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  • Go Global

    Tips for Hosting your own international dinner
  • I once attended a successful fundraiser showcasing food and entertainment from all over the globe. It was the most fun I ever had at a school function, and I've often wondered how to put together a similar soiree in my home.
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  • I once attended a successful fundraiser showcasing food and entertainment from all over the globe. It was the most fun I ever had at a school function, and I've often wondered how to put together a similar soiree in my home.
    As it turns out, it's a manageable job with the right planning, local experts say.
    First, pick a date a few weeks out so calendars aren't already full, says event planner Jesse Longhurst, of Red Letter in Ashland. When deciding whom to invite, "think about what you'd like the mood of the party to be like," says Longhurst. "Then invite people who would enjoy that mood."
    If you're trying for a sophisticated affair, children might not make great guests. If you're aiming for a backyard shindig with limbo and loud music, grandma might feel uncomfortable.
    Select a unifying theme to avoid a feeling of confusion, Longhurst recommends. An East-to-West progression of dishes — starting with Eastern-inspired appetizers, followed with a Greek salad, a French or Spanish main course and a Mexican dessert — is one of her suggestions. Another idea is serving only hand-held foods, such as gyros, egg rolls and miniature pastries.
    "Always err on the side of abundance," says Sharon Buell, owner of Bellissima Catering. "You want to make sure people can have seconds or even thirds if they want."
    For an hors d'oeuvres-only party, Buell recommends six to eight pieces per guest. For a full dinner, she suggests a salad, protein dish, starch, two side dishes and lots of bread and butter. She recommends keeping very spicy or unexpected flavors out of dishes. Instead, provide unusual, regionally inspired sauces — her signature is apricot chutney — that guests can add themselves.
    For dessert, fresh fruit with chocolate for dipping is a hit all over the world. "Cantaloupe and strawberries are amazing with chocolate," Buell raves.
    Serving good food family-style — passed from person to person, everyone serving themselves — is more intimate than buffet-style dining. If you prefer the stand-up approach, set up stations for each region — French pastries and cheeses on a cart decorated with fresh flowers or platters of olives, figs and grilled kebabs on a Moroccan-themed table.
    Food safety is a concern at parties — no one wants to make their guests sick. Avoid highly allergenic foods, "like nuts," says Buell. "You want to keep hot foods hot — over 140 degrees — and cold foods cold, under 40 degrees. And discard food left out for more than two hours."
    Choosing wines to go with unfamiliar foods might seem intimidating, but it doesn't need to be.
    "The wine must match the intensity of the food," says Matthew Sorenson, winemaker for Longsword Vineyard in Jacksonville. "That's why we traditionally pair chicken and fish with white wine and red meat with red wines. It really has nothing to do with the color — it's the intensity of flavor that matters."
    A good rule of thumb, he says, is to match foods with wines from the same region. For light, fresh, Mediterranean foods, he recommends an Italian dolcetto — a dry, red wine with a little bit of acid. Chicken cordon bleu pairs well with French-style chardonnay. For spicy, ethnic foods, Sorenson recommends a sparkling wine with a bit of residual sugar to offset the heat.
    Allow two glasses per person and five glasses per bottle. Also serve nonalcoholic beverages, says Buell.
    Longhurst recommends renting furniture, tents and even dishes. "It saves you the hassle of dragging every table and chair out into the yard or into one room," she says, "and rentals are really very inexpensive."
    Renting dishes and silverware is an eco-friendly alternative to paper plates and plastic cutlery and ensures a matching set.
    Most importantly, have fun. Mingle, eat and relax. If you need help, ask — most people love to lend a helping hand. And don't worry too much about the little details. If you're enjoying yourself, your guests will, too.
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