A wine and dine event at home can be a tremendous success…or not so much. Here’s our party planning recipe for success:
1) Limit of 12 guests. The more the merrier doesn’t always work as Cat can tell you.  Our first Valentine’s Day celebration is recorded in the Annals of Worst Dates. Too many guests, too little help ended in Cat dining without me among a group of mostly strangers. We find that two to three proficient cooks can prepare and serve a meal for 12 within a reasonable time.
2) Divide up the duties. Our DIY Wine & Dine menus are meant to share. Ask each guest to bring a dish or its’ ingredients. If you have 8 or less on the guest list, you may choose to reduce the number of dishes to be prepared.
3) Don’t use your grandmother’s 50th wedding anniversary gold-rimmed crystal wine stems. Everyone breaks a glass now and then. Spare your guests the drama of breaking a family treasure. We use 17-ounce to 20-ounce crystal glasses (stemmed or stem-less, either way is fine) for any wine. No changing glassware every time you change wines. One caveat, you should have flutes for bubbles. The beauty of champagne and sparkling wines is best seen in these specialty crystal stems. Don’t forget to pick up either a pen for writing on glass or charms for stems so that guests can easily identify their beverage.
4) Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Provide sparkling water in addition to the wines. It helps prevent intoxication. Choose sparkling waters without sweeteners to keep from clouding the palate. A little lemon or lime wedge on the side is nice, though.
5) Cheese, please. Set out a great cheese plate for snacking while dinner is being prepped. Here’s a quick primer:
Choose 3 out of 5 of the following types of cheeses — sharp, creamy, funky, nutty or fresh.  Examples of each would be:  cheddar, brie, blue, gouda and chèvre (goat).
Crusty bread (freshness counts!) — here’s an excuse to find a great bakery and sample their amazing selection.
Fruits, Nuts and Crackers — every family has them. Include one of each on your tray for a enticing presentation.
6) Life is too short to eat a mediocre dessert.  Much like the disappointment of opening a corked bottle of wine, ending the evening with a less-than-spectacular finishing note is a let down.  Be picky, freshness counts in baked goods.  Find a local bakery and treat your friends and family to something special.  For quick, at-home dessert ideas, check out some of our favorites in DIY Wine & Dine:  Sweet Endings.

Leave a Reply