I love to host parties at home. The idea of friends getting together to celebrate an occasion, having a games night, theme parties or potluck is always appealing. However, most of the times, I stress out when I try and come to grips with all that needs to get done. Need to cook food from scratch, prepare the drinks, decorate immaculately, make sure the house is in perfect order, music is sorted etc. etc. Quite a few times, I have landed up in trouble, having too much on my plate and almost messing up things in that process. That wasn’t fun! Over the years, I have become better and more organized and the stress levels have gone down for sure, though Sunil has started stressing out on seeing me so calm and that too on the party day! I knew there had to be a better way of doing things. A working formula maybe. So before and after each party, I started making notes of what works and what doesn’t – my 80/20 rule..so here it is – A checklist of top 10 things to remember and do to organize and have a great party.
1. Get Organized: This is the most important one. A little planning really goes a long way. Prepare a master to-do list highlighting every task that must be accomplished, a shopping list that ensures you won’t forget any supplies, and an all-important guest list where you track contact information, dietary restrictions and RSVPs. All hail the mighty EXCEL sheet. Give yourself at least a week’s time to organise everything from the invites, menu, shopping lists, favors, planning ambience etc.

2. Think of a Theme: I love themes as they are more exciting and keep the party energy quotient high. Backyard barbecue, game night get togethers, retro glam, 80′s rewind, mad hatter party, all could turn a simple party to a more festive celebration. Let your guests know in advance, so that they can also join into throwing some ideas and also prepare for it.

3. Add your Personal Touch: I love to pay attention to the small details. A vintage mason jar filled with fresh flowers as a centerpiece, boil some herbs to release their natural scents just before the evening and remove any unwanted smell from the kitchen, also make a small bouquet garni and place them in small glasses on the table, mix and match cutlery to add some character to the table setting. The list is endless and there is totally a personal choice. The guests do appreciate these small details.

4. Get the Music sorted in advance: You don’t want to go through your music collection after the guests have arrived. Try and make few playlists on your Ipod or online music platforms like grooveshark and play them according to the mood and theme of the party. Keep them updated so that the music is already done for all your future parties.

5. Share Serving Pieces and AccessoriesMost of us live in apartments and don’t have space to store huge serving bowls, trays, cutlery, pitchers etc. It might be a good idea to borrow from friends, and lend to your friends when your turn comes, any salad bowls, wooden platters or pitchers which are essential for a party. You could of course hire them from a catering company but I always feel they are just too commercial and don’t have that personal touch.

6. Bar Essentials: We all dream of having the prefect bar at home but most of us just have a small area in the living room filled with our favorite aperitifs, liquors, wines, mixers along with some basic bar tools. My favorite thing for a party is to have 2-3 big pitchers filled with different kinds of cocktails, prepared before the party and all you have to do in the end is add some ice, garnishes or soda. Another option is to make Sangria which is always appreciated and so easy to make. Make it the night before, keep it in the fridge and add soda just before serving. Great option, if you are falling short of quantities, you could just add little more soda in the end and it would still be tasty. Stock more wine bottles than you think you would require.

7. Involve guests in the kitchen: Don’t hesitate to accept any help offered by guests in the kitchen. They love to help out and it also acts as an ice breaker. It is engaging, at the same time less stressful for the host which definitely helps as you could spend some fun time entertaining them instead of locking yourself in the kitchen.

8.  Lots of Appetizers and keep them Simple: Consider serving dinner-by-the-bite with trays of mouthwatering hors d’oeuvres in lieu of a sit-down meal. This less-formal approach allows guests to sample lots of different flavors and provides more opportunities to mingle with other guests. I love to set up few ‘Do It Yourself’ crostinis and bruschettas on a wooden board at various places in the room to create interest. I simply love them..I actually use them to showcase the seasonal produce or any favorite vegetable, fruit, cheese or toppings. I am sharing few of my favorite ones today which are always a hit at my party and they look so gorgeous! Always a topic of conversation. These could be prepared before hand..just make enough as these always get over very fast. Be innovative, think of the endless options and then share with me also pls:)

9. The Food: I know, we all like to show-off our cooking skills but when there are many people coming over, stick to your tried and tested recipes and don’t try everything new on that day. May be 1-2 new dishes are good. This will reduce stress and also in case, something goes horribly wrong, there are few dishes already to count on. If you are having an extensive menu, finish off as much as you can the day before the party, especially the desserts, sauces, dressings, chopping, drinks to an extent and of course grocery shopping.

10. Don’t Forget the Favors: A small token of affection is an unforgettable way to end a celebration. Pretty boxes with candies or homemade baked goods are personal and sure to be much appreciated by your guests. Small terra-cotta pots with herbs and flowers are super affordable and even double as a table centerpiece during the party.

So I hope, next time when you host a party, you would be more relaxed and enjoy the evening yourself. This should inspire you to have more parties and eventually you would master the trade. Happy Planning and Happy Celebrating!

Four Stunning Bruschettas for a Great Party
For the Fig and Prosciutto Bruschetta
1 Fresh Fig per bruschetta
1-2 slices of best quality Prosciutto
Fresh mint or mini salad leaves
Toasted slice of your favorite bread
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
Brush both sides of the bread with some olive oil and toast them on a grill or toast under the broiler until light golden brown on each side. Tear the figs in half, then drape a piece of prosciutto over each of your hot crostini and squash a piece of fig on top. Finish with mint or salad leaves, and serve drizzled with a little extra virgin olive oil, a drop of balsamic vinegar and some freshly ground black pepper. This is a Jamie inspired recipe.
For the Radish and Cress Bruschetta
Garlic and Herb Goat Cheese
Radishes, sliced thin
Fleur de Sel
Olive oil
Toasted slice of your favorite bread
Spread with garlic and herb goat cheese. Lay radish slices on top and garnish with peppercress. Sprinkle a bit of fleur de sel on top of each Crostini. For toasting the bread, see the Fig and Prosciutto Bruschetta recipe.
For the Strawberry and Cream Cheese Bruschetta
Strawberries sliced or cut in half
Cream Cheese
Basil or some salad leaves
Balsamic Vinegar
Assemble the bruschetta by spreading the cream fresh on each toast, then layer the strawberries on one slice of bread. Top with the basil and drizzle with vinegar.
For the Summer Tomato with Reduced Balsamic Bruschetta
1 C. Ricotta cheese
3 T. Chives, diced small
3 T. Basil, chiffonade
3 T. Olive oil
2 Garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
1 C. Small heirloom tomatoes cut in half
½ C. Balsamic vinegar
This mixture is enough for 12-14 slices. In a bowl add the ricotta, chives, basil, olive oil and garlic and mix well. Season with salt and pepper and taste for additional seasonings. To reduce the vinegar, add the balsamic vinegar to a small pan and heat over medium high heat. Be sure to watch carefully. You will want it to resemble a syrup consistency. Let cool. If it becomes too stiff, add a bit more balsamic vinegar to loosen it up.
To assemble, add about one tablespoon of the ricotta mixture to the top of the toasted bread slice. Top with about 5 to 6 of the tomato halves. Drizzle with a bit of the reduced balsamic and adorn with basil leaves or chiffonade basil. Sprinkle with a bit of sea salt and serve.

Happy Days!!

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