a Dinner Theme and Decor

Consider a theme for your dinner party. This theme could be tied into a culinary specialty like Catalan food, a holiday like Mardi Gras or Valentine’s Day, a special event like a book launch or anniversary, or a theme you created. In choosing a theme, make sure you can provide complimentary culinary experience with enough familiar food that your guests will feel comfortable along with any special unknown entrees. 

You can look for inspiration online, at HGTV, Better Homes & Gardens, Epicurious and other websites geared towards culinary experiences. Pinterest is also useful for seeing decor and layout suggestions from how to use dishes to setting place cards, using centerpieces and candelabras to assemble a distinctive dinner table presentation that is unique to you and memorable.

In fact, the way that you decorate your living space, most notably your dinner table, will set the tone for the evening. The dinner table creates the ambience of the night’s event. Use high quality silverware, glasses, tablecloths and cloth napkins. Include decorations and centerpieces with flowers and herbs, accompanied by votive candles or tapered candles. If your dinner table is outside, you can have additional outdoor lighting and lanterns along garden paths and on the porch to welcome your guests. Have fun doing this. Choose a style that works best for you and aim to provide a high-quality experience of that style throughout your guest’s dinner experience.

2.  Enjoy the Season

Every season has its own special culinary delights from the ripeness and availability of certain fruits and vegetables to popular dishes that your guests may be familiar with. Have fun with this, adding seasonal ingredients as best as possible. If you have a garden, you can also add your own homegrown fruits, vegetables and flowers to thedinner menu or presentation. Savor in-season delicacies from truffles to artichokes. Buy locally grown, fresh produce and enjoy the season!

3. Keep Courses Distinct

Keep your guests intrigued and appetites whetted with distinct courses. For example, a traditional French dinner has nine courses no less! This ranges from a cold hors d’oeuvre to soup, fish or seafood, the entrée, cold dish or salad, cheese, dessert, fruit, and coffee. As the host or hostess, you can decide how many courses you want to serve. For example, you can stick to the essentials: an appetizer, entrée and dessert. Make sure that each course is distinct and memorable, with different flavors.

4. Have Music Playing

Choose a music playlist ahead of the event and have music playing before guests arrive. Music creates an immediate ambience. You can put the music at a volume that is loud enough to hear but does not overpower conversation. You can also request that your guests turn off their cell phones during the actual dinner event to encourage participation and sharing.

5. Stay in Touch

Some of your guests may have been considerate enough to bring you a gift. Be sure to thank them with handwritten notes saying thank you, ideally three days after the event. You can also stay in touch with all the guests who attended your event by email or an old-fashioned, friendly “thank you for coming” card. You can also invite them to your next event if you will be having one!

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