10 tips for a stress-free dinner party

Hosting a dinner party is a great way to build relationships and create a circle of friends that will last a life time.

And since December is such a busy month for social occasions, we thought it would be the perfect time to ask Elm Hurst Inn & Spa’s executive chef, Michael Davies, for some tips to help you make your evening a night to remember – minus the stress!

Plan ahead
Create a menu, write a grocery list, and make sure you are well organized. Prepare a familiar recipe, perhaps with a new twist. If a dish can be made a day ahead, save yourself some last minute stress. If you’re hosting as a couple, divide the duties beforehand, to avoid any last minute arguments.

Use your best
Why wait to use your best china, cutlery and linens? Seize the moment and enjoy the occasion!

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Now is the time to use your table linens and good china!

Decorate your table
Fresh flowers or candles make an instant impression. But make sure people can see over them.

Start on empty
Always start the night with an empty dishwasher and bin. It will make clean-up so much easier!

Get yourself ready first
This way you simply have to slip off your apron to greet your guests.

Break the ice with some cocktails
When guests arrive, offer them something special to drink. This will set the tone and get  conversation flowing. It’s also a great opportunity to discuss who will be the designated drivers.

Skip the appetizer
Instead of serving a formal appetizer, offer stationed or butlered hors d’oeuvres. This gives you and your guests more time to mingle.

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Offer a delicious cheese platter instead of a formal appetizer.

Have a seating plan
To keep things interesting, guests should be seated boy/girl/boy/girl, and couples should not be seated next to one another.

Stick to two courses
A soup or salad followed by a main course is plenty, takes less time in the kitchen (both to prepare and clean up) and will give you more time to sit down and enjoy the meal.

Keep dessert simple
Choose a dessert that can be prepared ahead of time, or that only requires some last minute assembly. Try a delicious scoop of ice cream served with some fresh fruit, or an assortment of pastries from your favourite local bakery.

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A simple scoop of ice cream with a few fresh berries makes a wonderful dessert.

Remember – it’s about fun, not perfection. And if you simply don’t have time to do it all yourself, book a table at the Elm Hurst or Idlewyld for some delicious holiday dining.

From all of us at the Elm Hurst Inn & Spa and Idlewyld Inn & Spa – Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for 2017! 

Build your own Charcuterie Board

The Charcuterie Board is one of the most popular summer dishes available at the Elm Hurst Inn & Spa and Idlewyld Inn & Spa.

Our Charcuterie Boards feature delicacies like thinly sliced prosciutto, Bresaola, Capicola, Gorgonzola cheese, mixed grilled Caponata, glazed balsamic Cipollini onions, pickled vegetables, heirloom tomatoes and Kalamata olives, served with artisan mustard and grain harvest bread.

 

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A Charcuterie Board is a delicious way to dine on a hot summer night. (Photo: Elm Hurst Inn & Spa) 

Our Chef Davies explains that the word charcuterie comes from the French terms ‘chair’ (flesh) and ‘cuit’ (cooked). It refers to the art of making preserved, cured, and smoked meats, as well as sausages, terrines, and pâtés – usually from pork – and is one of the classical cooking techniques used to preserve food before the era of refrigeration.

Today, this culinary specialty is enjoying a resurgence as people rediscover traditional methods and local foods.

But you don’t need to have access to a gourmet deli to enjoy your own Charcuterie Board at home. Just follow these simple tips:

Start with a beautiful board
An eye-pleasing presentation will give your spread some extra appeal, so start with a wooden board or formal serving platter, a selection of mini serving bowls or dishes, cheese & pate knifes, and mini forks.

Include a variety of tastes and textures
When it comes to assembling your Charcuterie Board, anything goes!

Most boards include a selection of cured meats like salami, prosciutto, chorizo and sausage. Add some creamy pâtés or a terrine and a selection of your favourite cheeses. This is a great opportunity to try something local!

Pickled vegetables are a wonderful complement to meat and cheese. Go beyond olives and gherkins and try some marinated artichoke hearts, pickled green beans or cocktail onions!

Add something sweet
Yes, you’ll want some mustard on your board, but apricot jam, fig jam or even honey offer a sweet surprise.

You’ll also want to include some fresh and dried fruit and nuts!

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Don’t be afraid to include fresh fruits and jams….(Photo: Idlewyld Inn & Spa)

Go for gourmet bread & crackers
You can’t go wrong with a fresh, sliced baguette. But this is a great opportunity to try some of the delicious artisan crackers and flat breads available at most grocery stores. Don’t forget to include some gluten-free rice crackers!

Gather your friends…and enjoy alongside your favourite wine, beer or cocktails….

What is your favourite way to entertain in the summer? 

Visiting southwestern Ontario? Discover our historic Inns in Ingersoll, Ontario (Elm Hurst Inn & Spa) and London, Ontario (Idlewyld Inn & Spa).

 

Dining Etiquette 101: Ten tips to surviving your next business meal

If you think people don’t care about your table manners, think again. Whether you’re dining with a potential employer, your boss, or colleagues, dining etiquette counts. How you conduct yourself before, during, and after a meal can reveal a lot about your professionalism and character.

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Brush up on your dining etiquette before your next business meal. (Photo: Idlewyld Inn & Spa, London, Ontario)

When it comes to business dining, there can be a lot to remember. Which glass is yours? What should you drink? Who picks up the tab?

It can get complicated, especially if you travel to countries with unfamiliar customs. But if you follow these ten basic business etiquette tips you’ll be well on your way to making the right impression at your next business dinner.

Do your homework
Before you arrive, do some homework. Who will be joining you? What business are they in, and what is the company culture?

Then look up the venue. Is it a fine dining restaurant, or a casual pub?

A little bit of background research can go a long way in helping you feel confident, and in making sure you are dressed appropriately for the occasion.  When in doubt, it is always better to be overdressed than too casual.

Arrive on time
By on time, we mean try to be a few minutes early. If your host has not yet arrived, wait in the lobby. If you will be paying the bill, this is a great time to let the wait staff know and to give them your credit card.

Shake hands
Greet everyone with a handshake and a smile, and introduce yourself to anyone you don’t already know. Repeating someone’s name in conversation will help you remember it!

Keep the table clear
Do not place your handbag, briefcase, sunglasses or phone on the table. Bags can be placed under your chair, or between your back and the back of your chair. Coats should be hung on a coat hook, or over your chair back. Don’t forget to turn off your cell phone!

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Don’t clutter the table with bags, sunglasses, or cell phones. (Photo: Idlewyld Inn & Spa, London, Ontario)

Napkin in your lap / Solids to your left / Liquids to your right
Place your napkin on your lap as soon as you are seated.

Then, familiarize yourself with the place setting. If it’s more complicated than the basic fork, knife and spoon remember – the general rule is that utensils are placed in the order of their use. So start on the outside and work your way in.

Your bread is to the left, while your water, wine and coffee cups are on your right.

When in doubt, watch your host!

Drink with discretion
In general, it’s best not to drink alcohol at a business meal. Club soda with lemon is always a good option.

If you do decide to drink, moderation is key. Limit yourself to a glass of wine or one beer, and pace yourself.

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If you drink alcohol, limit yourself to a glass of wine or one beer. (Photo: Elm Hurst Inn & Spa, Ingersoll, Ontario)

Be ready to order
The host usually orders first, and it’s a good idea to follow their lead. Don’t choose the most expensive item on the menu. And don’t ask your server to explain the menu or make substitutions – unless you have a food allergy. You don’t want to come across as difficult or indecisive.

Stay away from trouble
Try to avoid foods that can be messy or difficult to eat. These include finger foods, spaghetti, tacos or hamburgers, dishes with a lot of sauce, or lobster.

Don’t just dig in
Wait for everyone at the table to get their meal before you start eating. Then, take small bites, and don’t talk with your mouth full. Cut your salad into small pieces if needed, break bread / rolls and butter each piece individually, and try to finish at the same time as the rest of your party.

To pay, or not to pay
Usually, the host pays. And while it is always polite to offer to pick up the check, don’t argue or offer to pay the tip.

Thank your host
Don’t forget to thank your host at the end of the meal. You may also want to thank them again later, with an email or handwritten note.

We’ve hosted thousands of business dinners at the Elm Hurst Inn and Idlewyld Inn, and hope these tips take the stress out of your next formal meal.

Share your business dining etiquette tips in our comments!