A question for you "experienced" entertainers, pls
  Re: (...)
So, when does this get easy?
When can I expect to finally find myself relaxing and enjoying my company rather than obsessing about every little detail?

Quick history. Although I enjoy cooking, I have mostly entertained for one other couple. Four for dinner, I can handle it. But gradually we have widened our circle of friends and I now find myself entertaining at least three or four other couples. We have a vacation home on a lake and last weekend had others join us. Which is why I've been absent for a while. Planning and executing the menus took a lot of time. Seven for Saturday lunch, nine for a boat ride (with food and drink), eleven at dinner, six for brunch the next morning. I enjoyed it, really I did. I made a wonderful menu for each meal, everyone was so complimentary and appreciative. I did as much as I could ahead of time, and had a few guests bring "easy" things (cheese spread, bagels, salad, etc.).

But the entire time flew by in an instant. I remember peices of conversations, but I mostly remember getting the meals together, clearing the table, loading the dishwasher. My guests are wonderful and offered many times to pitch in. Sometimes I said okay, others I shooed them back to the party. The kitchen, dining room, and living room are open to each other, so I was physically there the whole time, but mentally...

And I forgot things. To put out hand towels in the guest bath upstairs. To light some of the candles. And some other smallish things. Nothing big, like the entree, but I really need to follow a more complete checklist. Even though I thought it was complete, at the time.

Now is possible to execute such an event and relax and enjoy at the same time? Has anyone accomplished this? In previous years I have had large gatherings, Christmas buffets for 20-24 in 1999 and 2004, and felt the same way. But now I think that I want to do this more often. It's satisfying some sort of need in me and I feel good doing it (although thoroughly exhausted for a couple of days afterward).

Any tips, tricks, advice? I make lists, lists, lists (have to get those guest towels and "light ALL candles" on it, though) and try to be organized. But I also want to be able to have fun. And put on an impressive party at the same time. Impossible???

my cooking adventures
  Re: A question for you "experienced" entertainers, pls by foodfiend (So, when does this g...)
I find that breaking everything out into an alotted time spot helps me some, but I still have tension. My list would say, 3:00 chill wine, 5:00 light candles, 6:30 put on music. It does help, which I'm sure you know...however, entertaining/being a hostess is a stressful job. It can be fun too, but I think when we try to make everything perfect, it puts a certain amount of stress on us. I know my friends/family don't expect me to be perfect, but I expect me to be perfect! LOL
Loving every moment of my life!!
  Re: Re: A question for you "experienced" entertainers, pls by Bizymomma (I find that breaking...)
I make lists and check things off. Otherwise, I forget somethat that will bug me forever. However, I'm the only person who notices and it really doesn't matter in the big picture! I just stress myself.

My mother has dinner parties regularly for groups of 12-14. For a good while, she did them all herself and found that she and my dad were in the kitchen and away from the guests too much. She does all of her cooking and preparations. Then, she makes a list of what needs to be done and at what time. She even lists when things must be heated and in which ovens or stovetop etc... Then my sister and I come over and follow all of her directions, plate the meals, serve them and pick them up. Don't know if you have someone to help you or can hire someone to do so, but it's made a big difference to my parents. They are finally enjoying the parties much more and actually getting to visit with their guests almost the entire time.

BUT, when I do it myself, I just have to stick to my own lists.
  Re: Re: A question for you "experienced" entertainers, pls by Calliope (I make lists and che...)
When we have family and friends I do what I can the day before and my daughter does the rest.

When we have Conf./weddings (50-100) I do a Run Sheet with Everything on it. It is a great help to have the tables clothed and set the previous day. But with your events crowding in on each other you wouldn't have been able to do that. Also the use of the lovely upmarket disposable table/glass? ware available now is a huge help in clearing etc. especially with the less formal things like bbq. I also use disposably table cloths and napkins sometimes. Depending on the event. You can get disp. napkins now that unfold with one movement into pretty starbursts and so on, and they are cheaper than sending napkins off to the laundry.
  Re: A question for you "experienced" entertainers, pls by foodfiend (So, when does this g...)

I've worked in the catering /cafe/dining room business for the last 10 years, but I have to admit, I still have my problems at home. I gave my parents a 50th this summer, (100pp) and did everything myself. I never got a chance to talk to anyone, I was so busy I forgot the guest book. I think I'm a fairly organized person, but I need to learn how to share the load. Next time, I'll delegate tasks. The party flew by for me, as it did for you, and I remember only snippets of conversations. And now it's all over, and my memories are of replenishing food and drink and dishes and trash and blah blah blah, and not of the guests or even the guests of honor.

Get help and delegate!

  Re: Re: A question for you "experienced" entertainers, pls by pjcooks (Foodfiend,[br][br]I'...)
I agree on so many points here.

Lists and details are a must.
Delegate to others, while not easy, is a must.

I love appys and give parties many times with all appetizers. While that type of party is more work, I believe folks enjoy it more. It also promotes more "flow and conversation."

I believe the most eventful and successful party is based on "core" recipes. Those require practice to get the "logic" down. So this is what I do.

Every week I try to have one night where I make a new recipe geared for just appys. DH and I enjoy this...so it is no big deal. Every Friday is also a casual night...so more chances to try something new.

When I "practice at home" there is no pressure. We evaluate the recipe and "file it away" for later. I think the more familiar we are with a recipe the less stress and greater the success. It works for me!

My last party was for 40 and no "snags." I will have another "biggie" soon (party of ~ 60) and will try out a few "new" recipes soon to apply to that celebration.

Large dinners are pretty much the same approach.

I hope this helps.
  Re: Re: A question for you "experienced" entertainers, pls by dollop (I agree on so many p...)
CRAPPOLA !!! It just happened to me. A long post that was no longer valid !!! I'll write it again in a bit. I'm too frustrated now.

Please spay and neuter your pets.
  Re: Re: A question for you "experienced" entertainers, pls by Half_Baked (CRAPPOLA !!! It jus...)
Oh Jan, that is so frustrating - a happening guarantied to bring on a hot flash in me...

"I think the more familiar we are with a recipe the less stress and greater the success."

Being familiar with the dishes you are serving and time/experience are the two most important, imo.

But, it certainly helps to let guests help with cleanup or, if you have a 'secret' place you can stash the dirties and clean up the next day. When I ask guests to help out in this area, I also ALWAYS ask them to PLEASE not try to put anything away...I'd be searching for weeks for a favorite utensil!

Rereading what I just typed, I must admit this is a case of "do what I say, not as I do"... While the majority of courses I serve I have tried previously, most times I have one course that I'm not familiar with - something I've just wanted to make - but the balance are dishes I've done before. And then, again, a lot of times I just do a "tasting" dinner where everyone knows ahead of time I've not tried the dishes before. (well, another post getting so convoluted, I should have stopped while I was ahead.)
Retired and having fun writing cookbooks, tasting wine and sharing recipes with all my friends.
  Re: Re: A question for you "experienced" entertainers, pls by cjs (Oh Jan, that is so f...)
LOL cjs, I know what you mean! I wanted to add a few things, re-read my post, and deleted a whole section.

A group of us do tasting dinners, too. It gives family and friends a chance to try new recipes. We usually have 3 or 4 dinners a year. We trade off houses and everyone who participates will bring a couple new recipes. Then we take small plates and judge! It's as close to a "dinner group" as I have gotten. We all bring copies of the recipes and it is fun!
  Re: Re: A question for you "experienced" entertainers, pls by dollop (LOL cjs, I know wha...)
I'm not taking a chance now...I'm typing on WordPad.

Synopsis: With my ex, we entained many times a month. If the group was 30+ people, I'd make dinner since it is so much easier than making so many appys (mainly because I made too many). I also found that if I made cheese logs/balls, cheese board, caviar pie, crab/artichoke dip, fondue....I only had to make 1/2 of the 'special' appys since people wouldn't eat as much if they had to make their own. All the individually made appys would be gone but there were others were left to snack on. When I made hot and individual appys, I was in the kitchen alllll the time. I wanted to make friends/employees happy but I didn't want to spend the whole time working.

Heck, I accepted help, and my friends would just start cleaning up. Emptying the garbage was great help. I could seat 12 at my table so anymore than that, we used plastic plates and glassware. In this house I don't even have a dining room and it is he**. We have a large eat in kitchen but there is no space for 3/4 of our 'stuff' that is in storage. I have buffets because the kitchen table only seats 6.

I found the best little helper at the Inner Harbor Bookstore. It was a tablet with sheets of party papers. Not only did it help plan the party by giving you a time and grocery list but it was great for after the party, too. You filled in the blanks with how much ice was used. How much beer, scotch, vodka, boubon, punch, soft drinks was used...what you served and if you made too much. It had a place to list the invitees so you didn't serve the same thing to them over and over. It was wonderful. Lorraine if you get to the Inner Harbor before I do, will you see if they still have these. I'd love to have another tablet.

Also, list which food/appy goes in which dish with what serving spoon or knife. I've stood there with a pan of hot appys and wonder what in the world I'm going to put on it.

I know mine's convoluted...

The reason I use appys is because I can't spell hors d'oeuves correctly all the time.

Please spay and neuter your pets.

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