It is this time of the year when parties happen left and right. In fact, your house may be a ‘favorite’ option for a holiday party venue. I've done my fair share of entertaining, and when I say I don't stress on the day, it only means I've done a lot of planning and preparation ahead of time so I can enjoy my own party. Cramming is the enemy to hassle-free home entertaining. Here's how I avoid too much pressure when doing parties at home.
Create chat groups
Really! You can do a headcount of guests, know their potluck dishes (if it’s a potluck party), inquire if they have any food allergies, aversions or preferences, get to know who's coming early or late (or who isn't) other party-related matters. In fact, these chat groups will be used even after the party when your family or friends begin to share the photos taken during the party.
More importantly, a chat group will allow you to plan a delicious but cost-efficient menu. The food preparation is definitely one of the most stressful aspects of home entertainment. There is a possibility that your set of guests will have diverse food preferences — one is a vegan, and the other one is a carnivore! There may be requests that you might have to grant especially if the guest has medical issues and will need to avoid certain types of food. You may do this a few days before your party date, so you don’t panic come party night. And your guests will surely appreciate your thoughtfulness.
During parties at home, I usually dish out five dishes using the most common proteins — beef, pork, chicken and fish and the fifth has to be a vegetable dish. It may sound extremely tedious to prepare all of them. But the most efficient way of making them is to pre-cook dishes at least the day before your party. In fact, choose dishes that become more delicious when cooked the day before consumption. Caldereta, callos, and menudo are a few recipes you may cook ahead of time. Choose dishes that are big in flavor but easy to make like roast chicken, baked fish, party planning and roasted veggies.
Go for store-bought appetizers as starters
My favorite appetizers include garlic nuts, dinner rolls and butter and potato chips with a dollop of mayo on the side. These are all readily available in the grocery, easy to serve and satisfies the palate and the tummy easily. I know a lot of us wants to serve our guests with homemade specialties, but hey, it won’t hurt to get help from these store-bought snacks.
Do self-service for the booze
My husband, Jake, is usually in charge of the drinks department. He is the one who sets up a big cooler filled up with ice and assorted bottles of beer. He often tells our guests to just dig into the cooler to get their choice of drink. Thar, the guests won’t have to ask our helpers or us to get drinks for them.
The house party set-up can be made days before your event. Assuming you clean your place every day and you have already envisioned the ‘look’ you want for your party, jazzing up your house should be a breeze. You may start taking out your plates, placemats, linens, glasses, and utensils a day ahead of the party. Wash, clean and cover them after they have been dried.
Also, it will be wise to begin positioning your tables and chairs at your desired areas a day ahead, too. If you intend to embellish your tables with cut flowers, you may buy the flowers two to three days ahead and keep them fresh and alive by soaking them in a vase that is half-filled with water.
Hire an extra helper
If you have a budget for a third hand in the kitchen, go ahead and get one. Since we only have one stay-in helper at home, I make it a point to hire an extra helper to help us in party preparations. The rates of these ‘butlers’ for hire range from Php500-Php1,000 for eight hours of work. The prices, of course, depend on the qualifications of these extra helpers. If you get a reliable, dependable and efficient extra helper to help you, I guarantee you a more relaxed party hosting.
Your music will set the mood for your party. An acoustic playlist gives a feeling of warmth and nostalgia. R&B background music pumps up some spirit as you raise your glasses to say, “Cheers.” An instrumental music playlist keeps the mood child and will encourage exciting conversations. A children’s party will have songs that kids can dance and sing along with. It is essential to determine what type of music will best suit your group. Age bracket and personalities of your guests will be your best clues in making your playlist.
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Make a checklist
A lot of party hosts lose sleep over worrying about the success of their forthcoming parties at home. Most of their jitters emanate from the fact that they are not sure if everything is coming into play when it comes to food preparation, guest attendance, and other related home entertaining challenges. The best way to organize your party is through a checklist. Your list will include all the details that you will need to make sure that you do not miss out on any preparations for your home party. We are talking about the party menu all the way to your celebration set-up to entertainment for the guests.
Enjoy the party!
Caren Bayhon-Yrastorza is a former news anchor at ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) and a food writer/stylist/blogger. She delights in whipping up delicious dishes with matching food styling at home and sharing the recipes upon request. You may follow her kitchen adventures at #KitchenOfCarenYrastorza on Instagram.