Throughout the year and especially during the holidays, there is nothing more important than gathering friends and family around your dining table for good food, company, and conversation. The staff at the Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas have plenty of experience pulling together flawless events and dinners. Here, they offer their advice on how to make any occasion a little more elegant with a little less stress.
EXECUTIVE CHEF DAVID WERLY ON PLANNING AHEAD
Consider how many people you can fit in your space, and then think about how big your fridge is! Clear out anything that you don’t need so you have plenty of room. Beverages can take up a lot of space, so chill them well in advance then transfer them to a cooler.
Next, survey your work surfaces. Do you have enough room to prep your food? Canapés are particularly challenging if you have a small space. Temporarily set up a dinner table as a work station prior to the party.
Preparing ahead is key, as well as serving dishes that don’t need last-minute finishing. Cook, chop, and prepare all the different components of any menu items that can’t be made fully in advance, then seal and store. On the day of your party, you’ll only need to combine the components and add dressings. Dressings for leaf salads are best left to the very last minute to avoid wilting.
Create a schedule to stay on top of your plans. Write a list of everything that needs to be ordered or arranged, from flowers and helping hands to the food, drinks, equipment, and decorations. Be realistic. It’s always better to give yourself too much time.
Be careful not to place the bar area too close to the front door as this always creates a bottleneck situation when the guests arrive.
FLORAL CREATIVE DIRECTOR FERNANDO GUZMAN ON IMPACT WITH DESIGN
The best results happen when you keep it simple. You need two to three different elements to build upon. Make a statement with height, texture, and depth. Keep hues in the same palate. This alone will create a great ambiance.
Find something you have a lot of around the house. Some people collect corks, for instance. Use them to create a runner down the middle of your table and then simply embellish with whatever element you decide on—a floral or a candle, perhaps?
Showcase one special area in your home. It might be a coffee table or the kitchen, where
guests gather. This takes the weight off you as the host and allows you to concentrate on the table.
Seasonality is important. In fall, for example, if you have access to a lot of pine cones and leaves, that alone is a very beautiful collection of color and texture.
When it comes to vases, I prefer clear cylinders: they make a clean and simple statement. Fill them with water; add a little food coloring to get the shade you desire and add a couple of candles. Even without florals, it brings out a nice hue.
Fruit makes a great design element. Fill varying heights of cylinders with fruits, like kumquats, and now you have a lot of color. Mix in another element like bamboo, and now you create texture contrast too. Simply add votives to your table to create a very memorable statement.
Use fruit as a runner. Place a ton of mandarin oranges down the center of the table and tuck in a simple orchid here and there. This creates a focal point that is rich and colorful. Very impactful.
WINE DIRECTOR WILL COSTELLO ON WHAT TO SERVE
Sparkling wine is a great way to get a party started. I recommend Étoile by Domaine Chandon out of Yountville, California. It is aged longer than most vintage Champagnes, and for the price and quality, it is a stunner. Available as a brut and a rosé.
When it comes to food pairings, stick to neutral wines that will complement dishes, not overpower them. A pinot noir from Oregon is perfect because the flavors—ripe and fruity—hold up to any dish, plus you can get them at a good price point. A Chianti Classico is another great example. They tend to be easy drinking and inexpensive wines, with enough complexity that they will not disappoint even those discerning wine drinkers! These are reds you can throw in the fridge and give a nice chill to, especially if the party is outside on a warm evening, as they will quickly warm up.