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Entertaining: Make It a Breeze 

Before you shake off the winter with a spring party, start with a plan.

Home Style recently caught up with Andrea Davis, chef and owner of the Flying Chef II, to find out her secrets for putting on a successful bash.

After working in the restaurant and hospitality industry for more than 18 years, Davis opened her company in 2002 as a full service catering and event-planning enterprise. She deals in the details, along with chores ranging from menu planning to transportation.

Home Style: How far ahead should you start planning a party?

Davis: About two to three months in advance, depending on the scale of the party and number of guests. Early planning ensures enough time to mail invitations so your guests can put you on their calendar as well, and if you are going to use a caterer or staffing, you need to work with their availability too.

What are the steps you should take?

Keep yourself organized, this will ensure you will not have a nervous breakdown the day of your party! Start a checklist, and do not be afraid to ask for help, even with running errands or party planning. Do your shopping as much in advance as possible, and start some of your food preparation two to three days out, read over your recipes, as some dishes have a longer shelf life and can be frozen and reheated the day of your party.

What type of theme parties work best?

Having a theme party is a lot of fun and there is no end to how you can weave your theme through the food and decorations. If you’re having an Asian theme, you can have sushi, use paper lanterns, chopsticks. … or you can throw a good old-fashioned barbecue with checkered table cloths, galvanized tubs for holding beverages and neckerchiefs for party favors. With spring and summer upon us, plan outdoor and garden patio parties with accent lighting-tiki torches.

How does an outdoor party differ from an indoor party in terms of preparation and challenges?

If you are planning an outdoor party, have a back-up plan for inclement weather. Most party rental sources have smaller tents that you can rent and then dress up your tent by stringing fun lighting or paper lanterns and hanging fabric round the poles. You can also purchase inexpensive tents and shelters at Cosco and Target; they are relatively easy to assemble and portable. Always watch the weather; don’t let a little rain ruin your event.

The most uninvited guest at a party is a bug. So use plenty of bug spray and insect repellent torch fuels are a must for outdoor events. … Remember to spray well in advance of any food being put out. And finally, an important thing is your menu. Try to remember your food is going to be in the sun and heat for a couple of hours, so your cheese platter may end up cheese fondue by the time your party is over.

What should you take into consideration when planning a menu?

If you are planning a theme party, try to coordinate your menu with your theme. Also, the time of day can dictate how heavy you want your food, even with finger foods. If your party starts at 6 p.m., most guests will expect a more substantial buffet or dinner. Also, check your guest list, as you would like to have a good idea as to any special dietary and food allergies your friends might have. In addition, when you are not sure, try to have chicken and vegetarian options and be careful with any recipes with nuts.

For quantities on food, a buffet item should be two to three pieces per guest; some items like shrimp or crab cakes will be a little more popular. Have a good variety of items as well — this is a good time to show off your favorite dish or try a new one.

Beverages … if you plan to serve alcohol, have several nonalcoholic options for your guests — bottled water and sodas in galvanized buckets packed with ice are a nice touch and people can serve themselves. You might want to have a specialty cocktail, instead of a full bar; this will keep costs down and you can still serve beer and wine. Keep a cooler of clean ice for cocktails and beverages. When it comes to alcohol, you are in control of this. Plan on two to three drinks per guest — again, you know your invitees and do not be afraid to offer a ride home to a friend if necessary.

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