Throw a dinner like Padma Lakshmi

Though Padma Lakshmi shared her advice with us, she’s really interested in seeing your best party-planning tips: As the spokeswoman for Sterling Vineyards Ultimate Host campaign, she’s looking for one amazing entertainer via Sterling’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/sterlingvineyards). The winner will nab $25,000, a trip to the Sterling Vineyards campus in Napa, plus a vacation to the Food & Wine Festival in Pebble Beach, Calif.

Make your shopping trips easier
“Maybe you need some weird spice or some specialty ingredient. … You can always call ahead,” Lakshmi advises. “Call the spice shop and say, ‘Hi, I’m coming down to pick up yuzu, do you have it in stock? Can you save a bottle by the register? I’ll be there in half an hour.’ That way you know it’s waiting for you. Even give them a credit card, have them run it. You pick it up, you sign the bill, you’re home that much faster.”

Design the menu around your guests
“If you have a guest list of people you know well and you know that a certain person likes a certain dish, it is nice to make it for them because it shows you’re thinking about them and what pleases them,” Lakshmi says. “The No. 1 thing that a good host or hostess should remember is that hosting a party is about making others feel welcome. It’s about making other people feel loved and thought about and making other people have a good time.”

Prep early so you can enjoy yourself
“The No. 1 key to having a good party — whether it’s a cocktail party or a barbecue or a formal dinner party — is when the host is relaxed,” Lakshmi explains. “The way to ensure that is preparation. Don’t wait until the last minute to go shopping or plan your menu. Try to plan a menu that has at least half or two-thirds of the items on it that can be made ahead. … You want to make things that are easy on you. Nobody comes to a party for the food; they actually really come to the party for the people.”

Serve a buffet

“If it’s a dinner party for more than six or eight people, I always do it buffet,” Lakshmi admits. “It allows your guests to mingle with other people rather than just the person to their left  and right, and [it] allows you to have more guests rolling in and out.”

Choose the right music

“Music is important in the beginning, especially when the first guests are arriving — [so] there’s not  crickets or silence,”?Lakshmi says. “If you’re planning a soundtrack you should plan it for the whole evening: maybe cocktail-y music at the start. During dinner I like jazz or classical, mostly instrumental, because I’m interested in the conversation.”

Your party timeline

Three weeks before: Send invitations
“I think you want to give people time to make room in their schedule for the party … whether [your invite is] just an e-mail or a phone call sayin, ‘Hey, I want to have you over for dinner, how does three Thursdays from now look?’”

Within the week of the party: Get a guest headcount

“If I’m planning a dinner party for six, that’s different than a cocktail party for 60 or a buffet for 36.”

Three or four days before: Start stocking up
“There’s some things, like flowers and fruit, that you  want to buy three or four days in advance so they have a chance to bloom, to ripen. … Talk to your florist: Say, ‘What days do the flowers come in? They’ll tell you.”

The day of:?Buy any last-minute items, and prepare what you can in advance

“Fish you always want to buy the day of, you want it to be fresh. … Make a salad, make a quiche, warm the quiche up in the oven. Make a roast that you can turn the oven off at 3 and it just stays warm and you can slice it tableside.”


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Train selfie star who got kicked in the…

  A 22-year-old Canadian man who posted a video of himself getting kicked in the head by a train conductor is set to cash in…

National

Call of Duty hoaxer blamed for $100K SWAT…

A heavilly-armed SWAT team and an army of police officers stormed a Long Island home fearing a grisly double homicide – only to find it…

National

Minnie Driver tweets naked celebrity snap to 'shut…

Actress Minnie Driver has responded to bitchy critics who sniped about her bikini body by Tweeting a naked picture of herself. The 44-year-old star of…

National

American middle classes no longer world's richest (guess…

America's middle classes are no longer the richest in the world – having been overtaken in the wealth stakes by their Canadian counterparts. For almost…

The Word

Lupita Nyong'o is People's Most Beautiful

Congratulations to Lupita Nyong'o, officially the most beautiful human on the face of planet Earth (2014 season).

Television

John Turturro tags in for Robert De Niro…

The cast of the courtroom drama miniseries has undergone yet another shift. Following Robert De Niro's exit, the cable network has brought in John Turturro…

Arts

"The Shape She Makes", an "extraordinary treat" at…

“The Shape She Makes” is a fascinating melding of theater and dance in a narrative that exposes human vulnerability in its purest form. Initially, the…

Television

TV watch list, Tuesday, April 22: 'Glee,' 'Agents…

'Glee' Rachel makes her Broadway debut in "Funny Girl." Remember when she was just a high school drama nerd? FOX, 8PM 'Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'…

MLB

MLB video highlights: Yankees rout Red Sox, 9-3

Jon Lester allows eight runs in 4 2/3 innings taking loss

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: Brewers best in baseball, Dodgers,…

MLB Power Rankings: Brewers best in baseball, Dodgers, Cardinals, Yankees surge. The A's, Braves, Rangers, Giants and Rockies are also in the top 10.

Sports

American runners stand tallest in 2014 Boston Marathon

American runners stand tallest in 2014 Boston Marathon

Sports

2014 Boston Marathon results: American Meb Keflezighi wins…

2014 Boston Marathon results: American Meb Keflezighi wins men's race

Wellbeing

How to burn off all that Easter candy

Sorry to be a buzzkill, but you can't eat chocolate eggs and Jelly Bellys forever.

Food

Powdered alcohol: 5 things to know about 'Palcohol'

What's the deal with powdered alcohol? Here's what you need to know about Palcohol.

Travel

Travel hacks: 6 tips on living out of…

Lynne Martin shares her travel hacks on living out of just two suitcases.

Wellbeing

Tough Mudder pro gives tips on conquering a…

Learn hacks from head designer Nolan Kombol.