Timing a dinner party is one of the most important skills a host can have, and is also one of the most difficult. Cooking always takes longer than you think it will, talking with your guests is fun and takes you away from what you should be doing in the kitchen, and once you get behind it’s very hard to catch up. I’m certainly not always on time, but I try my best to ensure we eat when I said we would. I don’t like going to someone’s house for dinner, expecting to eat fairly close to the time I arrive, and having to wait…and wait…and wait. I’ve definitely done that to guests, but I really hate doing it. To avoid that fate, I will literally print this out for myself and post it on my kitchen corkboard so I know exactly what I need to be doing when. Without it, I always forget something vital that had to be done at a certain time so everything else could be finished at a certain time….I’m terribly forgetful and have to constantly refer to my timeline to be on time!
I’ll write something longer on how to time your parties, but as an example for now I’m just going to lay out my plan for my upcoming dinner party on Saturday, which starts at 7pm. Unfortunately, the last minute nature of the pasta dish means I won’t get to hang out in the living room much with my guests, but no worries – the kitchen will just become part of the party, and our cocktail hour won’t be a full hour anyway. We’ll just get started with dinner as quickly as possible!
- Make the zucchini appetizer
- Make the herb butter
- Make the soup during the day and refrigerate
- 6pm: Set the table
- 6:45: Slice bread and put in foil to warm up, preheat oven to 400 degrees F
- 7pm: Guests arrive, cocktails and appetizers until 7:45
- Start making pasta and gorgonzola sauce – this will mean I won’t get to visit with the guests at the beginning, but making this ahead just doesn’t sound very smart
- Put bread in the oven
- Warm up soup on the stove
- Put green beans on the sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a little honey
- 7:30: Pasta and green beans go in the oven, make sure soup is warm. Direct everyone towards the table and serve the soup.
- 7:45: Pull everything out of the oven, let rest while finish soup – they will be fine sitting for a few minutes until served!