You don’t need expensive catering to throw the perfect get-together. Dinner party pros and industry experts show you how.
1. KNOW WHERE YOUR FAVOURITE WINES COME FROM
According to Simon Cant, regional manager of Treasury Wine Estates, you can’t go wrong with sticking to a wine varietal that a wine-producing region is best known for. For example, the Coonawarra region in South Australia is particularly famed for its cabernet, while the Marlborough region in New Zealand is great for sauvignon blancs. These wine varietals can be paired easily, the reds going with meat dishes and the whites with pasta or seafood. Do your research and you will be able to get a great bottle without busting the alcohol budget.
2. KEEP COCKTAILS UNCOMPLICATED
When entertaining at home, restaurateur Beppe De Vito and wife Lynn Yeow-De Vito, executive director of integrated communications agency The Ate Group, like to serve guests Prosecco as it is inexpensive, but also helps start the evening on a chic note. To spruce up the Prosecco, simply add peach puree or strawberry puree to get a Bellini or Rossini respectively. If you’re feeling a little more ambitious, build a basic bar with gin, tequila, rum, single malt whisky and vodka – all essentials for classic cocktails. For a failsafe drink, Manhattan Bar’s bar manager Philip Bischoff recommends the refreshing Moscow Mule – easy to make and always popular.
3. BUY YOURSELF TIME WITH SIMPLE APPETISERS
There’s nothing as stressful as scrambling to put all your dishes together minutes before your guests arrive. To give yourself more time in the kitchen, set up a platter of cheeses, olives, salami and crackers – readily available from any butchery or supermarket – for your guests to help themselves. Aun Koh, CEO of the Coriander Leaf Group and Tan Su-Lyn, cofounder of The Ate Group, also like to prepare simple dumplings or croquettes that freeze well beforehand, and then transform them into elegant appetisers by pairing them with another component such as a noodle or a tartare on the day of their dinner parties.
4. START YOUR PREP WORK EARLY
Grace Tan – owner of lifestyle store Tott – and her husband as well as Aun Koh and Tan Su-Lyn, all agree that it’s best to start work on the dinner menu as early as possible. Aun and Su-Lyn vacuum-pack and store dinner-party portions of their favourite slow-cooked dishes – often a pork belly or beef short rib – in the freezer, then match it with whatever ingredients catch their eye at the market closer to the day. Grace relies on her husband’s trusty duck confit recipe, which can be prepared a week in advance. A sous vide machine is a good investment for easy-to-make, restaurant-quality meats. If you don’t have time to make everything from scratch, there’s nothing wrong with turning to good-quality, store-bought dressings, pastes and sauces.
5. SET THE RIGHT MOOD
Lighting is crucial to setting the mood for a dinner party. Grace recommends several sources of light set at various heights – this distributes the light evenly for a soft ambient glow. Tan Kor Woong, marketing assistant at Crate & Barrel Singapore, likes using lanterns and candles for the same effect, with an added benefit of keeping bugs away, especially when dining outdoors. As a final fl ourish, place fresh flowers in a vase to brighten up the dining area.
By Tan Min Yan, Her World, October 2015
Photos: Tan Wei Te
Art Direction: Sharmaine Khor