Great parties do not just happen! They are the result of careful, detailed planning
Once you decide, throw a party; and decide on your guest list, you then start thinking about style. Older people like sit down dinners preceded by a short reception, middle aged professionals feel more at home with buffet style, younger people go for hot and cold hors d’oeuvre and some even adore wine and cheese parties. All have their advantages and disadvantages therefore you must consider before deciding on the venue.
If you have a large house and enough space, pending on the number of people, you can go with a buffet style, or offer finger foods.
Then comes the time to send invitations, or make calls, or send e-mails. Formal invitations with r s v p compel people to respond quickly and also allow you to specify whether smoking is permitted.
If you are planning a sit down dinner make sure your dining room table is large enough for comfortable eating.
Then you have to decide whether you want to cook, or buy frozen prepared food to reheat, or go to a large grocery store and buy cooked food, or hire a caterer to deliver the food or cook in yourself.
All have their advantages pending on your venue, finances, ability to cook, and time on your hands. Some people just hire a caterer, but not any caterer. Like in every business, there are fine establishments and those that promise a lot but deliver less. Remember you have to choose a reliable company that has been in business for a long time and enjoys a good reputation.
Sit down dinners allow you to plan the food correctly, whereas buffets tend to be messy and people eat too much, often in uncomfortable conditions. Some people prefer to have a few items on the buffet and create food stations for hot food.
If you decide to cook yourself, ask all about your guests likes and dislikes, and food allergies. Here is a menu you can create easily. Some items can be prepared in advance like the soup and the dessert, salad to the extent possible and the dressing. You can buy finger foods or have a few simple dips with thoughtfully chosen vegetables.
• Cream of broccoli soup.
• Herbed roast rack of lamb
• Rosemary-infused roast potatoes, sautéed green and red pepper juliennes. Mesclun salad, sherry vinaigrette
• Assorted cheese, seasonal fruits, nuts and breads
• Grand Marnier-infused fruit salad.
• Coffee or tea
• Mignardises or truffles
Think about renting china, glassware, cutlery and linen, if you do not have enough of any.
Selecting beverages depends very much on your budget. Unless you are a student on an extremely tight budget, do not ask invitees to bring food or beverages.
One 750 ml bottle of wine yields five glasses, and 1/3 of a bottle for each guest for a three- hour party should suffice. For a 4- hour party, increase it to ½ bottle.
For parties, calculate four drinks for a three- hour party and five for four hour, and think about the popularity of liquor. Rye, Scotch and vodka are the most popular, followed by liqueurs, gin, brandy and rum. In the Maritime Provinces, rum is more popular than vodka in Ontario. Quebecois have different drink preferences, as do the inhabitants of the Prairie Provinces.
If you are having a sit down party, decide on a table plan to ensure a good flow of conversation and mix of genders around the table.
It is important to think about a theme if you choose to have one, or decide on flowers to decorate and enliven your apartment or home. Music in another matter that requires your attention and depends much on the guest list you can tape all the music and play t as a background, or if it is a dance party even hire a disc jockey.
You must not indulge too much. Be in control of all your faculties and ensure that no one leaves you place inebriated. The consequences of failing to ensure this can very costly.
For wine and cheese parties, pending on time, calculate 120 grams of cheese per person, baquettes and appropriate crackers, suitable fruits (apples, pears, grapes are most suitable) and some nuts for texture contrast.
Also, decide who will be serving the food if you have a buffet or even a BBQ. You can hire a server or several. Caterers provide service upon request and also purchase beverages for a modest fee. Remember all the extras add up quickly. You must also think of soft drinks for an open bar, whereas a strictly wine or beer parties allow you to bypass liquor altogether. However, make sure to have at least some fruit juices and/or soft drinks for teetotalers and designated drivers.
Planning a party can be fun and a learning experience, but also a disaster.
Some truths about alcohol
• Any amount of alcohol inebriates.
• In general, females tolerate less alcohol.
• Eating a big meal before drinking delays alcohol entering into your bloodstream but does not eliminate the fact that it must be broken down by the liver.
• Alcohol of any type has the same effect.
• Sparkling beverages enter the bloodstream faster than still.
• Switching between types of alcohol may be detrimental to your digestive system. If you must switch say between liquor and beer, enjoy liquor first and then switch to beer.
• Try to stay away from sweet beverages and consume plenty of water between drinks.
• Pace yourself. One glass ( 120 ml) of wine per hour, one standard (350 ml) bottle of beer; 30 ml of spirt is a general rule you can go by.
Article contributed by Hrayr Berberoglu, a Professor Emeritus of Hospitality and Tourism Management specializing in Food and Beverage. Books by H. Berberoglu