How to Throw a Dinner Party for 45 People
1. Roommates with opposite work schedules will have difficulties planning large-scale events.
- Neither of us was around for the week's planning, so at least 7 To-Do lists were tacked to the fridge.
-We did our grocery shopping at midnight the night before, after two equally long and stressful workdays. The bottle of wine at dinner got us through a concert in the evening, but by midnight we were both on empty.
-However, it was required of us to put at least 3 good hours of prep cooking in before we could rest. What could have proven to have derailed the party actually turned out to be quite a lot of fun. I announced, grating sweet potatoes in the bathroom sink at 3am, "I'm already convinced we should do this again." Danielle, knee-deep in a pound of spinach, heartily concurred.
2. Arrange all of the evening's cooking, timing the arrival of each dish and the schedule of its baking.
-The 17 dishes served that evening were on a precise schedule. We also knew, with 25 guests scheduled to arrive (of which 20 could be safely predicted) that not everyone would be able to eat everything. We planned the entree arrivals to the minute, ensuring a swift and well-oiled operation. Only one plastic mixing bowl melted on a lit burner. Only one small grease fire.
-We made sure all of the dishes were as edible as possible without the usual "banquet style" plate stuffing. No "all at once" eating meant that people could chat up what they tried and liked. This allowed some anticipation to build between dishes. And kept people from getting a plate of food at 7:30 and not wanting anymore food for the rest of the night. We essentially starved our guests, teased them I suppose, for the entire evening, and it worked.
-We kept portion sizes small, to avoid leftovers, and planned so that our bedrooms (which acted as separate dining rooms) would each get half of the entrees. That way it did not depend on what you like and dislike but where you happened to be sitting. This worked in theory and in practice to some degree but...
-We did not predict 45 people would show up.
3. You'll be cooking all night.
-Even when the cooking finally subsided to a degree at around 9ish (a full 2 hours after we began cooking) I found it nearly impossible to acclimate myself to my own party. I went into Danielle's bedroom first just to see who was about, and discovered everyone was completely shitfaced. Somewhere a dozen bottles of wine, 3 bottles of whiskey, a 12 pack of beer, and one bottle each of rum, gin, vodka, and tequila had evaporated. I stayed for a minute and then said, "I'll come back when I'm drunk. I wonder if Danielle needs help with those stuffed peppers." It took me til about 12:30am to reach the level of drunkenness most guests reached at about 7:45. Hell, Pat was warmed up for the party by 2pm, a full 5 hours before he showed.
4. Invitations should go out early, but not too early.
-We sent out invitations on the Tuesday before, allowing just enough time to take someone's Saturday evening who had a Saturday evening to spare. We missed the people who had already made out-of-town plans, but also snagged a lot of people (THE AUTHOR OF THIS BLOG is notorious for such behavior) who get emails in advance of large events and let them get buried in Life's Inbox.
5. Get some help.
-My friend John heard me griping about the stress of preparations and offered to help. He did maybe three errands at best, but those errands saved us an hour on the day of the party that we did not have.
-Another helpful piece of advice would be to keep a strict start time to only a handful of guests. We both picked a handful of people to tell "It starts right at 6" and told the rest "7ish." This meant that we had a few minutes to enjoy ourselves before the chaos erupted. And it did, when about 20 showed up in the same 10 minute span.
6. Enlist the help of a notorious socialite.
-During the party, I advise that you find two or three individuals who can keep the atmosphere lively while you're in the kitchen. Since it is your party, people will expect you to talk about your apartment, your decorations, your rent, everything. But you will be cooking. At times, people found their way into the kitchen to make chatter, and all I remember from those conversations was that they weren't talking about the acorn squash, which had to be warmed 20 minutes prior to serving. I now know why an MC and a cook have never been confused. Except Chef Raekwon of the Wu-Tang Clan, but then I've never seen him cook anything.
7. Steak is very popular.
-It broke my heart to see the disappointed faces when, after the 2 pounds of strip steak ascended from beef purgatory to cow heaven in less time than it took to construct that metaphor, the Chilean Sea Bass hit the table. "Oh, $20-a-pound fresh Chilean Sea Bass. Fuck that." Those who got to have their fill of it had one of the best (and easiest) dishes we came up with. The sliced strip steak, dangerously tasty, inspired a bloodthirsty rampage. Next time you consider feeding that many people, keep at least thirty pound of ground chuck on hand in case of emergency.
8. Thank your guests.
-It poured like hell, there wasn't enough food, we didn't buy any mixers, the place got cramped (cozy, but cramped), and neither of us did any real "hosting," but we want to say thank you for all the amazing guests who showed. We really truly appreciate it, and had so much fun cooking for all of you that it wouldn't have mattered if five or fifty showed up.