Going out for dinner is simple enough and having a dinner party at home, well, it’s an art. It’s not just about the food, ambience, music and people. It’s about the conversation — it just has to be intelligent, like mental masturbation. Cerebral with a twist of fun, a dash of zing, the conversation is such a deal-maker/breaker. Artistic or edgy, it should be fashionably and politically incorrect, floating from films to social gossip to false bravado!
It’s about the correct mix of people. Invite people who will spar with other people, people who will agree to disagree! People who will make a comment with their eye, not just their lip.... A snide look at someone’s shoe…. A fleeting glance at someone’s outfit…. A little innuendo…. All ingredients belonging to the recipe of a perfect party.
Mixing people well is important. It’s sad that very few people care about it. Even fewer people know how to do it. You don’t have to invite your best friend just because she’s your best friend. If she doesn’t fit in, it’s almost like a piece of furniture sticking out in a perfectly decorated room. If you invite everyone you know to every dinner you host, how boring!
So you’ve dealt with the guest list and you have sorted out the candles, music and food and very strong air-conditioning (a must for most months in Calcutta). The room should have a buzz even before the first guest arrives. For me, mehmangiri is very important. I make sure to receive every guest at the door. They are going to be in my space and they are going to be all mine for the next few hours.
Once the guests are comfortable (but not too comfortable), make sure to serve the drink of their choice (you need to find out in advance, carefully and cleverly) and then you bring two diametrically opposite people together, face to face, and allow the conversation to melt. Occasionally, starting up a controversial story — that will actually go on to become a highlight of the evening and conversation so memorable, you will take home. Every few moments, there should be a beautiful moment. And if you spot a corner not too bright, you move a diva in a flaming pink dress into that space. Make sure she is cheeky and has chutzpah.
Whatever they like to drink, I always recommend a start with champagne. It sets the keynote of the evening. Of course, a wicked barman is an asset. The kind who knows how to mix drinks wittily. Because, a cocktail can be great or it can be really, really terrible.
Then comes the other hero — the food. If it’s a small party, it must necessarily be home-cooked for that special feeling of care and indulgence. You can cheat with a few signature dishes from your guests’ favourite restaurant! If it’s a larger group, it’s important not to have messy food with strong pungent smells and spices if you are entertaining inside an apartment.
People should enjoy the experience of breaking bread with diverse people. Keep the drinks coming during dinner and make sure no one overeats. Serve the dessert quickly for a change of palate. The dessert should never be too sweet and, remember, it’s a conversation piece. It should never be overdone though — good, small things come in small doses!
After dessert comes the dessert wine. The secret is to always go back to the first drink you served. Once the champagne flutes come back, it signals to the guest that the party has begun all over again! It is the after-dinner party after dinner! The conversation gets better. The teasing increases. You will find everyone smiling a lot more! Enemies could kiss and make up. The first few people will leave and then the hangers-on who will drink themselves to death till they are sozzled will start speaking a different language! This is the moment when creativity is born. And you will be surprised to discover things you didn’t know about someone. The hidden talent comes out. Re-light the candles if you have to. No guest must want to leave. And that’s when you know your party is a super-duper success.
Pillars of A party
1 The Invite. A BBM broadcast, random text or casual Whatsapp isn’t always enough. Follow it up with a personal call. Want to surprise them all? Send hand-written letters or good ol’-fashioned cards.
2 The decor. Exotic flowers and sensual candles fit the bill for an everyday party. It’s the official party season, so think different, think big. A Christmas tree may be? Lots of mistletoe, definitely. Drop by Party Hunterz (on Theatre Road near Chhappan Bhog) for exciting party props.
3 The music. An iPod playlist or a rocking DJ or better still, a live band (book Nigel and his band — they can rock any era). Notify your neighbours, you definitely don’t want cops to gatecrash!
4 The dance floor. This makeshift space can be easily created by rejigging the furniture. Cover the cream sofas, please.
5 The barman. If you don’t want to moonlight as a bartender all night, hire expert help. But beware of them pouring your guests patiala pegs! You don’t want to drive all of them home.
6 The F&B. Turn the page for t2 tips.
7 The cameraman/woman. Don’t we all heart parties that hire an official photographer? Especially if you always end up being the unofficial photographer — never in front of the camera because you are always behind it.
8You-time. Here’s how you can enjoy your own party — get ready 20 minutes before your first guest is expected, pour yourself a drink and play your favourite track.
9 The smoking lounge. At the end of the night, the life of the party is either on the dance floor or in the smoking room. Throw in some hookahs, extra stock of flavours Brainfreeze and Paan.