As a yacht chef, I learned quickly the importance of being organized and prepared for cooking for a group of people with a specific schedule. It’s sink or swim! Grocery shopping in the Caribbean was challenging on the best of days, and if the yacht was traveling, I never knew if I would even get an opportunity to shop along the way. I had to always be well stocked and have every product needed for my planned menu and some backup plan items as well. Being prepared entailed lots of steps like planning your complete menu, making a complete and comprehensive grocery shopping list by checking all the recipes you plan on making, and then putting together a schedule for the days preceding your event. Being organized and prepared kept me from getting frantic over missing ingredients when I started cooking.
I use this same strategy to this day to plan a dinner party, a holiday dinner, and even for expected visitors staying a few days. I don’t know about you, but I always hope for my meals to be delicious and well planned out, so that I get to enjoy my guests and spend as much time with them having fun rather than having to be in the kitchen the whole time.
With that in mind…
I thought I’d share the schedule, shopping list and menu from my last dinner party. I throw an Annual Winter Dinner Party with Friends, along with a few photos from said party.
Here’s the menu:
Garlic Bread Rubbed with Red Wine
(To celebrate David’s 75th Birthday!)
Coffee or Tea, Aperitifs
This year’s theme was Italian, with an antipasto inspired by a wonderful dinner I had in Cortona, Italy a few years back. I enjoyed the special treats on that antipasto so much, that I scribbled a lot of the items onto several dinner napkins while I tasted and enjoyed. A lot of those items were incorporated in my Antipasto d’Cortona as a menu item for this dinner party. I hope my menu and preparation schedule will give you some helpful ideas.
You’ll notice on the grocery list there are strikethroughs across many items. You will also notice in my schedule that there are multiple shopping dates. The non-perishables and the items that I can slice and dice ahead are usually purchased and then crossed off after the first grocery store run, so that I don’t purchase them twice! I usually have so much going on at once, that my brain sometimes doesn’t remember what I already have in my larder or I already purchased.
So, throw a dinner party, be confident and be the star of the evening and have a blast…
DINNER PARTY PLANNING SCHEDULE
|Order mussels and clams (60 each)||Roast peppers (salad)||Final grocery shop||Cut and marinate avocados and pack into the serving bowl|
|Do preliminary grocery shopping||Make barley salad (to stuff tomatoes for salad)||Chop plum tomatoes (M&C)||Prepare Garlic Bread to bake|
|Clean house||Chop shallots (mussels and clams)||Chop canned tomatoes (M&C)||Get water ready for pasta|
|Defrost meats (Bolognese)||Chop onions (Bolognese)||Slice melon (salad)||Sauté mushrooms|
|Slice fresh garlic (M&C)||Make Bolognese (dinner)||Set table with glassware, bar & buffet|
|Make salad dressing||Rolls meats (salad)||Complete the Rollatini and partial-bake|
|Grate cheese||Mix roasted peppers filling (salad)||Heat Bolognese|
|Make first steps of the cake||Quarter mushroom caps||Go through duties with helper|
|Set up patio||Finish cake, tent & refrigerate||Light candles & turn on background music|
|Tie napkins||Arrange patio and tables||Put ice water & cold Pellegrino on the dinner table|
|Start table setting|
|Pull out necessary bowls and platters|
|Fry eggplant and zucchini (Rollatini)|
|Mix ricotta Filling (Rollatini)|
|Make CD selections for background music|