How to Avoid Dinner Party Disasters

Ten Tips from a Top Hostess

Larol Madison is a clinical psychologist and social worker whose dinner lists often include a wide spectrum of guests. In addition to professionals from her own field, she will have authors, painters, musicians, designers, actors, and doctors from Southwestern Medical School around her table.

She offers these guidelines for aspiring hosts and hostesses:

1. Enjoy your own party. Set thingsup in advance so you can be a guest.

2. Food is almost as important asguests. Try to be creative. Whether it’sauthentic Texas chili or a Provencalpeasant dish, the food must beinteresting. (I do most of my owncooking, but like to let a bachelor friendtake over once in a while.)

3. Concentrate on interesting guestsrather than compatible people. Mixinterests, professions, married, single,young and not-so-young. Include some new faces in the old gangs.

4. Ask someone else to serve the first few drinks if you’re not a bartender(I’m not). Then let everyone go to the well on his own. If I’m lucky enough to have my son as a guest he will tend bar for a while, but like most men, he’ll “join the party” after a while – or lose his mixing eye!

5. I like to give “theme” dinners, like wine-tastings. But theme dinners must have a design: Try three selections of a particular wine from different regions orcountries, or the same grape as it istreated in three different locales. Set up a tasting sequence, and find foods that best accompany each sequence. People enjoy comparing wines and foods and voting on them.

6. I often give sit-down dinners foreight, but more than that and I let themsit anywhere, everywhere they will fit.One of my friends claims he hates mylarge dinner parties because the noiselevel is “unbearable.” I like noise -and I notice he never misses one.

7. Try to invite one unattached malefor each dinner; the married womenappreciate it. Gives them a chance toshow off.

8. Never seat a poet and a peasanttogether, or a Taurus and a Scorpio. Ifyou have a “star,” put him or heramong admirers to cut down onarguments. (Reverse it if you likeaction.)

9. Don’t be afraid to invite beautiful,sexy women, even if (like me) you’reunattached. Competition makes for agood evening.

10. Be prepared to break all these rules at a moment’s notice.

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