A survival guide to home entertaining

The Organizing

It’s not sexy or fun but the truth is a good party actually takes a lot of organizing. “Plan your party ahead of time by spreading out the shopping, prep time and cooking over several days so you won’t be in a rush on the day itself,” says Guo Yi, owner of Jigger & Pony.

The need to plan also extends to the guests as well. “Never say it’s just a pot luck, so bring whatever you like. If three friends all bring ice-cream, it’ll become an ice-cream party. Delegation ensures you have everything you need,” says Guo Yi.

Also make sure you can cope with the number of guests coming, do you have enough crockery, chairs and glasses for example? Of course one option is to go for disposable options but our experts reckon you need to be careful with your choice.

Your guests are only going to eat their food if it’s convenient. Scrap those cheap flimsy plastic disposables that break every time you stab a chicken wing,” says Guo Yi “There’s a new brand of cornware disposables that are both sturdy and biodegradable.”

The Drink

You can’t have a bacchanalian bash without some vino but getting the right options can be tricky. Always have some easy-drinking wines for guests who don’t like full-bodied types or to pair with spicier food. Good options include any kind of Pinot Grigio or Pinot Noir.

How to serve the wine is also important “The warmer climate in Singapore ages the wine more and makes the sugar more obvious. Always chill it to 16-18 degrees before serving,” says Michel Caillard, owner of Different Wines.

It’s a party so of course there should be some bubbles to drink, but what you might not know is that Champagne can work well with most dishes, not just desserts. In particular vintage champagnes or Blanc de Noirs go well with powerful mains like foie gras or a nice steak. “Always start with the youngest Champagne and work your way to the oldest vintages. The non-vintage champagnes have the least character while the older ones are more complex,” says Michel.

A further top tip from Michel is to get jiggy with your wine. “Shake your bottle vigorously to bring all the oxygen in. Sommeliers do it all the time before serving it to a customer. It’s as if it’s been decanted for two hours,” says Michel. 

In terms of quantities we recommend buying at least twice as much booze as you think you’ll need. There’s nothing worse than running out. “Don’t forget the ice! Indoors or outdoors, Singapore could always use more ice at parties,” reminds Guo Yi.

The Food

Crystal Chua, founder of My Private Chef agrees on the need to plan ahead when it comes to the cooking, too: “Most home cooks try and juggle everything so it’s important to cook and prep before the party arrives. By the time your guests are in the house, you should only need to finish your dishes.”

The important thing is to know your limitations, keep things simple and select certain dishes that are relatively easy to prep and don’t need a lot of care and attention. You don’t want to spend the whole evening sweating in the kitchen while your guests are having fun.

“My go to recipe is beef bourguignon. Even though it’s a homey stew, it has strong flavors and can be thrown into the oven, but at the same time it’s not something you eat every day,” says Crystal.

There are ways you can cheat a little too. Crystal suggests your first dish should be cold so that it can be ready at any time, “You will never be in frenzy to plate hot courses that may turn cold,” continues the caterer.

One option is obviously to prepare food in advance. If you prepped and stored your food, slowly heat it up in the oven at a low and constant 50 degree temperature so it doesn’t cook further. Also avoid dishes that need a lot of attention during cooking.

Chef Johnston Teo of the soon to open Sorrel (21 Boon Tat St.) also suggests a short cut for cooking vegetables: “Make use of your microwave oven for porous veggies like carrots, leeks and asparagus. By cling-wrapping the plate of vegetables, the cling wrap will inflate with water and has the same effect as blanching.”

The Atmosphere

OK we admit this one is a little bit cheeky but if you really want to impress your guests, why not consider a change of address for the night. Pay a visit to the Air BnB site and you can swap your HDB flat out in Jurong for a brand new apartment in Marina Bay for the night. Just make sure not to trash the place.

It’s all about setting the mood so that people can relax and have a good time. Guo Yi suggests investing in some portable speakers to ensure you have music, just in case the conversation stalls or you want to get dancing. If you have time pre-preparing a play list can also take some pressure off and mean you don’t have the embarrassment of your favorite 1Direction song coming on mid-way through that sophisticated dinner party.

It doesn’t hurt to invest in a couple of cheesy decorations either; even if they look naff they’ll get people in the mood to party. Of course you can normally find lots of tacky treats at your local HDB market but if you do want to push the boat out why not head to a more upscale party store. The three branches of The Party Stuff offer a good range of decorations from balloons and banners to candles and promises free delivery if you spend over $120 on their website.

Pacing at party is also important.  “Never rush your guests to the table as not everyone arrives on time. Always have a welcome drink so as to not rush anyone and to loosen the atmosphere,” says Crystal.

“Never rush through dinner,” continues Crystal, “A party is all about conversation and you should go with the flow and serve the courses as the conversation wills.”

The Aftermath

Once the happy guests are gone you’ll be faced with the clean up, except do you need to be? Why not just relax and revel in those memories of a fun time (or just attempt to battle through that hangover) while someone manages the clean up process. There are a stack of companies offering this service (someone’s got to clean those expat homes)  with rates starting from around $20-30 an hour for a one off-spring clean.