Menu Planning 101, Part 5


Congratulations! You've decided to host your first dinner party. Don't feel overwhelmed, you can do it if you read through my helpful five-step menu planning crash course. Planning ahead of time is key, so make that grocery list days before your scheduled event. Keep the dishes simple and steer clear from complex, multi-stepped meals. Choose beautiful colors and place importance on presentation. For the last of my helpful menu planning hints, read more


  • It’s always better to have leftovers (you can enjoy them for lunch the next day) than to be faced with FHB-ing (family holding back) because your guests have bigger appetites than you anticipated. On the other hand, you don’t want to grossly overestimate your required quantities either, since no matter how tasty your dishes may be, you don’t want to be eating them twice a day for the next week.
  • Picking a theme will help you narrow down your choices of potential dishes. Feeling Japanese? Start with a miso soup, then move on to either sushi or tempura, serve a seaweed salad as accompaniment, finish with red bean ice cream. In the mood for Italian? Open with antipasti and a fresh-baked Ciabatta loaf, feature a pasta and pair it with a meat/seafood entrée, follow all of that with a salad tossed in oil and vinegar, and end the meal with espresso and biscotti. Choosing a theme helps the menu fall easily into place.

  • Consider your kitchen space and equipment. Have you got enough cooking pans, and of the right size? Do you have enough china, serving dishes/platters, cutlery and glassware without having to wash up between courses? Is your dining table big enough to hold all of your dishes, place settings, and guests? Consider your time availability and flexibility.
  • Finally, stay within your comfort zone. Don't attempt any dish that you are not confident with. Remember it is a party and parties are meant to be fun, so don't get too stressed out and disgruntled. If your steak is a little too well done or the sauce doesn't quite thicken, don't let it spoil your night. These are minor details that will only ruin a party if you let them.
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