When you’re getting together with friends, making a restaurant reservation is easy to do. But it’s much more relaxing and enjoyable to kick back with something good to eat and drink at home. Besides, that way you don’t have to stress about your buddies arriving on time, nor worry about anybody having, shall we say, a little too much fun.
Hosting a get-together at home is easier than you think when you're armed with a couple of key tips. Depending on what you’re planning, there are a few things to consider to help you pull off a successful event:
1. What's the Occasion?
It's fine to just invite friends over to hang out, but it's also fun to have a purpose for the party. If it's playoff season, make it an afternoon of brews, wings, and the game on TV. Just moved into a new place? Show it off and invite friends for some drinks and small snacks. If you have a pick-up soccer or football game on the weekend, invite friends back to your place for a low-key outdoor barbecue. Poker fanatic? Why not start a weekly or monthly poker game at your place? They bring the booze, you show off your culinary skills, and everyone wins.
2. Stock the Bar
You’ve got beer in the fridge and whiskey on the counter. But, why not spice things up and serve up a Whiskey Devil or some beer cocktails? Be sure to stock up on ice, track down those bottle openers, and chill the beer in advance. Tight on space? Instead of chilling everything in the fridge, fill a cooler with ice (and beer) and put it right where you’ll need it most — at you and your friends’ feet. Or pick up some bottles of good but not overly expensive red wine; beer isn't the only thing men drink. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Zieak)
3. Set the Scene
Putting on some good tunes is an easy way to take any gathering to the next level. Channel your inner DJ and put together a playlist that suits your mood and features your current favorites.
4. Keep the Conversation Going
Nothing is worse than being a guest at a party where you know very few people. Instead of disappearing into the corner, discussing the latest sports stats, situate yourself, as the host, near the door so you can welcome people as they arrive and make introductions. Seated at the table? Mix up the talkers with the guys who are more reserved to ensure the conversation doesn’t stay at one end of the table.
It also helps to plan a menu that won’t have you scrambling at the last minute in the kitchen. That way you can enjoy some drinks and catch up with friends — that is the reason we have people over, right?
5. Plates, Glasses, and Utensils
Be sure to have a plate, napkin, fork, knife, and maybe spoon for each guest coming over. Nothing has to match, as long as everyone has a plate of food. For a casual get-together, set everything out on a table so guys can help themselves. Don't have enough glasses? Mugs or plastic cups would work — but why not educate yourself on which glass to should be using with our cocktail glass primer.
6. Have Good Food, and Lots of It
Yes, beer is good. But what happens when hunger sets in after an hour? Nothing is wrong with take-out or delivery, but go the extra step and make something at home. It doesn't have to be a meal, or even impressive, as long as it's food. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Jeff Wilcox)
When planning the menu, keep it simple, go for balance, and make sure you've got plenty. Firing up the grill? Roast some potatoes and grill some vegetables (for the guys who do eat their greens) to go along with those burgers or steaks. If you’re feeling more adventuresome, try something like a slow-roasted pork shoulder that doesn’t need a lot of hands-on care. With some coleslaw or pickles and your favorite sauce, you can assemble your own sandwiches. Or go for something that can be made ahead like lasagna. Along with bread and a plain green salad, you’ll have a hearty meal.
Even if you don’t have the baking touch, don’t forgo dessert. Stick with something fail-safe: ice cream with brownies and/or cookies. Have a couple pints on hand so people can choose their own flavor to go along with warm chocolate brownies. Or, go gourmet and assemble your own ice cream sandwiches. Take two chocolate chip cookies, put a heap of ice cream on one half, then sandwich the second cookie on drop. Just eat it fast, or it will drip all over the furniture.
This story was originally published on May 6, 2011.