Get a Head Start
Depending on how elaborate the party, start planning early. Here’s a sample timeline:
• Six to eight weeks before: Plan party’s theme, activities, and music; send invitations; hire any entertainer and/or caterer.
• Two to three weeks before: Order non perishable supplies and decorations; hire helpers.
• One week before: Call guests who have not RSVP’d; confirm entertainer, caterer, and helpers.
• Two to three days before: Buy groceries; make any dishes that can be prepared and frozen; begin cleaning the house.
• The day before: Thaw frozen foods; finish house cleaning; decorate party space and set up party table(s) and utensils.
• Party day: Complete food preparation; do a final check of the party space, bar, and kitchen; give yourself plenty of time to get ready; take a deep breath and enjoy!
I don’t know how much food to get?
Want to see party guests start gathering their coats in unison?
Just run out of food or drinks and see how long the festivities continue. Fortunately, there are time-tested guidelines. Here are the basics:
Overall amount of food: 70 grams per person for a meal; about 45 grams per person for a cocktail party.
Hors d’oeuvres: six pieces per person for a dinner party; twelve pieces per person for a cocktail party (or four to six pieces per person per hour)
Alcohol: Plan on two drinks per person per hour for the first two hours; half that amount afterward. A 750-milliliter bottle of spirits (vodka, rum, scotch, etc.) contains about sixteen (45-milliliter) shots; a 750-milliliter bottle of wine yields about five glasses.
The food ran out before the party was over
Experienced party planners keep extra hors d’oeuvres in the freezer for such moments.
If that’s not an option, have someone slip out to the nearest supermarket. Most stock trays of prepared vegetables, dips, cheeses, and cold cuts.
If they don’t, here is a shopping list for a dozen hungry grazers:
500 grams sliced Genoa salami
500 grams sliced smoked ham or turkey
1 kilogram Swiss or American cheese
1 jar spicy mustard
2 boxes crackers
2 loaves French bread or baguettes
1 jar green olives
1 large bag bite-size peeled carrots
2 small baskets cherry or grape tomatoes
1 large bunch grapes
500 grams dried apricots
I’m having a get-together I didn’t know I was having
The phone rings, and suddenly eight people will be showing up in your living room in an hour. Not to panic. Here’s a formula for throwing an instant party:
Set the mood: Light some candles and pick out a few back-ground-music CDs.
Take an inventory of what’s in your refrigerator and pantry and let your ingenuity run wild.
If you run out of inspiration, try a food Web site, such as epicurious.com. Don’t get too fancy.
If you’ve got some potatoes and toppings (cheese, bacon, chives, sour cream, etc.), you’ve got the makings of a fun party center-piece – a mashed-potato bar.
If the cupboard (or liquor cabinet) is truly bare, you’ll have to make a quick run to the supermarket, but let your guests pitch in, too.
Turn the party into a participatory potluck affair by asking your guests to bring their own bottle or pick up a food item on the way to your place.