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How to make entertaining more entertaining


Fat Guy
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Of course, it may be wrong to assume that sock-covered feet that have been in warm shoes carry any less bacteria.

I think the host sets the rules, and it's simple as that. If the guests don't like the rules, they won't come back again.

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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Wow, reading this thread has made me feel like a degenerate slob. We let people wear shoes in the house, early arrivals get to have a glass of wine and help out in the kitchen, and if anyone wants to know what to bring the answer is usually "more wine." We also never clean up during a party. And unless it's the extremely rare plated sit-down dinner, we always make more than enough food and can always set an extra plate.

Easter this year was 16 adults and three kids (hopped-up on jellybeans :biggrin: ). We made the appetizer and main course and everyone else brought something to share. It was originally 12 people, but we invited four more friends this week when we found out they had no other plans.

My only iron-clad rules are

don't run out of food

don't run out of wine

never make a guest in my home feel like they have done something wrong

Edited by hjshorter (log)

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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Almost all my dinner party stress comes from having to clean the house: I hate cleaning and will put it off until I find myself cooking and cleaning at the final hour. For about a 7 year period in my life I had a cleaning service, and was that wonderful.

About crumbs. You are inviting PEOPLE to your house to EAT FOOD and you don't want any CRUMBS. Isn't this like taking a bath and not wanting to get wet? I am speechless.

About shoes. I am amazed at the idea that it's rude NOT to take off your shoes. One of the reasons we wear shoes is to prevent our feet from being exposed to the dirt on the surfaces we walk on. Now it's turned around?

Jeez, how appetizing to look at someone's big hairy toes and feet covered with bunions, hammer toes and the like. I'm not too keen on wearing some community slippers where such toes and feet might have been--and you probably won't want me to bring my own slippers which have been walking around on my floors where "dirty shoes" walk.

So keep your shoes on at my house and give me a warning if I'm not going to be wearing mine at yours.

About RSVPs. I was involved in a large group of people where this topic came up. The older people in the group were concerned because the younger people would not RSVP.

When polled, the younger (under 30) people generally 1) had no idea what RSVP meant, 2) didn't see what all the fuss was about, and 3) had no concerns about preparing food for an unknown number of guests. Of course, their idea of food was chips and dips from the grocery.

The older people's view was, 1) not replying is very rude, 2) you should make an immediate decision, notwait to see if you get a better offer, or if you feel like it when the time comes.

Each group was flabbergasted by the other's viewpoint.

About clean up. It ruins my enjoyment of food to rush right out to the kitchen and tackle the dirty dishes. House rule: no one is allowed to do dishes. I'll stack the soakers in the sink after guests are gone, and take my time with them in the morning.

Do I vacuum when guests are gone? HA HA HA HA HA. I'm exhausted. I go to bed.

Ruth Dondanville aka "ruthcooks"

“Are you making a statement, or are you making dinner?” Mario Batali

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Love it!  (Did she actually let you use the cups?  was everyone handed a bottle of club soda and a scrubber?)

I recall catering a party where the menu was planned around such a home.  People who didn't know my work prior to that called me "that caterer who does such bland foods ..."  :rolleyes:  Oh well.

No--as a truly awful guest (for which I feel no shame at all--at least in this particular instance), I shamed her into allowing us to have our red wine in real glasses. But I was never invited back either, so I guess the host(ess) really does get to make her own rules.

In our first house in Ann Arbor, the previous owner had installed white carpets and during our house-warming party, someone dropped a glass of red wine. The first I knew of it was when several drunk guests rushed into the kitchen, grabbed a bottle of club soda off the bar, and rushed back out. We had that stain until we ripped up the carpets two years later. White carpets are silly--they're meant to be walked on (and lived on). But we had the responsible (I won't say "offending") guest back many, many times after that.

On the other hand, I think it's not at all unreasonable to follow the house rules when it comes to shoes. They don't bother me and we don't have a shoeless house, but if I'm a guest at one, I would expect to remove my shoes. I like being offered slippers, but I'm also usually pretty careful to wear socks that can be seen in public. Having written this, however, I wonder why I would be willing to compy with shoe requirements, but not with the "no red wine" rule--maybe because I disliked the rulemaker in question. Without question, I think my "solution" was a bit rude (not that that stopped me, of course).

On another, tangential thought, I don't buy or use expensive wine glasses (or dishes) for this same reason. Entertaining is much more entertaining when you don't worry about someone accidentally breaking a $150 crystal wine glass or heirloom china. If one of my $4 wineglasses from Cost Plus or Crate & Barrell shatters, oh well... Pour another one and move on.

Feast then thy heart, for what the heart has had, the hand of no heir shall ever hold.
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Hide dishes in the bathtub? But that's where I hide the cat litter! (God, sometimes I hate living in a tiny city flat).

It's really like living in a different country - things that others take for granted (like dishwashers!) aren't necessarily a given here.

Re: the shoe issue, I don't take offense at being asked to remove them (I have traveled in Japan, and know the politesse issues involved). I would hate getting caught with a hole in my stockings though, and that's happened.

I do have friends who never let anyone wear street shoes inside (they've got crawling toddlers), but they've got a collection of great slippers from Morocco in a myriad of sizes for anyone to use.

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Now I wanna throw a party, invite y'all, and hand out grading sheets afterwards. :laugh:

You may keep or remove your shoes, as often as you like.

You may wander anywhere the doors/gates arent closed.

I will clear the table and do a bit of cleanup, so I have room to deliver more food/drink.

You may spill red wine on the pale carpet. You will not be the first nor even the 10th.

I will spend too much time in the kitchen, fussing, because I like to fuss. :wacko:

Someone will open the sliding door because its too hot. Someone else will freeze. The coat closet is free access. I have many to lend.

And when the end of the party has come, even if not all the guests have figured it out, I will start cleaning up as discretely as possible in the kitchen (loading dishwasher, rinsing and soaking, putting away food, etc). You are welcome to take a seat and chat as I do. If you are still here by then, you're probably some kinda family anyway (by choice if not by birth/marriage).

You may have a pillow and blanket for the asking.

If its late, one of us will walk you to your car. If you are parked far away, one of us will most likely go get your car.

I hope I remember hummingbirdkiss's way of handling the over-imbibers. Excellent!

So, you are all invited, date and time TBD, probably mid-July. Its nice here in mid-July. Please remember to take a minute or two and fill out the evaluation as you leave. If you forget, it will be pre-addressed and stamped, so you can drop it in the nearest postbox when you find it.

Format will be buffet as we can only seat 14 max and they'd better be VERY good friends.

<editted to correct bad proofreading...sigh>

<editted again, to add: one of the perks of staying late and taking that chatty seat is to help me finish off all the little bits of good things, and that last bottle of wine, and hey how about a glass of this liqueur / port whathaveyou thats open...>

Edited by Kouign Aman (log)

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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I'm loving the responses to this thread!

When you come to my house, unless the invitation specifically says "fancy dress" then come as you are, gas station dirty shoes and all. I'll worry about mopping and vaccuuming afterwards. Often it will be pot luck, but I'll have made plenty of food to ensure there is enough to cover all those who simply brought a bottle of wine or nothing at all. I'll extend an invitation to those I run into during the week, and there will be many people who have RSVP'd at the last minute. Consequently there is liable to be too many for my small NYC apartment. I'd prefer if you didn't teach each other tap dancing steps at 11 pm, but I'll take care of bringing a cake or bottle of wine to the downstairs neighbors when you do. Please be aware that my friends will talk loudly and sometimes inappropriately. People who I'd never have imagined getting along will find themselves deep in coversation, and long time friends will finally have the chance to get together. The food will be delicious, if I do say so myself, but it will be secondary in importance to the connections made, jokes told and community formed.

Sometimes, a friend who seeks a quiet moment away from the crowd will start doing the dishes, but otherwise I'll load the dishwasher and throw away the disposables as the last guests are lounged in a heap on my couch, shooing them away from helping me. And when you all do leave, rather than immediately going to bed, I'll sit for a minute, surveying the room and remembering the good memories of another successful meal.

The Kitchn

Nina Callaway

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I've never been sure why people think they can come over and rub gas station bathroom drippings into my carpet for several hours but it's not going to happen on my watch. 

There's also an urban issue here: people in a place like New York put hundreds of street miles on their shoes every year. It's not like in the typical suburb where people are just walking from indoor space to car to indoor space most of the time. The city is much more like jsmith's vision.

Yes, the suburban thing is very true. Perhaps in my home, though, people should keep their shoes on to protect themselves (and their shoes).

Jean-Luc loves bare feet, stocking'ed feet, and since he is a Basset Hound, grabs onto anything he can snuffle up into his mouth. When people take off their shoes here, it takes him about five seconds to sneak them off into his hidey-hole and drool all over them. If I get the shoes out of the way quickly enough, he shoves his face into the un-shod feet and makes a "vuff" sound, which is just not cool.

I usually have five or six kids racing through the house at any given time. Some of them come over the hill through the back yard, which was just a construction site ... my younger son's current agricultural project (a dozen flats of hyacinth, hops, and bhut jolokia) is in the living room under lights. I've had stray dogs and cats wander into my house, and stray people, too.

Yeah. I think shoes should stay on in this house. Starting with mine. :blink:

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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I also keep my shoes on, and encourage others to do so because Jean-Luc adores bare and stocking'ed feet.

When I read this in your first post, I thought you were referring to your husband... :laugh:

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This is a great topic. I don't remember who said it, but I agree with the notion that you should never make your guests feel like they've done something wrong. Having your friends into your home for a meal of any sort is a very loving gift, and it should be given and received in that spirit.

My biggest lesson learned is to be less ambitious in what I make. I used to spend the entire day (and sometimes days before!) prepping for my parties, only to find myself stressed out and totally exhausted when my guests arrived. Now I limit my menus to two things homemade rounded out with high-quality store purchases. My guests still have a great time and feel very pampered, and I'm able to enjoy the party.

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  • 10 months later...

I love to entertain for my friends and family, but I don't do so as often as I would like. Mr. Kris and I live in a medium sized NYC apartment, so we don't have THAT much room. But it's not shoebox sized either.

Our most recent party was during the Christmas season. I have a few policies when it comes to entertaining:

1. I want my guests to feel welcome, relaxed and have fun.

2. I generally entertain buffet style because I don't have the room for a sit down dinner for more than 8 people. Plus, buffet style encourages more mingling.

3. I don't worry about clean up until the guests leave.

4. There must be an overabundance of food and drink.

Mr. Kris and I have hardwood floors in the apartment, so we don't worry about guests wearing shoes.

If you focus on being a gracious host for your guests and keep them well fed (with a combination of home cooked foods and some bought items), that should make entertaining more entertaining.

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The whole shoe thing is interesting to me. I had light carpeting and hardwood floors and never once thought of asking anyone to remove their shoes. If there was a stain, a little Resolve took care of it. As far as the wood floors, they showed the dings and scratches of daily life. The current home is all saltillo tile. No one has offered to remove their shoes and we haven't asked. I've never been comfortable walking around barefoot, so it never crossed my mind to ask guests to do so. A home is for living. Life isn't perfect and the home reflects that. I'll pass on the fuzzy socks offer. :raz:

Early guests aren't good in my book. The sister-in-law who decided to show up two hours early one Thanksgiving with her two young children was sent to the nearest diner by her brother. We hadn't even had a chance to shower at that point and didn't need any high maintenance guests around.

Flowers are lovely and I really do enjoy them but I don't have space for them. I'll gladly serve your wine, it's probably better than what I serve. I don't appreciate food that you want me to include in my menu, unless we're doing a buffett. Thanks goodness we've never had guests who were late or didn't show up. That's just rude.

Cleaning up the kitchen can wait for the next morning. It's more fun to spend time with those you invited to your home. The leftovers will be put away, but the rest can wait. (The exception to that is when the guests are all family that you really need a break from!)

KathyM

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We have two problems when we entertain

1) The shoe thing really bugs me. While growing up in Canada it was considered extremely rude for someone to walk into your house without taking their shoes off at the door. To this day, I cannont force myself to walk into someone's home with shoes on. I feel extremely uncomfortable. We live in a new home with beautiful hardwood floors throughout. and we entertain alot, both formally and informally. Most people take their shoes off at the door. However there always is one or two that do not and it is usually someone with stilleto heals on! I spend the evening cringing everytime she walks. No, I am not a neat freak, I just think that it is common courtesy for someone wearing high heals to be aware of the potential damage they are causing on a floor worth thousands of dollars!

2) My husband has a wonderful wine collection and spends considerable time before a dinner party matching the wines with the food. We have a dilema when people bring wine to the party - do we serve it or not? To be gracious hosts, we usually do. We do this because we have, on more than one occasion, taken a special bottle of wine to a dinner party only to have the host keep it "for later". :blink:

Life is short, eat dessert first

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the shoe thing bugs me too, because growing up we never wore shoes in the house. we always got yelled at if we did (chinese parents). and since i know that i don't wear shoes in my house, i cringe when people wear shoes and trach dirt/gravel/who knows what on the floors i walk barefoot on. so now when people come over, i tell them this is a chinese household so shoes off. everyone respects it, and only a few friends occasionally forget.

as for the wine thing, i understand choosing wines carefully for dinner, but i usually serve what they bring as well. the reasons for this is 1) i'm in the "more the merrier" camp when it comes to wine and 2) once we were invited to dinner and asked what we could bring. they said wine, so we chose a really lovely bottle to bring....which got put on the host's wine rack and not opened, which annoyed me.

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I've seen this often enough that I now think nothing of it. But, perhaps as a result, I rarely bring any particularly remarkable wine unless it's a fairly intimate gathering of, say, 4-6 people, where it's more likely to be shared and consciously consumed. At larger gatherings, the wine seems to be pooled, and sometimes not consumed if there's an adequate supply.

as for the wine thing, i understand choosing wines carefully for dinner, but i usually serve what they bring as well. the reasons for this is  1) i'm in the "more the merrier" camp when it comes to wine and 2) once we were invited to dinner and asked what we could bring. they said wine, so we chose a really lovely bottle to bring....which got put on the host's wine rack and not opened, which annoyed me.

Jason Truesdell

Blog: Pursuing My Passions

Take me to your ryokan, please

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Isn´t the bottle of wine you bring to a dinner, a gift, like flowers or anything else? This is interesting to me because I don´t think that here (The Netherlands) it is ever considered rude if the bottle you bring, is put away for ´later´. In fact, when we bring a bottle we will sometimes say, keep it for later, so they can really enjoy it, instead of opening it with the chance that the host may not even taste it because other guests drink it.

Ofcourse then there are the parties where you are asked to bring wine, in that case it´s expected that the bottle will be opened.

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What do you do about guests who bring a bottle of wine and then if its not opened take it away with them when they leave!?

How about guests who bring mediocre food and then some how all your leftovers of what you cooked end up missing and you have a fridge full of the crap they brought?

I'm not kidding!

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Isn´t the bottle of wine you bring to a dinner, a gift, like flowers or anything else? This is interesting to me because I don´t think that here (The Netherlands) it is ever considered rude if the bottle you bring, is put away for ´later´. In fact, when we bring a bottle we will sometimes say, keep it for later, so they can really enjoy it, instead of opening it with the chance that the host may not even taste it because other guests drink it.

Ofcourse then there are the parties where you are asked to bring wine, in that case it´s expected that the bottle will be opened.

Exactly the same rules apply here. The only time I serve the wine that's brought to a dinner party is if I've specified that the gathering is BYOB (bring your own bottle) or if I've specifically asked (in response to a direct query) for something like "champagne to go with dessert".

And even if I'd brought a bottle to a BYOB event and it ended up not being opened I'd certainly not take it home at the end of the evening.

We had a dinner party on Saturday for three other couples. One brought wine, one brought a jar of mustard (from his home town in the south of France), and one brought a pretty glass bowl. We didn't use or serve any of these items in the course of the evening.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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What do you do about guests who bring a bottle of wine and then if its not opened take it away with them when they leave!?

Don't even know what to say to this one...what do they do, go into your kitchen and take it?

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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What do you do about guests who bring a bottle of wine and then if its not opened take it away with them when they leave!?

Don't even know what to say to this one...what do they do, go into your kitchen and take it?

I say stop inviting them. Sometimes that's the only thing that teaches people how to behave in a civilized world. Either that or send them a bill for the meal.

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