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Ease the Stress of Entertaining

Remember that your party should be fun for you, as well as your guests.

placing flower on dinner plate

— Roland Krieg/Getty Images

So many of us start to perspire at the mere mention of entertaining. We need to relax, and we need to get over it, but we really need some advice!

Steve Poses, who has catered more than 15,000 events in his career, wants us all to become more comfortable entertainers. His recent book, At Home by Steve Poses, gathers all of the ideas, recipes and advice he has accumulated over the years.

Get organized. Organization is the most important thing you can do to ensure that your efforts reap maximum reward for you and your guests. The party should be staged and ready to go ahead of time. Your goal is to have one hour of relaxation before the arrival of your guests. Plan for this hour! Ideally, for a bigger party, planning begins two weeks out and includes one full weekend before your party.

Make a plan. Scale entertaining to your space, available time and budget. Cut back on any recipes that require last-minute prep and stay away from heated first courses.  In warmer months, the whole meal can be room temperature. 

Go with hybrid entertaining.  This is a combination of making some dishes and buying others. Hybrid entertaining at home is imminently practical, especially for time-stressed people. Personalize prepared foods by transferring them to your own platter or bowl. Adding a garnish — such as a bed of kale, a slice of lemon, a sprig of parsley or a sprinkling of chives — helps make it your own.

Realize that less is more. Keep the amount of food in check. Contrary to what might be a popular belief, your guests will appreciate a lighter meal.

Identify tasks. You’ve established your party parameters and planned your menu. The next step is to identify, group and write down every task that you can think of. These tasks are generally grouped as follows:


Prep and cook

Tabletop (identifying needed platters and so forth)

Bar/beverage (identifying needed beverages and supplies)

Miscellaneous (flowers, music, gifts, entertainment)

Distribute tasks over time. Once you have identified your tasks, plan when you will get them done. You can shop for nonperishables anytime. Most produce, meat and poultry can be bought three to four days out, with fish the day before. Bread is best the day of your event, unless you freeze it and refresh it in the oven. Flowers last several days if kept cool.

Stick with fork-friendly food. If you’re not planning a seated meal, plan to serve food that doesn’t require a knife. This enables guests to gracefully eat with a plate in their lap or standing.

Serve a welcoming drink. A cocktail or iced tea should do it. Remember, this is your first opportunity to let your guests know that you’ve thought about them.

Assign tasks. You are the executive producer of your party, but that doesn’t mean you need to be the director, makeup artist and actor, too. Friends and family — especially spouses, partners and children — are all fair game to help.

Here are six recipes from some people who really know how to entertain!

Four Seasons of Iced Tea by Steve Poses
Refreshing recipes for iced tea that reflect the seasons.

Fajitas Party by Steve Poses
The do-it-yourself element is part of the fun, as family and guests pile on ingredients to build their own fajitas.

Turkey Burgers With Chipotle Sour Cream by Steve Poses
Turkey burgers need not be bland with this recipe that features south-of-the-border spices.

Herb Deviled Eggs by Sara Foster
Deviled eggs are as easy and as popular as ever. This recipe offers some simple tips to add some additional flavor.

Crispy Zucchini Sticks With Olive Dip by Sara Moulton
Much of the prep for this recipe can be done a day or two ahead of time, reducing stress the day of the party.

Marinated Vegetables by Mario Batali
Here’s another great make-ahead dish that is at its best served at room temperature.

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