This weekend I hosted two get-togethers at my apartment. On Thursday night, some colleagues came to my place to watch movies. Then the next day, some more acquaintances came over for our bi-weekly roleplaying session. What my older friends know about me that my newer friends might not is that I thoroughly enjoy hosting gatherings. I find cooking for people relaxing, and I like sharing my home space with others. Additionally, as a program coordinator for a language program and for short-term summer programs, I have devised and overseen numerous events for large groups of people. And now that I am quite set with my living arrangements here in Doha, I hope to have people over on a regular basis.
With this blog post, I thought that I would share some of my tips and insights for hosting low-hassle get-togethers. For those of you who are novices when it comes to event planning, maybe you will find some of this information helpful. For those of you are more experienced, maybe my tips will confirm what you already know. Regardless, I wanted to write a post about hosting dinner parties and at the same time experiment with the advice genre (see article where I found this idea). Cheers!
1. Get Yourself a Slow Cooker and a Rice Cooker
The two kitchen devices that I consider instrumental to cooking meals for my get-togethers are a slow cooker and rice cooker. With both of these, I can prepare food and not be tethered to the kitchen. When I first arrived in Qatar 10 months ago, I bought my rice cooker. I had been on the lookout for a slow cooker until about last month when I discovered that my soon-to-be-departing neighbor was selling his, and I instantly bought it—slow cookers aren’t that popular or common here in Qatar.
With my slow cooker, I am able to prepare meats over the course of the day. For my movie night, I made a beef curry. The night before the event, I prepared the curry sauce from scratch, and then the next day before work, I cut up the beef and added part of the sauce. I left the slow cooker on low and went about my day. Eight hours later, you could cut the meat with your spoon. Two hours before the event, I added chopped carrots and potatoes to the remaining curry sauce and cooked them separately in a stock pot. (I don’t like when the carrots and potatoes dissolve into mush from slow cooking, so I usually oven-roast them, then add them to my curry. However, the oven in my apartment doesn’t quite cook right, so I had to prepare the carrots and potatoes using a backup method.) Half an hour before the guests arrived, I prepared the rice and waited.
When I host a dinner, two of my entrees are always prepared using the slow cooker and rice cooker because they free up the stovetop for me to cook other dishes if necessary. If I don’t prepare a curry, then my other go-to meat dishes are either slow-roast BBQ pork (which is not possible here in Qatar!) or Mississippi Pot Roast (which isn’t possible yet here in Qatar because I haven’t found ranch or au jus packets at the grocery stores).
2. Figure Out Some Interesting Vegetarian Side Dishes
As I hosted more and more gatherings, invariably I discovered that I had friends who were vegetarians or had dietary restrictions. Wanting to be a good host, I tried to add dishes to my repertoire that I could prepare so that these friends would have an equal chance of inducing food comas at my soirees. There’s nothing that secretly upsets vegetarians more than when all they can eat at a party is cut carrots and celery. (If I was hungry and at a party where everyone else was stuffing their gullets except me, I would be surly too!)
What I enjoy about preparing vegetarian dishes is that it challenges me to think about how to make food delicious and satisfying when I cannot just rely on meat and salt. In addition, the nice thing about most vegetarian dishes is that they can be prepared the night before an event and refrigerated. Then they can either be served cold or warmed up quickly before the event.
My favorite vegetarian dishes to make are black bean couscous salad, cranberry edamame wild rice salad, vegetarian yakisoba, or Chinese tomato and egg stir fry (which must be cooked before serving). Note: have lots of half-eaten hummus sitting in your refrigerator and uncooked pasta in your cupboard? Consider making a hummus pasta salad dish for your next shindig.
3. Invest in Some Disposable Dinnerware, Silverware, and Drinking Cups
Early in my party planning days, I used to serve people using my own dinnerware. While this was fine for small gatherings, as I started to host events for more and more people, the number of dinner guests I invited began to dwarf the number of dinner settings I could muster. Additionally, when I used all my dishes, silverware, and drinking cups to serve people, I eventually had a sink full of dishes to wash at the end of the party.
So, in order to reduce the worries about running out of settings or the stress after the party of washing sink after sink of dirty dishes, I recommend investing in some sturdy, eco-friendly dinnerware, silverware, and drinking cups that can be discarded after your dinner attendees are done eating.
4. Give Away Leftovers or Freeze What You Can
Customarily, after a dinner party, if you have done your due diligence, you will end up with a surplus of food. My recommendation is to invest in some cheap food storage containers and send as much of food home with your guests. There’s nothing worse than throwing away food as it goes bad in your refrigerator after a party. Some food, however, can be frozen and enjoyed at a later date. Or, you can repurpose it for an impromptu party that just shows up at your place on a moment’s notice.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Your Guests to BYO…
6. Make Sure You Have Enough Seating
I live in a small two-bedroom apartment. Seating is optimized for just me. However, if I want to have more people over, I need to make sure I have comfortable seating for everyone. In my guestroom, I have a futon that can serve as an extra couch. In my bedroom, I have a bowl chair that I can bring out. I have four stackable chairs that serve as my impromptu dining chairs. Relatedly, I have been tempted to buy a bench for storing my shoes that I can use should I need more seating for a party at any point in time.
7. Create the Right Ambiance for Your Gathering
Since I am a single man that lives alone and have a maid clean my place every two weeks, it’s not hard for me to keep my place stylish and tidy. However, I also have a big TV and recently purchased a soundbar with Bluetooth capabilities. The soundbar allows me to control the Spotify playlist of music from my phone, and with the TV, I can play a Youtube light loop video for a nice mood effect instead of staring at a blank screen..
8. Clean and Stock Your Bathroom(s)
An hour before the guests are set to arrive, I try to make sure my bathrooms are clean, there are clean hand towels, and extra rolls of toilet paper.