Bonnie Stern's entertaining basics
We all know how stressful entertaining can be. Appetizers, entrée, dessert – there's so much to think about. And if you don't entertain often, it can be even more stressful. Even famous foodie Bonnie Stern knows this. “There are so many different things involved in entertaining that sometimes it's overwhelming for people,” she says. But, it doesn't have to be this way. We caught up with Bonnie in her uptown Toronto cooking school and she shared some of her surefire tips to help ease entertaining angst. “You don't have to make a career out of entertaining,” says Bonnie. You just have to know what to do.
1 Don't concentrate too much on yourself. As soon as you stop thinking about yourself and more about making people feel comfortable in your home, then you can change the whole way you look at entertaining.
2 Play music that soothes people. “I recommend that people put their music on while they're cooking, as well as while they're entertaining, because it's something that calms you down a little bit,” says Bonnie.
3 Get your guests involved. Even if it's simply helping to pour drinks, helping to serve the appetizers or lighting the candles on the table, this gets them involved in the meal.
4 Use your imagination. Bring out your mother's or grandmother's old fancy teacups and china. Use teapots as flower vases.
5 Some people drink, some people don't, but don't leave people out that aren't drinking at all. Do something special for them, too.
6 Lighting is very important. Use candles and dim, softer lighting rather than glaring lighting. “Everybody looks better in softer lighting,” says Bonnie. And dim lights help to create a less stressful atmosphere.
7 Look at your guest list. Don't have too many people over. Limit the numbers. Look at your facilities and determine how many people you can entertain at the same time.
8 Think about seating. Will you have a sit-down dinner? Is the dining room table large enough for eight people? If not, think about inviting six people, or decide to have a buffet.
9 Invite the people you are most comfortable with. “People tend to overlook who they invite and how comfortable they feel with those people,” says Bonnie. “If you're not used to entertaining, have over the people you feel the most comfortable with and who will love you even if everything doesn't come out the way you wanted it to.”
10 Look at how much cooking you can do with the equipment you have. When you're planning your menu, make sure you have all the equipment that you will need.