The Art of Producing an Indelible Dinner Affair in a Busy World
Our hectic fast-paced lives have many of us chasing the clock, struggling to find sufficient time to produce and enjoy an undisturbed thoughtfully executed dinner with our significant other or friends and family members. Just in time for the romantic holiday, here’s a tutorial on how to produce a memorable dinner experience this Valentine’s Day or Galantine’s Day.
Orchestrating an unforgettable dinner experience can sound like a big undertaking, yet if you follow a few easy steps, you can achieve your vision of producing that special meal which will make a lasting impact on your guests.
Invite you guest(s) in a unique way. In our digital world, texts, e-mails, and instant messages have become the norm when inviting someone to an event. For your next special event, purchase a quality invitation card and hand write the details on the card and on the envelope. This traditional invitation will surely get your guest’s attention and demonstrate that you are inviting them to a special event. Make sure to send your invitation early and confirm your guest’s attendance either by phone or in person.
Carefully analyze your guests’ preferences. Anticipating and personalizing the dining experience for your guest is necessary when looking to create a memorable experience. Be sure to feature one or more of your guest’s favorite items (i.e. Perrier sparkling water with lime, Bordeaux wine, vegetarian starter, pescatarian entree, chocolate dessert). Your menu should celebrate local and seasonal offerings and should be balanced in color, texture, and composition.
Determine the service style. In many instances, your service style will be determined by the space you have available and whether you will be assisted throughout the dinner presentation or not. For intimate, unassisted affairs, plated service or family style service is preferred. For plated service, elements of each course must be prepped and preferably, partially cooked ahead of time to reduce the time needed to finish, plate, present, and enjoy the course. If choosing family style service, you can prepare the complete dish ahead of your guest’s arrival and place cold items in the refrigerator and hot items in the oven above 140°F. Remember to garnish your dish right before service.
Set the table. Your menu and service style will determine your table setting. When setting your table, the first thing you want to take care of is the surface of the table. If you plan to feature a bare table, ensure the table is clean and free of debris and grease. If choosing to use a tablecloth, ensure the cloth is clean, free of stains and damage, wrinkle free and centered on the table with the hem facing down. Ensure to use the correct shape and size cloth for your table.
For intimate unassisted affairs, pre-set each place setting with every piece of flatware and glassware that will be used throughout the meal. This makes the course progression simpler as you as the host will simply need to clear the table of the current course’s flatware and glassware, crumb the table, replenish drinks and serve the next course. When setting the table, select the necessary flatware and glassware that will correspond to each course. Carefully spot check and polish each piece ensuring to handling these items from the base or handle. Place forks beginning with the salad fork on the left side and knives and soupspoon (if menued) on the right side. Flatware should be one inch from the edge of the table. Dessert fork and coffee spoon should be placed at the top center of the setting crisscrossed so you may slide them into place during the finale. Glassware beginning with wine glasses should be placed on the right side beginning at the tip of the knife and progressing to the top center, ending with the water glass.
Ensure your centerpiece is tasteful and does not clutter the table or obstruct your line of vision to your guest. It is preferred to keep the center of the table simple. A small set of salt and pepper grinders accompanied by a real votive candle or small seasonal floral arrangement makes a great impression and doesn’t clutter the table.
Set the mood. You want to create a wow for your guests the moment they walk in so, adjust your lighting to a lower tone so it compliments your meal, set music (preferably instrumental) in the background loud enough so you can hear it, but low enough to avoid becoming distracting. Try to use a non-commercial station to avoid hearing commercials between songs. Check the temperature of the space to ensure it’s comfortable. Adjust the thermometer up or down to anticipate your guest’s preference. If possible when living in close proximity to your neighbor, alert them of your special evening to attempt to avoid distractions coming from next door.
It’s show time. The moment has arrived when your guest is at the door. Have the ambience set to create a wow. Have drinks ready for service. Ensure your coat closet has an available hanger for your guest’s coat and that the restroom is refreshed so your guest may freshen up upon arrival.
Open the door with a genuine smile, eye contact and an appropriate warm greeting. Be sure to respect your guest’s personal space if you’re still getting to know them. During the evening, keep your phone on silent, keep it off the table at all times and engage in conversation by listening attentively and being in the moment. You have been looking forward to this evening for some time, so it’s your responsibility to minimize all potential distractions so that you and your guest enjoy every moment and are excited to repeat the experience very soon.
By JC Melgarejo, Director of Fine Dining, FLIK Hospitality Group
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