Find a person who works in catering and they’ll undoubtedly have an obsession with food and drink. You’re also likely to find a person who’s tuned in to service, loves to create an experience, and who, even after an arduous work day, looks forward to bringing the revelry home to friends and family.
Working as a catering manager alongside these crazy, talented people, I’ve gleaned bits and pieces of mouthwatering menus, dazzling décor ideas, and smart service. It’s certainly knocked my at-home entertaining up a notch or two.
Here are five top hosting tips I’ve learned from chefs, event planners, and stellar hosts.
Don’t worry about having the “right” glass for every drink. Instead, focus on collecting a handful of the basics: champagne flutes, red and white wine, rocks, and martini. For my personal bar, I’ve narrowed it down even further. I prefer to use rocks glasses for martinis (there’s less chance of spilling) and a red wine glass as an all-purpose glass for both types of vino. Pick a cool style and stock at least 4 of whatever you choose, more if you host larger gatherings.
Wine & Water
I’m very protective of my wine, especially if it’s an expensive bottle (and to me, anything over $15.00 is expensive!). I’ve learned over the years to have a couple of options on hand. I keep a basic, tasty, juicy bottle for times when my guests aren’t really interested in the subtleties of the wine. I bring out the more complex bottles when I know my guests will appreciate swirling and sniffing with me.
I also like to set out a self-serve pitcher of water and small bowls of sliced lemons or limes. It’s an easy detail to overlook, but this way, your guests may happily hydrate at their leisure.
A Bite or Two
To keep the stomach grumbles at bay, and because I’m often serving alcoholic libations, I always provide nibbles. Two to three different cheeses such as cheddar, swiss, gouda, and brie are a good start. Crackers, a sliced baguette, dried apricots, and lightly salted almonds make for great accompaniments. Fresh fruit and blanched veggies balance out the spread.
Platters & Plates
I have an array of different platters and bowls. Since I mix and match depending on the type and quantity of food I prepare, I tend to stick with wood, white ceramic or simple patterns. If you want to add some color and panache, invest in some glass, textured, or bold appetizer plates. Be sure to get at least 6.
Don’t Forget …
For some reason, I never have napkins. I’ve been known to cut paper towels into 5 x 5 squares minutes before my guests arrive. Yikes! Take a lesson from me and be sure to keep a healthy stock of beverage napkins in with your paper supplies. Speaking of paper supplies, stock up on toilet paper while you’re at it!
Happy hosting & cheers to your next event!
– Elizabeth Fox, LA-based catering manager & epicurean extraordinaire