Celebrity chef Mark McEwan is no stranger to dinner parties - both hosting and attending them. Here, he shares his secrets to serving in style.
1 Wine pairings
People get so intimidated when it comes to wine pairings. I'm more liberal. I like a bright white wine like Stoneleigh's Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir is my go-to red. It pairs well with anything: duck, beef, pork - even halibut! My friend put it best: "Do you like the wine? That's great! Drink it!"
2 Hors d'oeuvres
When it comes to hors d'oeuvres, plan for 10 pieces per person for a cocktail party. For a dinner, four will work - you want people to be hungry when they sit down to eat.
3 The main meal
Don't over-complicate the meal. Just pick your main protein - whether it's brined ham or a prime rib roast - and choose a few seasonal sides. Having four items on a plate is plenty.
4 Go stress-free
Don't try to achieve too much, make the menu too elaborate or cook too many dishes. It will get you flustered, and a stressed-out host is fun for no one.
5 Preparation is key
Prepare a menu that can have 90 percent done ahead of time with 10 percent to finish when guests arrive. I think of everything I need and lay it out - serving platters and utensils in the exact places I'll need them, condiments on the table - so I'm not hurriedly searching through drawers when company's over. I prep everything in advance but save one item to finish in front of people. It could be fresh gnocchi (from dough I've already prepared) or a beautiful layered salad.
MARK MCEWAN'S TRUSTY DINNER MENU
Salad: Layer your elements in advance and make a show of tossing them together at the dinner table.
Prime rib: Prep it and all its elements - the side vegetables, the au jus - ahead of time and leave the Yorkshire pudding for last.
Yorkshire pudding: It's a great last-minute dish to make in front of guests.