Hostessing. Never my favorite topic. But, I find it’s good to write about, because not everyone feels the same way I do. So, this is for my ladies out there who feel the same way about hostessing that I do about Manolo Blahniks: intrigued, excited, and can never get enough.
Since my knowledge on this topic is essentially nonexistence, I have once again enlisted Graye Note’s hostessing wizard, Jennifer Dutcher :)!
Andrea: What’s the first thing that goes through your mind when you find out you are having unexpected dinner guests?
Jennifer: To be honest, when I first find out we are having unexpected dinner guests, my mind reacts in one of two opposite extremes. One way, which is clearly preferred, is with an enthusiastic, “Yay, I love last minute plans…sometimes its easier to host a last minute gathering than something planned!” It is also possible that I react with the opposite extreme, thinking, “Oh, this is so not what I was picturing for our evening tonight.”
I am naturally a planner and don’t always love a change in plan. My favorite things about hostessing at the drop of a hat is it automatically lowers people’s expectations for the whole experience. House not perfectly picked up? No problem! Not a well-coordinated or fancy meal? No one is expecting that! If I had been planning a dinner party for a week, there would be no excuse for toothpaste adorning the bathroom walls 6 feet off the ground. Yes, that really happens, and no, I have no idea how it is possible that my children get it there.
Entertaining at the drop of a hat also provides a great opportunity for a great atmosphere for guests: the “Come on in, you’re like family…see we didn’t prep for you as though you were formal company.” I’ve found many guests love walking into this comfortable atmosphere and appreciate being treated like family. They quickly see that they are getting us in the raw. No show, no fuss, no formality. It sets guests at ease. This is refreshing to others and has been liberating for me at times!
Andrea: What is a go-to meal that we can all have “on deck” in case this happens to us?
Jennifer: I have found a couple of go-to meals that you can have “on deck” to minimize the stress of an unexpected guest. They tend not to be anything glamorous, but they get the job done with minimal fuss.
During the summer, early fall, or anytime really that it’s warm enough to grill, we try to keep the following in the freezer: pre-made hamburger patties, hot dogs, and the rolls to go with them. We also usually have something in the “chips” category in our pantry and fixings for salad in our fridge. So when we have unexpected summer guests, it’s a casual barbecue thrown together with chips and salad or whatever other veggie might be in our fridge. If we’re lucky we might have things to spruce up the meal like bacon or grilled onions to top the burger, or canned meat sauce or sauerkraut for the dogs.
During the winter I will make large batches of sauce and meatballs (or sausage) and freeze them in containers, so that we always have a large supply of sauce with meat. This is an instant protein add to the extra boxes of pasta I keep in the pantry and the couple of bags of green beans I keep in the freezer. Again, certainly not glamorous, but conveying the warm feel of “we’re all family,” which can be more beneficial and successful than a perfectly planned dinner party.
So, there you have it :). An easy strategy from the brilliant Jennifer Dutcher that will help you always be wonderfully prepared for last minute dinner guests! As for me, well, you can drop by unexpectedly anytime you’d like…I’ll be in the Manolo shop at Saks.