The Five Senses — Driving a Party

There are really no tricks to a successful party, dinner, gathering or whenever or whatever you might be hosting.  It’s just organization and planning.  But in all of it you have to hit the five senses of your guests the second they walk in the door:  Taste, sight, touch, smell and sound.

If you can achieve all five you are good to go as you have done your job.  It is always the balance, yes, as the host you have done the shopping and all of the preparation, will be doing the cooking and then the cleaning.  At the same time you have asked your guests to give you their time and in this crazy world, time is a valuable commodity.

Therefore, I think the host is obliged to make sure every guest has a great time and part of that is hitting their five senses.


  • Set the menu so you take advantage of whatever is in season so your flavors are at the peak of freshness
  • Use the best ingredients possible, from olive oil to the wine you use to cook with, it all makes a huge difference
  • Alway have at least one appetizer or dip out when guests arrive
  • Each party should have a specialty drink in addition to whatever else you are serving and ready as your guests arrive


  • Table setting, flowers or some arrangement, food in sight, bar set…what people see as they enter a party sets the tone for the rest of the day.  Set everything in place hours before the party so you are not rushing to get everything looking good
    • Flower arrangements, or just a bowl of colorful fruits or vegetables
    • Set the table or buffet station with the appropriate glasses and plate
    • Have the kitchen clean and clutter free
  • If it is a holiday then have the proper decorations up and maybe a little over the top
  • When you buy your dishes, glassware and so on think about how it will all look together.  Add a lot of color when you start filling your house with the goods because you will be using it for decades



  • When you look at where you are having your party or meal, think about what is within people’s reach.  Is the bar convenient so people can grab a drink of their choosing
  • Are the appetizers convenient to grab?   The food has to be central to where your guest are or it will go mostly untouched
  • Texture is critical to the meal, no one likes the feel of soft, mushy, damp food, so make the menu appropriate for the setting

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  • Try not to burn anything just before the party kicks off as the aroma from the kitchen really does get people thinking about what is ahead.  I aways make chicken stock a few hours before the party begins so the house fills with the scent of the broth coming together.  In the winter time I will simmer mulling spices in apple juice, we dub it Christmas in a jar as the scent drags out memories of so many holiday parties growing up
  • Your cooking will fill the house with a great scent of food but you can also put out some mild candles but you don’t want to have the scent of a bordello so be prudent

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  • The music has to work with the gathering and should be set to be in stages from the cocktail hour all the way through post-dinner antics.  With Spotify, Pandora or all the other stations you can tap into just about any kind of playlist or make your own
  • What is critical is that you have the music lined up and playing the second the party is to start
  • Sometimes a band can be a great deal of fun
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