Whether you're a novice or a hostess with the mostess, here are the absolute best pieces of advice I've ever heard about hosting your own party, specifically regarding the food. And, surprise surprise, these nuggets of wisdom come from my favorite famous hostess, The Barefoot Contessa herself, Ina Garten. She has such a knack for doing simple food really well, which I love!
There's no need to sweat and fret over impressing your guests with a buffet full of only homemade snacks. Sure, it may earn you a pat on the back or two, but I promise that it's not worth it to have every pan in your kitchen dirtied and yourself so pressed for time that you don't get to enjoy your own party. Do two things really really well, and guests will appreciate the effort and enjoy your treats. Need examples? Try ham and swiss in puff pastry for savory, and homemade Oreos for sweet.
2. Everything else should be entirely store-bought.
Vegetables, hummus, crackers, shrimp (pre-cooked, even), and cocktail sauce all came from my friendly neighborhood Market District store. Remove them from their packages and plate on pretty platters and shiny chargers and you're finished! Dip tip: never ever keep the dip in its original container. Even if you only have a plain white bowl, that's a major improvement that will show you took the time to think of little details. A relaxed smile on your face is worth much more than a kitchen full of sweat and tears, F.Y.I. :)
3. Never make a dish that requires lots of last minute work.
One of my favorite Ina stories is about the first time she threw a brunch party. She promised guests omelets and spent the entire party in the kitchen, cooking one after another, and missed out on spending time with her company. Think about things that can be plated, covered, and chilled, if necessary, until the witching hour begins. Or something super easy that will be ready to take out of the oven just as folks arrive. Bonus: it'll make your place smell fantastic!
See? It's much easier than you might have thought! If you've been a reluctant host or hostess in the past, I hope these tips courtesy of Ina have given you the confidence to have some of your favorite people over to mingle. If you're an entertaining aficionado, what's your best entertaining trick or piece of advice?