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Party time!

Party is all about entertaining family and friends with good food, great company and a lot of camaraderie. Entertaining does not come easily to all of us. It is a skill that has to be acquired, a skill that has to be honed with some effort, patience and good will. But don’t worry it is not all that difficult either.

The word ‘party’ can have two reactions: excitement and nervousness! I have entertained my family and friends on many occasions at home. Yes, even I used to be nervous but experience is a good teacher! Planning a party calls for some dedicated action. When you are entertaining friends and family you want to give them the best of food and fun. Food is all important and everyone desires to serve something different, something that will be talked about and appreciated. 

You can throw a great party too
Some people are quite comfortable throwing parties and they do this so easily because they follow their instincts. It could be in deciding the invitees, the theme, or the menu, or how to set the table or the garnishes to decorate the dishes with. It seems as if they were born to throw parties. So successful and enjoyable are their parties, that even the who’s who vie to be invited to their parties.

Those who want to throw a grand party and don’t know how to go about it, do not despair. All you need to do is follow some steps that will not only help you throw a great party but also enjoy your party. I am saying this because some people get so stressed doing all the preparations that by the time the actual party starts they are too exhausted to enjoy. 

Food to remember
Guests always look forward to be served food that they will remember for several days. So while planning the menu combine simple dishes with complex, dark coloured with light coloured, sharp flavoured with something milder. It would also be advisable to plan dishes that can be cooked in advance and warmed up just before serving without any harm done to their appearance, texture or taste. And yes, do not plan too many dishes for that will leave your guests puzzling over what to serve themselves with. Once the food is under control, you can comfortably divert your attention to the décor. Here again keep everything simple and pleasing to the eye. Remember simplicity is the key.

----> Finger Foods

I am sure with these suggestions you will be able to have your friends over whenever it suits you and more importantly suits them. So go ahead have a great party that will be remembered for days after.

 

----> The Party Food Cookbook

Party Planning

Let me tell you that an impromptu party that can be arranged with the blink of an eye is more enjoyable than the parties that take weeks of planning and arranging. Here let me tell you that your guests would feel more comfortable if you are there with them throughout rather than spending the entire time in the kitchen. So yes, planning is essential right from the list of invitees, sending out the invitations, to the menu, shopping, setting and décor.

Party is an occasion to enjoy so it is important that your guests should comprise of a motley of friends who feel comfortable in each other’s company and also have common interests. This makes conversation easy and flowing.

Budget is an important consideration. You too will feel comfortable if you manage to plan your party around an affordable budget. Though the budget can be extended somewhat but not too much. Mostly it is food that could overshoot the budget so plan your menu around things that are seasonal and inexpensive rather than something that is out-of-season and therefore expensive.

How to organize a party at short notice!

We have heard about parties that are planned and put in place weeks in advance. We have also heard of some great parties that are planned and executed almost instantly! What is reason for the success of these quick fix parties?

Know the reason - The host knows the reason (obviously!) so can plan the theme accordingly. The host also knows the likes and dislikes of the invitees so can plan the menu accordingly. If it is a Diwali party (which sometimes happens even after Diwali is long gone and over!) see to it that light, low fat snacks are served. Go slow on the sweets and desserts as the festival time would have meant indulgence in sweets and savouries for many!

Prepare the space - If the space or the rooms in the house are cleaned up and crockery and glasses set out then there is no last minute stress to set things up. Disposables can be bought provided the numbers expected are large. The kitchen work can happen simultaneously.

Be open to out sourcing - Purchase the savouries or starters or put them together using easy ingredients. Small appetizers are a hit anytime.

Cook for your guests - The best options that can be served up quickly are fragrant pulaos with raita and papads (roll them up or fold into triangles) or chicken/mutton stew with garlic bread. If time permits, chole bhature is another fantastic offering.

 

My book – Party Book

This book is an effort to help you cook for your family and friends and impress them with some exotic, some contemporary meals and snacks. In fact, every party you throw could be a culinary milestone! I have also seen on many occasions that the host and hostess do not really enjoy their own parties. My book is a gentle guideline to those who want to be well organized and enjoy with their friends rather than being stuck in the kitchen during the party. You will come across tips like:

Plan the basics well and that can include the format of the party, whether it is formal or informal, or theme of party. Then make the lists of menus, ingredients, fun activities, décor etc.

Shop for foods and supplies that can be purchased in advance (like staples), those that need to be bought during the week of the party or especially ordered. Keep the purchases of fresh fruits and ice creams for the last minute.

Arrange the furniture so that everyone is within comfortable talking distance. Have sufficient small tables for the guests to rest their glasses.

Once the dishes that need to be served hot are cooked, transfer them into microwavable serving bowls or platters so they can be popped into the microwave just before serving.

Make the art of giving away leftovers classy. Keep clear plastic containers filled up and ready, labelled with name of food, as your guests leave. It is a graceful way of inviting the guests to select what they would like to carry home.

Have a taste of some of the party fare like Mini Tostadas, Summer Tomato Pasta Salad, all time favourite Handi Biryani, Pineapple Mousse. There is a lot more to explore in Party Book. It helps redefine and refine the art of entertaining. 

Savviest party tips ever

Balance out vegetarian and non-vegetarians dishes so that the count is not lopsided (maybe equal number of items). Keep counters at a buffet service separate.

If you have a big party and starters are being served with drinks then you can make one task easy of guests – the task of choosing between vegetarian and non vegetarian items by distinguishing the service people by their jackets.
Announce that loud often.

Keep sensibilities of Indian festivals in mind. Don’t make non-vegetarian food during Navratri and other such occasions. If you can avoid the use of onion and garlic too, that will be appreciated.

Even otherwise, if you are particularly in western part of the country and you have Jains on your guest list, then along with vegetarian food make some items which take care of their sensibilities.

Always keep children in mind. Believe me they are not interested in what you like. Make interesting things as per the likes and dislikes of today’s children, and you will definitely have their attention. And for God’s sake never force children, yours’ or guests’, to eat just to get rid of your responsibility. Let them eat several times, several things, in small quantities. Don’t expect kids to behave like elders, I mean, with maturity at their age.

Keep balance in method of cooking while serving starters with drinks. Shallow fried, stirred, deep fried, baked, grilled/bar-be-qued/tandoori, broiled etc. Let your guests get a choice.

When food is circulated for picking up directly from the platter, keep it in bite size pieces. Keep toothpicks and paper napkins handy and don’t forget to collect soiled ones from the guests or provide for strategically placed presentable lined garbage bins.

Keep hot food hot and chilled foods cold. Employ the modern gadgets that are readily available nowadays. Table top models too are welcomed, and make as much food ‘live’ as possible. Believe me, however much people try to sound like experts in this field, there is no alternative to ‘live’ cooking and food straight from the pan.

Play soft music in the background. Be neutral here too and play soft instrumental unless loud and jazz is required for dancing etc. The conversation should not be hindered as it is one of the objectives of gathering people.

Don’t delay much in serving food after serving starters and drinks. People find it uncomfortable to eat after their normal eating time when hunger pangs are no longer there! Specially when kids are around see to it that food is served at the appropriate time.

The host should never drink or drink minimal to remain hospitable and responsible all the time.

If you have more number of guests on your list than you can adjust at your place in one day, you can continue the party with one more batch the next day-hired equipments can stay, flowers last for two days and most of the food too. It’s economical. 

Pairing drinks with food

If drinks are served, there are certain guidelines which need to be followed:

Give good selection of wines - Red, White and Champagne.

People may say ‘white wine with white meat and red with red meat’. But my recommendation would be select wine according to time of the day, the setting, the company, the weather besides the food. Use the services of a wine connoisseur to decide that for your party, it pays. Unless you are a veteran or well travelled it is difficult to differentiate between off dry Johannesberg Riesling, Savignon Blanc or Beaujolais.

The key is balance. The wine shouldn’t blow the food off the table and the food should not reduce the wine to the role of merely cleansing the palate between bites or courses.

If you are planning to use several wines with a meal, the lightest wine should come first, which usually means white before red. Serve simple, fresh young wines early in the meal, and then follow them with the more complex, older wines. Sweet wines should wait until dessert.

Some foods don’t go well with any wine, like soups or salads in vinegar dressing. You can avoid serving or suggesting wines there.

Spicy food (Indian food may be a strong contender here) can make it difficult to taste the subtleties of wine. Often beer is preferable in such cases. Most popular wine with Indian food is Gewurztraminer, a full bodied white wine. Beaujolais and Bordeaux for red. My friend Debashish serves Savignon Blanc with Hilsa in mustard and other Bengali Fish dishes. Just remember spirit and food don’t go together. Try Chardonnay with South Indian food or even with Dal Makhani…a hotelier friend from Delhi suggests this.

Experience is the best teacher. Think back over past combinations that struck you as particularly apt. Experiment. Don’t be intimidated. Have fun. 

Tips for a kiddie party

A birthday party is a moment of intense excitement for children. Though for the mothers it is a different story!

These days party organizers make things easy. All one has to do is pay the amount and then turn up as guests at their own party. But the fact remains that things done at home with effort make memories.

Whatever be the age group of the child the number of invitees is the first thing to be decided. Then, the venue and then, the menu.

Little kids, 3-4 years, cannot manage paper plates. It is better to provide ones made of stronger material. Also finger foods are easy to serve and manage. You can make simple tricoloured sandwiches, small aloo tikkis (they will love it with ketchup!), cup cakes with fancy faces and serve ice cream in small tubs. Juices in small tetra packs are convenient too.

Older children, 5-10 years, have their own food choices. And they are quite sure of what they want! Ordering a cake from the bakery is a good idea. Rest of the snacks can be made at home, I can suggest mini burgers, frankies, mini pizzas, sandwiches, French Fries, sundaes…they might insist on aerated drinks but it is not be encouraged. You can serve squashes in different colours. Once the menu has been finalized ensure that the shopping for the ingredients is done at least a day before. One day before the party you can actually cut the vegetables or make the chutneys. On the day of the party there is enough to do as it is!

Teens are an entirely different set! First of all they might not want to have a party at home preferring to go out to any favourite fast food joint. But, believe me, it is fun to have your kids’ friends over for a birthday party. It is an ideal way to get to know the group and interact with them. As for food, whatever it may be, ensure there is enough! One can never estimate how much one particular food will be demolished. Teenagers love pizzas, wraps, burgers, sundaes, pasta…and instead of aerated drinks try serving tall glasses of frothy cold coffee with swirls of chocolate sauce.

A birthday party is a time full of fun for both child and mother. I hope these tips are helpful in making it so! 

All night party and how to survive it!

If you plan to drink, ensure that you have had a lot of water to drink at least all through the early evening. It not only helps to keep the system clean, but will also keep the stomach well lined.

Also food at most parties will not see service till at least 11pm. Now imagine if you reach the place hungry, that too from work. So what I would strongly suggest is that reach the venue with a half full stomach. That is, have a small dinner at home and then start out, because if you are not starving, the small spicy ‘avoidable’ will not look tempting surely.

Ok, if drinks are there, small spicy snacks are bound to be there too! It goes without saying. If you are tempted pick up one to peck on but that’s it. They might have come out a deep pan of oil called the kadai and deep fried things are something that can create havoc if ingested through the night.

Ah, cheese on toothpicks! Good stuff because full of protein and protein will keep the cells charged up for dancing. But don’t put Jerry in a tight spot of competition. Cheese also helps to absorb alcohol better.

There are fruit punches and then there are punches that you can create if you mix your drinks. Be aware of what glass you are holding and beware of pranksters who want a chance to serve you with something you have not been having through the evening.

What a wonderful array in full force of food like dal, roti and mutton curry and rice and salads. My plate will have a small roti, the yellow dal if it is there and not the heavy black one and a pile of fresh vegetable salad.

Go for pasta but leave the sweet things alone (the desserts!). Sweets and drinks don’t mix.

Teetotallers should not avoid this column because it is not the drinks that harm it is the food that is dumped in your stomach and can make an all night party into a nightmare for tomorrow. 

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