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To throw a party, you need a plan

By Roz Liston

If the thoughts of entertaining are keeping you awake at night, it’s time to master the simple art of inviting friends and family to your home.

Queens is the most diverse place in the country and probably the planet, so the chance to celebrate holidays from many parts of the world is tempting—and albeit terrifying for some.

The secret to entertaining for both you and your guests is Fail-Safe Preparation right down to which salt and pepper shakers to put on the table. If you plan the event step by step in advance, you will be a free-ranging host or hostess and put your visitors at ease. Make a list of your master plan, which should be updated at every turn.

Remember: This is not about showing off your exotic cooking skills to the invitees. It’s about the people on your list having a great time mingling with the other guests, eating and taking home fond memories of time well spent.

1) Party Prep List

• Date

• Time

• Dinner/Lunch/Breakfast

• Guests

• Allow two weeks if possible

• Text or e-mail invites with RSVP, which should bring prompt responses

2) Sit-down or buffet

• How many place settings

• How much silverware

• How many glasses for wine, water, booze

• Serving dishes, serving pieces

• How many chairs

• Tablecloth, mats

• Flowers or centerpiece

• Wine, beer, liquor, soft drinks

3) Pre-meal

If you’re serving a full meal, don’t overdo the snacks

• Cheese/crackers

• Olives

• Humus

• Nuts

Put a couple of flower stems or fall leaves across the cheese plate for effect,

4) Plan menu

• Choose main dishes that can be made in advance – preferably the day before

• One-dish meals can be quite elegant served with a big salad and different types bread

• Check out websites for recipe suggestions

• Serve a roast, leg of lamb or large bird, which must be pre-cooked early the day of the party

• Keep the sides at a minimum and prepare in advance

5) Get out platters, dishes and serving pieces

• Put a list of all the food you’re serving on the fridge so nothing is forgotten

6) The night before

• Set the table

• Use different plate patterns if you want the table to be dramatic

• Put out serving dishes with notes inside as to what food goes in each

• Mix up napkin patterns—paper is fine. Paper hand towels are great additions.

• Make a simple centerpiece – an old vase with a flower or two, baby pumpkins, a house plant—and use your imagination. Candles add a nice touch

• Salt, pepper, other condiments should be on the table

• Turn the plates upside down or cover the table with plastic or a clean sheet to keep dust from collecting

• Set aside plates for other courses – salad or dessert – as well as mugs, cups for coffee

7) Day of

• Check the menu list on the fridge – status of the menu

• Do the final preparation of the food as early in the day as possible

• Make or buy ice

• Have the coffee machine ready to go

• Put tea on the side

• Check sugar, tea

8) Two hours ahead:

• Take the covering off the table

• Put out plates, little dishes for your snacks

• Choose a spot for the dirty dishes to clear the counters; use rubber tubs if you have

• Take a shower, get dressed

9) One hour ahead:

• Put out the cheese, whatever else you’re serving for the first course

• Final touches on the main meal – heating, cooling

• Check the menu list on the fridge for any omissions

10) Guests arrive:

• Enlist a friend or family member to help you get food into the serving dishes

• Match the food with the notes inside

• Bring food to the table

• Make a final check of the menu list of the fridge

• Hint: Serve your guests whether buffet style or a sit-down meal – it speeds up the process before the food gets cold

• Sit back and enjoy yourself – this is your party and you should have fun, too.

• Let guests help you clear the table for the next course

• If you get lucky, they may stick around and help with the dishes

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