By Devika Pathak
Most of us don't dream of being the hostess with the mostest. Most of us are OK with having a few bottles of wine on hand and a couple of great cooking tips up our sleeves. Most of us have worked hard to manage even that much when it comes to hosting a party at home.
But sometimes... sometimes that wine and those go-to recipes feel a little stale. Sometimes, we want to mix it up.
The last thing you want while hosting a party is to spend the night in the kitchen while the guests uncomfortably ask if they can help you with anything.
And sometimes it's as easy as lighting a few candles. Don't believe us? Believe these expert entertainers who shared their quickest and easiest tips on how to be a good host.
"Honestly my mantra is always about keeping it simple," Says Gauri Devidayal, co-owner, The Table, Mumbai. "Surprisingly, I'm really not as vested in entertaining as one might think and often outsource components that I know other people can do better than me."
Devidayal says the best hosts play to their strengths, and an easy way to figure out where you can shine is by thinking thematically. Forget your tried-and-true table settings.
"If I'm serving an Indian meal, I'll always pull out my silver thalis and cutlery to make that experience feel more authentic and a little bit different that the usual," she says. "You'll see lots of block-printed linens and bouquets of Indian flowers. If I'm doing Western cuisine, then I may focus on more contemporary crockery with lots of lilies."
"I am all about flexibility when it comes to entertaining," says AD Singh, partner in some of India's most unique and exciting culinary ventures (including Olive, Fatty Bao, Guppy by Ai, SodaBottleOpenerWala and Monkey Bar). "If you are set on having a sit-down dinner, but have invited a couple who are notorious for being late, then accept the fact that you may have to start without them. Getting stuck on details will leave you stressed, and in turn, make your guests anxious as well."
As much as I love a good meal, I feel like cocktails are key when it comes to elevating the mood. AD Singh
Singh says suggests giving people options when it comes to the food and drinks—for example, having some seated spaces along with standing space. This could be by the bar or through the use of slim bar tables scattered around.
"My main tip when it comes to entertaining is to have fun. The moment guests see that the host is stressed, you're in for a flop of a night." Try to prep as much as you can in advance (lots of dishes can be made the night before, especially desserts) and use tried and tested recipes where you know exactly how long you need to cook or heat each dish. The last thing you want while hosting a party is to spend the night in the kitchen while the guests uncomfortably ask if they can help you with anything.
Liquor up—but don't forget the non-drinkers
"As much as I love a good meal, I feel like cocktails are key when it comes to elevating the mood," Singh says. "If you can invest in hiring a bartender who knows how to whip up a few classic cocktails, you are sure to have people chatting about their drinks and being a little bit more experimental as opposed to when they are offered straight pours."
I almost never use overhead lights and will switch on all my lamps and light tons of candles to impart a more romantic atmosphere. Aditi Dugar
But non-drinkers deserve as much thought, too. Singh says to be sure to have more options on hand than just water or soda for guests who don't drink; there's a reason mocktails are a thing. And finally, if you're not sure whether your guests drink alcohol or abstain—just ask.
"It's always best to ask your guests about any allergies or preferences when you're inviting them," he says.
Freelance as a florist
Aditi Dugar, owner of Masque Mumbai and the woman behind Sage & Saffron catering, believes the simplest décor is the most interesting. She suggests taking three to four glasses of different shapes and sizes and using them as vases for flowers in a variety of colours.
"I actually did this recently at Masque and I truly believe it's the quickest and easiest decorating tip," Dugar says. "This deceptively simple trick actually looks really beautiful as a centrepiece or table décor."
You can supplement with mundane objects like pebbles, candles and twigs if you want something a bit more unusual but still cheap and easy, she says.
Light it down
"I almost never use overhead lights and will switch on all my lamps and light tons of candles to impart a more romantic atmosphere," Dugar says. "The benefit here is also that you can direct attention where you want it, most often the dinner table. By keeping this area the brightest you are highlighting your food and also helping people appreciate what they are eating."
Go forth and party!