I’m an adventurous cook and I know my favourite dishes aren’t always to everyone’s taste. Is it okay to ask them to step outside of their comfort zone, or should I play it safe?
A dinner party is the perfect time to push the boat out with daring and adventurous dishes that leave your guests amazed, however take into consideration who you’re cooking for.
Try to strike a compromise, where the main element of the meal is a statement crowd-pleaser that you know everyone will like, but introduce different flavours and lesser-known ideas into the side dishes and accompaniments.
Let guests help themselves, giving them flexibility on how experimental they want to be and how much they want to try. Your unusual cuisine will be a conversation starter – plus you get the chance to show off your unique cheffing skills!
Is it okay to ask people to contribute food and drink if there are a lot of guests coming to a gathering?
Asking for contributions really depends on who and how many people you have invited.
For a group of guests the majority of whom you don’t know very well, you should provide all of the food and drink yourself. For a large group of close friends, it is perfectly acceptable to ask for contributions.
Be sensible, plan well and have the confidence to politely ask people what you would like them to bring. For example, you could ask a one friend to bring cheese, another to bring a salad and another to bring a pudding etc to avoid repetition.
It is worth pointing out, however, that as the host, you should provide the main element of the main course of the meal, and that contributions should just be accompaniments and extras.
What should you do if the conversation turns political and people start falling out? Is it acceptable to provide guests with a list of topics to avoid?
Dinner parties are a combination of personalities, experiences and opinions – an exciting mix that can make or break an evening, especially after a few glasses of wine.
Prescribing a list of banned topics of conversation would most likely cause surprise, awkwardness or, if your guests are particularly strong-willed, even provoke people into disobeying your wishes and sparking debate…
Instead, as a host, be on your mettle and steer the conversation from the outset to try avoid any divisive issues.
Keep chat general: upcoming holidays, latest box-set binges etc. If you are very worried about fiery tempers, you can humorously set some rules at the table and – ensuring you keep your tone fun and jokey – announce that debating politics and religion, for example, is not allowed.
If things to start to get intense, you can then cheerfully and light-heartedly remind people that heated discussion is banned, and move things swiftly on to safer ground.
I love having my friends round for a nice meal but there are one or two that always outstay their welcome. How can I subtly let them know that the evening is coming to a close without sounding a ‘last orders’ bell?
If you know you have invited some night owls round for dinner, you need to be prepared to compromise. Be realistic in the fact that you will have a later night than you may wish, but also try to tactfully manage their expectations from the outset.
It is wise to casually drop into conversation that things may wrap up earlier than they might expect. Provide a sensible and decent reason, for example that you have an early start in the morning or are tired from a busy week. Hopefully, at the end of the evening when other guests on their way, they will also follow suit.
If things are getting late, however, a good trick for getting guests to leave is to close the bar and stop opening bottles, along with dropping some not-so-subtle hints such as ‘is that the time! I had no idea it was so late…’ A more drastic action might be to offer to order them a taxi – but turning off the lights and heading up to bed is probably a step too far.
What’s the etiquette around seating couples and single people if your guests are a mix of both? If you’re inviting all couples, should you split the couples up?
In Britain, couples traditionally sit separately at seated dinners, whether it is a dinner party or a wedding reception. Historically, the exception to this rule was that they could sit together if they were engaged or during their first year of marriage (as it was assumed that the woman would need her husband’s support and guidance!), but it is safe to say that this idea is now out-dated!
So, when putting together the seating plan, it is still good form and usual to split couples up.
However, consider carefully all of your guests, look at the different personalities at play and aim to strike a balance: mix quiet with loud, introverts with extroverts and the socially confident with the shy ones.
Think about who would get on well, who have something in common and even try some surreptitious matchmaking… As a host, you want the evening to be social and convivial, and a well-designed seating plan is a key element to success.
Jo Bryant is a British etiquette consultant who runs courses on British Table Manners and Afternoon Tea Etiquette.
Hosting or even attending a dinner party can be a daunting experience if you’re unsure of the audience, but luckily, a nationwide study has now uncovered the golden rules for the perfect dinner party.
As far as manners go, checking if your guests have allergies (41%) topped the list, never cancelling at short notice (30%) came second and serving drinks in jam jars (27%) came third which could upset a few Shoreditch dwellers.
Surprisingly, only a fifth of people talk about the dreaded subject of politics while 15% believe the conversation should focus on lighter subjects, such as the TV shows or the Netflix series people are currently watching.
The survey conducted by Stoves asked 1,500 dinner party goers across the UK about their habits to finally clear up the unwritten dinner party rules.
While some may be proud of posting a meal they’re about to devour on Instagram, 16% of Brits found posting photos of your own food on Instagram is poor taste and while 12% claim you should, at all costs, avoid posting unflattering pictures of fellow guests on social media.
The most popular drink of the last few years could be on the way out as 5% said an English wine or Cava would be better than Prosecco, one in five felt serving a formal starter is outdated, and 7% said you should always sit people boy/girl/boy/girl.
Dressing is important as 46% of those attending a dinner party thought turning up dressed appropriately is rule number one of being a good dinner guest, while 44% added that they must compliment the host’s cooking. In a modern twist, more than one in ten (15%) believed it is a must to thank your host on social media the next day.
The research also found that the average household has one dinner party a month, while half of Brits prefer staying in and cooking for friends more than eating out.
Despite the enduring popularity of supper soirees, almost four out of five (78%) Brits think the term “dinner party” is outdated, yet almost a quarter (24%) admit that hosting one makes them feel grown-up.
More than half (57% said getting together with friends is the thing they love about dinner parties, while 46% enjoy being able to relax at home, and a third (33%) like the fact you can take your time over the meal when dining in.
There are some fantastic food festivals all over the country, bringing food from around the world to the UK.
The Food Fest, Mount Vineyard, Kent
The Food Fest was launched back in 2016 successfully and showcases the best of the best Kent produce sourced from local vineyards, breweries, farmer markets and other artisan makers. Along with the food there will be live music and lots of fun for all the family including inflatables, art workshop, street graffiti and face painting.
The proceeds of this event go towards the very worthy cause of Great Ormond Street Hospital when it takes place on the 2nd and 3rd June.
Lichfield Gin, Ale and Cheese Festival, Lichfield City Centre
There is nothing better than biting into some tasty savoury cheese with a cool and fresh glass of gin or a mouth-watering pint of real ale. Which is why we feel the Lichfield Gin, Ale and Cheese Festival is worthy of your attention.
Taste Of London, Regent's Park, London
From the 13th of June through to the 17th, Regent's Park will be transformed into a Mecca for foodies from all walks of life as Taste of London is back for another year.
40 of the most popular and critically acclaimed restaurants in London showcase the best of their best from their tasty menus. You can expect to meet and greet with some of the most talented chefs in the city, take part in cooking master classes and watch the chefs do what they do best in live cookery demonstrations.
No food festival would be complete without food and drink stalls and Taste of London has over 200 for you to choose from.
FyneFest, Achadunan, Cairdow, Argyll
The beautiful Achandunan in Argyll is where you will find FyneFest, a truly special food festival. Hosted by the renowned Fyne Ales, this is a beer (and food) festival with a difference. Camping, live music and a completely family friendly line-up of events make this a must-attend if you are north of the border.
Royal Cornwall Show, Cornwall Showground, Whitecross, Wadebridge, Cornwall
2018 is the Royal Cornwall Show's 224th year and it truly is an event that has a little something for all in attendance. This is more than just a competition for farm animals.
First things first, there will be great food, and a lot of it. Head to the Cornwall Food and Farming Pavilion to enjoy samples of the best in Cornish delights. You will discover that there is more to Cornish cuisine than pasties and cream.
Aside from the food there will be displays by motocross stunt riders and the RAF Falcons. It's worth remembering though that this is a country show, so if you are expecting lots of mounted games with horses, you will be thrilled at what's on offer in the form of entertainment at the Royal Cornwall Show.
Cheese and Chilli Festival, Hurn Bridge Equestrian Centre, Hurn, Christchurch, Dorset
If you like a lot of fire with your cheese, then the Cheese and Chilli Festival is the glorious town of Christchurch in Dorset.
Lots of cheese and chilli focused dishes, fun and excitement will take place alongside live music and a full-on beer festival with Downton Brewery, a local brewery showcasing the best of their cold ones.
Great Yorkshire Vegan Festival, Leeds Town Hall, The Headrow, Leeds
In the interest of showcasing to the oft-overlooked of society, the vegans, we have decided to highlight the intriguing Great Yorkshire Vegan Festival.
Held within the magnificent Leeds Town Hall in the Yorkshire city, the event is now fourth year and its not hard to see why this has become a mainstay of the country's food festival calendar.
Taking place during June, it doesn't matter if you are a hardcore vegan or just intrigued, there are over 200 stalls showcasing all kinds of vegan products from shoes to pet food. As you'd expect from any other food festival, there will also be carious live demonstrations of preparing and cooking vegan meals and although a lot of the talks will be focused on the vegan lifestyle, discussions about animal welfare, vegan clothing and vegan make-up are also some of the more interesting high points.
If you are after more food festivals to visit this year check out www.eatdrinkseek.co.uk
Instagram is quickly becoming the hot guide for new recipe/restaurant inspiration, with everyone snapping what they eat and where they eat it. So we’ve provided a few quick tips to bring your food photography up to scratch so that you can show off your meals this World Food Week.
Find the Sunlight
When taking pictures of your Italian inspired Aperol Spritz, either dine al fresco or move towards natural light sources surrounding you so that the reflection of the sun adds a pop to your photograph. A sunset picture is sure to get more likes than anything else, so time your meal for that perfect shot. If you’re drinking or dining after the sun has gone down, use a flash onto the dish to prevent dark and grainy finishes.
If your meal has been inspired by a trip taken abroad, don’t be afraid to tastefully accessorize your layout with thematic souvenirs or props. Place your tagline on top of a Moroccan tablecloth and scatter sultanas around the edges of the frame. This adds an extra element of style to your food photography, drawing it apart from the rest of your followers’ Instagram feeds, and gives it a thematic twist.
If you develop and maintain a style of accessorising, it can become a motif and you are more likely to have new followers returning to your profile to view your latest update.
Add a Pop of Colour
Increase the excitement of your Mexican tacos by playing around with post-production apps such as VSCO Cam or Afterlight. Hike up the saturation of the picture to brighten the colours of the salsa and guacamole but don’t get too excitable on your new apps as the picture can look too garish if you go overboard. The use of filters also help to add interest to a picture but try to stick to similar hues to keep your feed consistent.
Don’t Be Afraid of a Close-Up
After all, if you’re trying to catch your followers’ attention with your carefully prepared Indian banquet, you should fill the frame with its luxuriousness. Take a close-up of a particularly colourful curry or position a number of dishes so that their abundance bursts out the frame. Once you begin to get serious with your photography, check out Brian Peterson’s description of the Rule of Thirds in his book Understanding Composition – this is a step-by-step guide of how placement can create interesting photographs.
Get Trigger Happy
As all professional photographers will tell you, it takes hundreds of shots to get the perfect one. Don’t be afraid to take multiple photos and play around with different angles so you can learn which foods are photogenic and which angles are most complimentary. A birds-eye-view of your rainbow bagel from NYC may not look as good as a picture of it being held up in front of the Empire State building.
Now that you have your food photography tips, get snapping and hashtag #WorldFoodWeek so that we can check out your feed @WorldFoodWeek