Whether you’ve just moved in to your new condo here at Aderra or are a longtime resident, planning a dinner party can be intimidating, but it doesn’t need to be. With a little planning and creativity, and by following the tips below, you can throw a dinner party your guests are sure to remember for years to come.

Let Guests Help

Have you ever noticed how people naturally seem to congregate in the kitchen during a party? Rather than shooing your guests away while you take care of every little detail (and watching in frustration as they slowly trickle back over time), tap into their communal instinct and let them help. In the same way that sharing a meal brings people together, sharing in the preparation of a meal allows both guests and host to bond with one another, and have some fun along the way. And since Aderra kitchens are open to the rest of your condo, you needn’t fear that people will feel cut off from the rest of the party.

If you plan appropriately, the bulk of the work will be done before your guests arrive, but there is always a multitude of little last-minute tasks that all seem to require your attention at the same time. Spooning something here, drizzling another there — these are small tasks that willing guests can handle while you work on perfecting the seasoning of your soup or carving your roast.

Little Details Go a Long Way

The difference between a good dinner party and a great one is how your guests feel when they leave. They should feel special and just a little bit pampered — and believe it or not, you don’t need a huge space (or budget) to make that happen. Good food and music are obviously essential here, but the real magic is in the small details. Handwritten place cards, a chalkboard menu, and fresh flowers on the table are all little touches that, combined, show you’ve put thought and care into creating a beautiful evening for your guests. Small takeaway gifts like freshly baked cookies or homemade preserves are another unexpected way to make sure your guests are thinking fondly about your party long after they’ve left.

What’s Your Signature?

Another way to make your guests feel special (and show off your skills at the same time) is to offer a signature cocktail. To avoid spending the whole night making drinks to order, however, you should choose something that can be made in large batches, like this Minty Moscow Mule Punch. Make use of your breakfast bar to lay your glasses out ahead of time, along with any garnishes, and then simply pour drinks upon request.

This Night is About You, Too

Now that your guests are covered, let’s spend some time ensuring that your evening is enjoyable, too. Some stress is inevitable when hosting a dinner party, but a little planning can go a long way toward ensuring it remains at manageable levels.

Go With What You Know

As much as you may wish to really wow your guests with an impressive sounding dish you read about the day before your party, this is not the time to experiment. Choose dishes you’ve made at least a couple times before so you not only know the steps in advance — and can easily prepare your mise en place ahead of time — but you’re also confident of the final outcome.

Ask About Allergies and Preferences Ahead of Time

The dining landscape has changed significantly in the last several years, and the reality is, at least one person is going to have some kind of dietary restriction. Avoid awkward moments (and hungry guests) by asking about food limitations ahead of time. You don’t need to create separate dishes for every person, but you should make sure there are good options for everyone. Your vegetarian friends may be used to eating only side dishes at dinner parties, but they’ll be sure to appreciate and remember a genuine effort to accommodate them.

Cook Smart

Resist the urge to impress your guests with short order cooking. Not only is making things last minute stressful for you, it also makes serving everyone hot food at the same time nearly impossible. Choose dishes that can be made entirely, or at least partially, ahead of time. Lasagna, for example, is always a crowd-pleaser, and tastes even better the day after it was made. Soups, pasta sauces, and roasted vegetables can all be cooked earlier in the day or even the day before and warmed when it’s time to serve, and salads can be made and left undressed for hours. The more you can do before your guests arrive, the more fun you’ll have, and the less they’ll be concerned over their harried host.

Have we missed any dinner party planning essentials? What are your favorite touches to make an evening extra special? Share with us in the comments section below!