TORONTO - Welcoming friends and family for a gathering at your home should be joyous but can sometimes provoke panic for the host or hostess worried about their shindig running smoothly.
Renowned household management and butlering expert Charles MacPherson explores the history of service and shares hosting and housekeeping advice in his new book "The Butler Speaks" (Appetite by Random House).
MacPherson offers three tips for stress-free entertaining:
1. Get a head start. Always try to plan things ahead of time. Aim to complete shopping several days in advance so you can avoid running out on the day of the event to get things you may have forgotten.
2. Plan the menu. You don't have to be scrambling on the day of your event to whip up a feast. Design a menu or buffet from the perspective of serving everything either cold or at room temperature, with items like smoked salmon, cheese, crudites or a platter of cold cuts. Serve those items with a hot dish like a stew or quiche. Then you only have to reheat one item.
"It really allows you to spend more time with your guests, and everyone is just really happy to be able to spend time with you and enjoy the good food."
3. Keep the bar stocked. MacPherson writes that the worst thing that can happen when setting up a bar at a function is to run out of alcohol, mix or ice.
In the book, he outlines a basic checklist including wines, spirits, non-alcoholic beverages and garnishes to help assemble a perfect bar which can be modified at the host's discretion.
"Always set up a bar so once you get a drink in someone's hand, people can help themselves," he says. "People always are comfortable as long as they have a drink and someone to talk to."