Dinner parties can range from intimate to large, from simple to elaborate, from long-planned or last-minute. Whatever the purpose or plan of the party, a menu will help you prepare thoroughly and relieve unneeded stress from your preparations. You may choose to share your menu with your guests or keep it a surprise. Either way, make sure you talk with your guests beforehand to find out whether they have any allergies or intolerances.
If you are inviting only a few guests, you can tailor the menu to your mutual interests or experiences. Think of meals you may have shared or places you all have visited. This is also your opportunity to try technical recipes or indulge in gourmet ingredients.
Cook a rack of lamb or filet mignon. For a lighter meal, prepare a filet of salmon or tuna steak. Side dishes could include risotto, asparagus, zucchini, garlic mashed potatoes or Brussells sprouts.
Finish the meal with a chocolate mousse or crème brule. Because there are only a few dishes to prepare, an intimate dinner party menu can include time-intensive items because you will not have as many to prepare.
If you are having a lot of people over, don't be afraid to ask for help with the menu. Create a theme for the evening, prepare a main dish and encourage others to bring complementing side dishes.
Prepare a lasagna the day before and keep it in the fridge until an hour or so before the party. Place it in the oven and have it ready to come out just before guests arrive, so they are welcomed to your home with the aroma of a home-cooked meal. Ask everyone to bring coordinating dishes, such as garlic bread, rolls, salad, cooked vegetables or a cold pasta salad.
Other menu ideas might include Mexican food, such as enchiladas, or autumn, with a big pot of stew or chili.
If you having friends over for a casual dinner party, prepare a menu that reflects the informality of the party. Set out chips, vegetables and dips and fruit chunks for people to snack on while they stand around chatting before the meal. Serve dinner that can be eaten with hands or balanced on a lap. Cheeseburgers, sloppy Joes and chicken sandwiches work well for casual meals. Side dishes might include French fries or onion rings. For an exotic meal, try sushi and edamame, which can be eaten with fingers or chopsticks.