The thought of holding a dinner party can be a cause for consternation for even the most accomplished of home cooks. While you might produce a meal from scratch most evenings for your nearest and dearest, unless you're very experienced, the prospect of doing so for a group of friends is a bit more daunting.
Alternatively, perhaps you're a confident cook who's simply sick of spending the majority of the evening in the kitchen, while everyone else relaxes. Or maybe you've just had enough of dining out in restaurants for the time being and want to do something extra special next time you entertain. Either way, there are plenty of different dinner party options in the UAE.
The upmarket caterer
The Gourmet-to-Go menu of the high-end food store and caterer Lafayette Gourmet is a good option – it offers a nice selection of speciality platters, sushi and salads, which we suggest laying down in the middle of the table, rustic style. Then simply provide your guests with cutlery, crockery and napkins and invite them to tuck in.
Lafayette's Sea, Sea, Sea platter features seared tuna with citrus olive oil, traditionally garnished smoked salmon and classic prawn cocktail, while the antipasti selection brings you marinated artichokes and olives, roasted peppers, bresaola, balsamic shallots and a variety of Italian breads. Pair this little lot with a bowl or two of buffalo mozzarella, tomato and rocket salad and you're set. The platters start from Dh45 per person and can be collected from the store or delivered to your door.
The company also caters for business meetings, canapé receptions, large corporate events and sit-down dinners. For more lavish occasions, it can provide everything from waiting staff and linen to a DJ, a maître d' and even a full-scale buffet, complete with live cooking stations.
For more information, call 04 339 9933 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The private chef
When her friends started requesting that she cater for their dinner parties, Marta Yanci decided it was time to put her career as a lawyer on hold and instead pursue her passion for cooking. Drawing on her experiences of growing up and eating out in San Sebastian (a Spanish region renowned for both its Michelin-starred restaurants and small pintxos bars), as well as time spent training at the Mövenpick Hotel in Bur Dubai, she started working as a private chef three years ago and launched her catering company Marta's Kitchen last year.
What Yanci does, quite simply, is take the stress out of entertaining. She sits down with each of her guests to discuss ideas and food preferences and then comes up with a bespoke menu, designed with those needs in mind. If you so desire, that's as involved as you need to be; on the day of the party Yanci will take control of the kitchen, bring cutlery and crockery (if needed), provide a waiter or waitress to ensure the evening runs smoothly and clean up afterwards.
The menu can be as homely or as avant-garde as you please and she can also suggest low-calorie, gluten-free or detox-friendly options. Sample dishes include beetroot gazpacho with goat's cheese cloud, beef tenderloin with caramelised shallots and chocolate and hazelnut cake with strawberry and balsamic dressing.
The sushi party
The professional party planners at Dubai Party Queen (DPQ) suggest that holding a sushi night is a great way of giving your dinner party a unique, interactive twist.
There are two options: first, you can hire a sushi chef to lead a lesson, in which case they will turn up at your door with equipment, ingredients and plenty of professional knowledge. You'll learn how to prepare the rice, properly slice the fish and vegetables and make a variety of different rolls and nigiri. On average, the lessons last for two hours, but be warned, they're not cheap - prices start from around Dh2,000.
For something a little more relaxed (and wallet-friendly), DPQ proposes checking out a few YouTube sushi-making tutorials and shopping around for your own kit (try Dragon Mart and Daiso in Lamcy Plaza for rolling mats). Sushi rice, nori sheets and rice vinegar are all widely available in the UAE, so sourcing ingredients shouldn't be a problem. It's then up to you how far you extend the Japanese theme - think invitations, dress code and seating arrangements.
For more information, visit www.dubaipartyqueen.com.
The cooking lesson
Hiring a private chef to do all the cooking might be the most stress-free option, but if you want to hone your culinary skills as well as enjoy a delicious meal, inviting a professional into your kitchen to teach you and your guests the tricks of the trade makes perfect sense.
Once again, Dubai Party Queen can put you in touch with a chef who will help concoct a suitable menu and provide all the necessary ingredients and equipment. Just make sure you warn your guests in advance that this is going to be a hands-on experience, so that they can dress appropriately (no new outfits!).
A three-course meal takes around three-and-a-half hours to prepare (don't fret, you sit down to enjoy each course as and when it is ready, before returning to the kitchen) and prices start from Dh500 per person, including ingredients and cooking time.
Andy Campbell, who runs the Dubai-based company Chef for Hire, also offers a similar service and says that he's happy for his guests to get involved with the cooking of individual dishes, or just sit back and watch as he gives a demonstration. He'll even take you food shopping on the morning of the dinner party if you wish and is happy to supply recipes, so that you can recreate the meal at a later date.
The murder mystery evening
This is one for the extroverts: a successful murder mystery night requires guests to leave their inhibitions at the door and really get into character. Do-it-yourself murder mystery kits can easily be purchased online and there's a huge variety of themes and settings to chose from - 1920s, Wild West, and Death by Chocolate are popular. These packs contain individual booklets for each guest, with detailed information about their character, alibis and clues.
Although this is relatively easy to set up, it does require the host to take control of proceedings from time to time. If you'd prefer to get swept up in the action, then the UAE-based company Magnolia Event Entertainment can organise murder mystery parties to take place in your home, complete with professional actors (great for getting everyone involved and ensuring that the evening flows), a tailored script, special effects, costumes and props.
You can purchase a variety of murder mystery dinner kits online. Check out www.dinnerandamurder.com for a range of different downloadable scenarios and themes. Visit www.magnoliadubai.com for more information on Magnolia Event Entertainment