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

Woman dies when run over by bus at…

A woman at the Burning Man arts and culture festival in the Nevada desert died on Thursday when she was run over by a bus carrying participants.

National

Texas parents sue day care center for duct…

By Marice RichterDALLAS (Reuters) - A Texas couple has filed a lawsuit against the owners of a Fort Worth-area day care center seeking $1 million…

National

Santa Fe city council votes to decriminalize marijuana

By Joseph KolbALBUQUERQUE N.M. (Reuters) - Santa Fe on Wednesday became the latest U.S. city to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, with lawmakers in the…

International

Egypt queries Mursi over documents "leaked" to Al…

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt is investigating jailed ex-president Mohamed Mursi in connection with documents that judicial investigators say were leaked to the Qatar-based Al Jazeera…

Going Out

'Friends' coffeehouse Central Perk coming to NYC —…

"Friends" is coming back for a one-off special: "The One with the Free Coffee." Warner Bros. is bringing a pop-up replica of Central Perk, the…

Movies

Interview: 'As Above, So Below' directors: 5 ways…

The fraternal directors of the found footage horror "As Above, So Below" dish on the best ways to frighten the bejesus out of audiences.

Movies

Criterion's new Jacques Demy box mixes the light…

Jacques Demy, the most effervescent of French New Wave filmmakers, gets a Criterion box all to himself, with classics like "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg."

Entertainment

Comedian Joan Rivers, 81, rushed to New York…

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Acerbic comedian and fashion critic Joan Rivers was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York on Thursday after she reportedly…

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

U.S. Soccer

5 facts about new England captain Wayne Rooney

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was named as the new England captain by coach Roy Hodgson on Thursday.

NFL

Jets vs. Eagles: 3 things to watch

A win on Thursday night at the Eagles would give the Jets a 3-1 record and just their second winning preseason under head coach Rex Ryan.

Style

Trend: White hot on the 2014 Emmy's red…

White was one of the big trends on the Emmy's red carpet.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…

Wellbeing

4 healthy ingredient swaps to make your meals…

When it comes to eating well, everyone knows they could be doing better. But cooking in an apartment on a busy schedule is a recipe…

Wellbeing

Heart trumps brain when it comes to movies…

When you need a good cry, do you reach for the movie that’s “based on a true story”? Science says you’re giving your brain far…