I love hosting dinner parties. Feeding my friends with homecooked food makes me happy. Many a time, I'm asked by my dinner guests if they can bring along anything, and while I tell them to just bring an empty tummy and healthy appetite, I do, on occasion, get gifted with stuff.
At a recent dinner party with my MG-girls, Yuwee brought macarons from Canele! I love Canele macarons, so I truly appreciated the generous gesture. The macarons are just so perfectly balanced and nuanced that polishing 10 of them off in just 1 sitting doesn't feel quite as sinfully decadent as it should.
Top from left to right: My ultimate fave, Rose (butter cream perfumed with rose
extract); Cookies & Cream, my second favourite; Chocolate Noir (70% Valrhona with
Guanaja chocolate cream)
Bottom from left to right: Yuzu & Yoghurt, loved the fruity zesty undertones;
Feuilletine (66% Valrhona with Caraibe chocolate cream and hazelnut
praline); Fleur de Sel Caramel (artisanal salt with caramel), a little too sweet, methinks.
But, for people that aren't quite in-tune with my peculiar preferences (and inspired by my friend, Wey's post), I'm gonna sidetrack and espound on my personal take on the Do's and Don'ts to bring for a dinner party.
Please do this early. It's only polite to do so. Especially if it's a small party. The hostess will need to know how many guests are coming and consequently, how much food to prepare. And please do turn up if you've indicated that you're turning up. You don't want to leave your hostess hanging.
Allergies & Religious Dietary Restrictions
do inform your hostess, when you RSVP (on time), of any allergies or
religious dietary restrictions. This will avoid any faux pas when you
turn up for dinner, and realize you can only eat the salad.
A Helping Hand
This is so very appreciated especially if
your hostess doesn't have a live-in cleaner. Not helping doesn't necessarily make
you a bad guest, but helping in even the smallest way, like an offer to put away the dishes, is
always appreciated. The most endearing guests I always have over are my MG-girls,
they never fail to help wash up after dinner, I hardly have anything
cleaning to do after they've left!
While foodstuff is welcome, it is particularly contingent on whether you know how many dinner guests there are going to be and whether you know the rest of the dinner guests.. Of course, my particular food preferences are easy for my friends, who've known me for ages. It's incredibly helpful when my friends coordinate to bring desserts and fruits to finish off the dinner. Mok once brought a beautiful platter of fresh fruits for dinner, which were wonderful with the fruity jellies Lainey brought; another time, Emmy made her awesome fruit tarts, which went hand-in-hand with the ice-cream and brownies Leech brought; and our resident fromager Addie, who can't cook or bake to save her life, brought along a bunch of cheese to pair with the wine Aiwei brought. The key here is to coordinate; check with the hostess whether your foodstuff will mesh with the dinner itself, the rest of the dinner guests' preferences and whether what you're bringing is enough for everyone.
A lot of dinner guests love to bring alcohol, but it can be a little tricky, especially if the hostess isn't much of a drinker (unless it's a BYO and you're prepared to finish the bottle at the dinner itself, which solves the problem!). I'll let you in on a little secret: I love moscato and the Hubs loves his single malts. But, because I sometimes cook with wine, the mid-range, new-world chardonnays and cabernet savignons also make useful additions to my pantry collection. Better yet if they are the half-bottle types because we find it a chore to have to finish up the rest of the bottle! The key here is also to check, if in doubt, with your hostess.
Update Jan 2016: having just fallen in love with wine, we appreciate our big bold full-bodied reds, so Margaret River cab savs, Barossa Valley Shirazs, Argentinian Malbecs are always welcome in our home!
Grocery Store Vouchers
I'm myself a practical
gift-giver, so I appreciate most the practical ones. The best of the lot
are grocery store vouchers because everyone will always need to
Kitchenware store vouchers
Vouchers from local specialty kitchenware stores like Tott and Sia Huat are a great idea IF the hostess is a regular cook or baker. But get one that's valid for at least a year, as your hostess may not be in need of any kitchenware. Or have the extra space to store anything else in her kitchen. But, give it a year, and there's bound to be something in her kitchen that needs replacing.
Specialty Foodstore vouchers
Think specialty foodstores, and names like Jones the Grocer or Dean & Deluca will inevitably be thrown up. While they sure stock the most tempting of premium luxury foodstuffs, they are a little overpriced, and more affordable (i.e. value-for-money) options are Toque Gourmet Store at Sime Darby Centre, or The Providore Warehouse at Outram.
Picky appetite or fusspot attitude
Unless the hostess is your BFF, please don't expect her to be your personal chef. She didn't invite you to her home to cater to your every whim or current trending fad diet. Live a little, and let loose the dietary shackles. The aforementioned are, of course, not applicable to religious dietary restrictions or allergies.
Acceptably late is 15-20 minutes, and even so, be
prepared with a legitimate reason and please do inform your hostess (at
least 5 minutes before the scheduled party time) that you're gonna be
late. It's no longer fashionable to make everyone else wait for your
highness to grace them with your presence before they can begin dinner.
It is only courtesy to always check with your hostess if children are allowed at the dinner party. Unless specifically stated that children are invited, or if the hostess has children herself, always err on the side of caution and assume that children aren't invited. Your hostess may be your bestest friend in the whole wide world and love you to bits, but she's not obliged to love your child. And, if your home is like mine, totally child-unfriendly because it's entirely decked out in shades of cream (i.e. extremely stainable), bring your child along at the risk of having to repair/clean/refund/pay for any damage to your friend's home. Ditto for your other half as well.
Everyone's style is different, and what may seem a beautiful heritage piece to you may look totally dated to another. Unless your hostess has mentioned that she was considering purchasing the very same item, please keep the receipt and ensure that the store has a returns policy. Ditto for vouchers from notable homeware furniture stores like Macy's, Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel and Restoration Hardware: they each have polarising styles that may not gel with the hostess' home.
I understand that everyone's got their own set of dinner party etiquette, and some of you may have a different take on what to bring to a dinner party...what's yours?