Monday, 22 February 2010

Dinner party dilemmas - sometimes the best invitation is a reservation

Are you one of those people who love the idea of entertaining but stress out with the reality of actually doing it? It is, after all, an exercise in planning, lots of work and, not least of all, you are psychologically baring your culinary soul and exposing your personal interpretation of style. Of course you will also be fretting over whether your guests will get along together, plus all the other house and home related items that you will need to tick off, such as oven space, timing etc. No wonder we sometimes want to give it all a miss!

All this will be running through your mind before you even give a thought to whether the wine you serve will turn the fruits of your kitchen labour into a heavenly match or render your repast a sour discordant hotch-potch. The right wine to accompany your food, even a burnt offering (better bring the brandy out for this one), can really enhance the pleasure and taste of the dish, whether it be a simple pasta supper or cuisine that is more haute style.

Entertaining at home can be great fun, and is certainly a warm and wonderful way to spend quality time with friends. It is, after all, opening up your heart (and inevitably your purse), not just your home.

Anyway, enough chat.....get cooking. Actually, first things first, get planning. In our opinion there is nothing worse as a guest than to be sat at table whilst your host (read hostess most frequently!), constantly jumps up and down in the vain effort to be everything to everyone. Relax: you are not a restaurant, your guests want your company, that’s why they are there. So here are a few guidelines to make it simple and memorable.

1. PPPPP, that’s right five P’s. Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance. This can be applied to all sorts of things in life, but don’t get carried away, serendipity still has a part to play. So, sit down, glass of wine in hand (come on, the whole process should be exciting and enjoyable), and write not just the shopping list, but also a detailed plan of action. Imagine how your recipes will taste and what wine will complement the epicurean extravaganza you will produce to astound your guests.

2. Keep it simple and use quality ingredients. Make just one fantastic dish, either preceded by drinks and canapés, or followed by a couple of distinctive and well kept cheeses. We feel champagne or sparkling wine are a sure way to put guests in the party mood. Prosecco makes a fine aperitif with savoury nibbles – try Majestic's Prosecco La Marca Extra Dry NV, £7.99 if you buy two or more bottles. However if, in your opinion, only Champagne will do, check out to find out if your favourite bubbles are on offer somewhere on the High Street, - the big names usually are. If you're looking for a smart Champagne without paying the premium for a grande marque, then search out good value alternatives such as Bredon Brut NV. It's made for Waitrose, but has no mention of a supermarket on the label and is just under £20 a bottle. Alternatively, you can never go wrong with white Burgundy, and the delicious Rully 2008 from Jean-Baptiste Ponsot combines a nutty savouriness with a touch of lime. From our Dinner Party Selection.

3. It is always a good idea to stick to a theme. For example, if the main course is of Italian influence, such as lasagne, or osso buco, then the cheeses should follow suit. A deliciously ripe Gorgonzola or Dolcelatte, contrasted with a hard cheese such as the classic Parmigiano served with figs or other small fruits, fresh or dried: Bella, bella, bella! Our cheese-friendly wine suggestion is Salentein Reserve Pinot Noir 2007, from Argentina. Brace yourself for the bouquet, this is a trendy purple Argentine 15% proof cracker. It has a suave nuttiness and will seduce you with its mellow latin charm. Also part of our Dinner Party selection.

4. Put the wine on the table - and tell everyone to help themselves. That is unless you have splashed out for “staff”! Forget doing the topping up yourself, no-one wants to see you madly jumping up and down like the proverbial Jack-in-the-box: we all drink at different rates and need to feel comfortable with our consumption. (One assumes that nowadays taxis home are a pre-requisite). And remember that, while you might have selected just the right red wine to complement your duck cassoulet, guests will have their own preference for red or white, so make sure you always have both on offer.

5. Be generous. Your gesture and effort will be appreciated and will no doubt open doors literally and figuratively. You will feel good and your guests will feel treasured by your hospitality.

6. Don’t Panic – actually a bit of stage-fright nerves isn’t a bad thing, it shows you are concentrating and caring. But if it is all just too much, Get Help! The Red White and Rosé Wine Events team can solve your problems from the viniculous to the sublime.

If you love the idea of entertaining at home, but would rather not face all the planning, cooking and wine sourcing (not to mention the washing-up afterwards!), then our wine and dine service could be for you. Details are on our website:

If you love to cook, but find the wine selection a chore, then our Dinner Party wine case could be just what you need. Two bottles each of three tried and trusted wines to suit most occasions, along with tasting notes and food matching suggestions. Delivered free in and around Guildford for £74.99. More information and online ordering at:

Finally, remember that not everyone is good at everything: you may be a rocket scientist, but that doesn’t necessarily make you a decent cook! Restaurants are sometimes the perfect solution.

Bon Appétit!

No comments:

Post a Comment