As I share in my new book Candy At Last, when Aaron was sick I didn’t want to have friends over to The Manor much, so for the first time I began doing some entertaining away from my home turf. Although it might sound expensive to take a group of people out to eat, if you crunch the numbers you might find that it costs little more than buying food and preparing it. Here are some pointers I picked up on playing hostess away from home:
Coordinate with the restaurant. Make sure they know that you are hosting your party and want things to feel special. Request a table in your favorite part of the restaurant, and arrange payment in advance so the waiter doesn’t bring a check to the table.
“Curate” the menu. It’s a good idea to offer your guests a limited selection from the menu. Think 3-4 entrees (a mix of meat, vegetarian, etc), and maybe two salads and desserts to choose from. With fewer food decisions to be made your guests will have more time to socialize, plus they won’t feel like they have to check prices and order something inexpensive since you are hosting. Have your edited menu selections printed (without prices) onto pretty custom menu cards and lay one on each place setting. Bonus: Often when you arrange a limited menu in advance, the restaurant will offer a fixed per-person price that’s less expensive than ordering a la carte.
Personalize the table. To add a touch of your signature style, decorate the table with flowers brought from home in your own vases, and use place cards that you’ve hand written.
Kick things off with a festive touch. As soon as your guests are seated, have the server offer them a glass of sparkling wine or lemonade or whatever you’re serving. Have a few appetizers brought to the table so your guests have something to munch on while you chat. (If it’s a lunch, you can serve shared appetizers in lieu of a salad course.)
Once all of that is done, sit back and savor being surrounded by some of your favorite people, who are eating delicious food that you didn’t have to prepare, on dishes that you won’t have to wash later!