Entertaining 101

“Entertaining is all about making guests feel at home in your home!”

…aah the holidays, food, family and fun; also stress, worry and expectations!

Because successful entertaining depends on so much more than just great food, the pressure of doing it all and having it turn out just right can really be over whelming. Therefore, here are a few solutions and suggestions we hope will ease some tension and free-up a little more time for family and friends. I’ve also asked my good friend Chad Gardner, Culinary Artist owner of ‘Dash and a Handful Catering’ for his take on throwing a fabulous party.

No matter what the occasion, we always start with the our 5 Entertaining Solutions to plan the prefect affair

  1. Theme: Whether it’s holiday, a birthday party, an intimate brunch, or backyard BBQ, this step is your jumping off place! For the holidays, it usually a cocktail, dinner or dessert party.
  1. Location:  Space size, accessibility, easy parking, indoor or outdoor, are all critical to the events success!
  1. Date and time: Simply put…time of year will determine whether your event is indoors or out and will be a big determining factor for your menu.
  1. Guest: Once you decide who you really want there and who you must politically invite, the big question will be how many? Intimate cocktail / dinner party or gala /open house blow-out.
  1. Menu: Now you see how it all starts to fall into place. With steps 1-4 thought out, it’s time to design your menu. For the holidays, it’s fun to mix comfort food with a modern day twist. Think color, variety, and yes healthy.

Remember the best parties should awaken all of your senses…don’t forget you have 5 of them! Aromas (scented candles), Visuals (colorful decorations), Touch (soft napkins), Sound (terrific music) and most important of all….TASTE (great foods)!

Taking Time Sooner, Saves Time Later

Prepare as much as you can before; clean lettuce; cut up firm vegetables; marinate and bake what you can; prepare fillings, creams and dips and prepare items to be chilled and make desserts before…you’ll be glad you did!

2 -3 weeks in advance

Invites and Menu

Have a good idea how many people are coming and what you’re serving. A last minute change of one or two people won’t cause chaos if you’re well prepared.

Special Orders

Extra seating, tables, special food, kosher meal, desserts. The earlier the better and give yourself a reminder to call the week before to confirm your order.

1 week in advance

Call to confirm your orders
Select music; if you have the capabilities make a CD so you can put it on and not have to worry about it for several hours.
Confirm guest; we all know those people that wait ‘til the last minute to RSVP.

Decide on center piece and home decor.

3 days – 1 week in advance

If you like to bake, start your ovens. 3 days to a week in advance is a good time for breads and pies. If it’s a week, freeze until the night before. Three days or less refrigerate until the big day.

Day and night before

Chop veggies for crudité and recipes. Celery, carrots, onions…have them all pre-chopped and in baggies ready to go.

Set out serving dishes and platters.

Make sure you have all the ingredients you need to prepare your holiday meal.

Check to make sure you have all the utensils, containers, and equipment you will need.

Make sure your oven is in proper working condition.

Chill drinks; if you are expecting a large number of guest, it helps to have a back-up cooling system. Second refrigerator and / or coolers filled with ice.

Most of all…

Double check, double check, double check

When it comes to Table setting and home décor – this can be a thing of art.
Like an artist painting on a new canvas, choosing the objects, thinking about color, lighting, sitting arrangements and the mood you hope to convey.

Paint your home and table with variety and color. Flowers, seasonal fruits and herbs such as cranberries, pomegranates, pears, and rosemary all work well. Use holly as well as garland to decorate your table and mantle. You can never have to many candles, be creative but always remember candle safety.

For the Height of Entertaining, break up a humdrum table or side buffet by arranging your serving platters at different levels. Stack boxes, books, upside-down bowls or pots hidden under your tablecloth.  Place food platters and baskets at desired heights. Try using cake plates with pedestals for an added flare.

A little pre-planning will help you enjoy more time with your guests. Start by laying out china, flatware and glassware the night before and covering with a cloth or sheet.  Set-up your bar; I always like to do a signature drink like a Peppermint Martini.
Last but certainly not least, Party checklist:

Do you have?
-Serving utensils
-Coffee maker/filters and -cups

Don’t forget:
Trash and recycling bins
Plenty of warm, comfortable seating and a variety of great music; a little jazzy, a little holiday traditional and you can’t go wrong!

Most important remember, no one is prefect and you don’t have to do it all. Following that rule, I ask my friend Chad Gardner, Culinary Artist owner of Dash and a Handful Catering  his take on entertaining.

Q: I always say an event be it for 10 or 100 should always stimulate the 5 senses. Do you follow that rule?

I agree.  In addition, we always strive to achieve an atmosphere that touches the 5 senses.  Anything other than that would be a less than full experience in our opinion… We take great pleasure in providing clients with a total experience, which not only spans all five senses but also includes exemplary professional service… that is friendly and seamless execution from start to finish.

Q: What do you think makes a table special?

It should be intimate yet with a sense of unexpected drama…whether that is accomplished with flowers, colors, patterns, lighting, unusual artifacts (or most likely a combination of these) depends on the style dictated by clients’ wishes.   We recently had clients who wanted a modern twist on Moroccan design for a poolside dinner party.  It was great to pair my menu offerings with a design that was interesting and out of the norm.

Q: What or who inspires your creations?

Random things in life inspire my creations.  It does not necessarily come from food itself.  It could be an artist’s paintings.   One example of that was; I was catering a charity event for 200 guests at a private home in Bel Air.  The staffing was offered the artist loft as a changing and rest area.  There happen to be the artwork of their son-in-law who was an aspiring artist.  I was so taken back and inspired by his artwork; I offered to cater his premiere gallery opening.

I then took photos of his work and paired my food with the art and space of where it was being displayed.  We pulled the various shapes out of the artwork and I created hors d’ oeuvres that were companions to the artists work.  Two artists working together to create an ambiance of total art for the mind and taste sensations.

Wishing you a delicious Holiday Season

Chef Andre

Special thanks to Chad Gardner, Culinary Artist, for his insight

Dash and a Handful Catering
Kitchen & Studio
2100 N Palm Canyon Drive
Suite # 104
Palm Springs, CA. 92262

Chef Andre Carthen a.k.a. the Fit Chef
Kathy Ireland Design Ambassador