Read any magazine or newspaper article on party planning and the focus will likely be on the food, the decor, the planned activity or all of the above. However, if you’ve ever hosted a bash or thrown a large family gathering, you are well aware of the behind the scenes work is arguably more important. The making sure you have enough seating for everyone involved. The getting the venue ready for the big event. And, of course, the clean-up, which, as you well know, can often take hours.
But this time around, instead of concentrating on all things pretty and yummy, typically the stars of the show, let’s talk about that mucho important, hard-working cast of supporting characters that make all that fun possible.
Thankfully, I never seem to find myself running short on tables when we have a crowd, but chairs are a whole different story. Over the years, we have invested in what we thought was an ample supply of folding chairs (probably about 23 by now) and yet we often find ourselves scrounging for more seats. Sure, you can borrow from friends and neighbors, but if you have enough storage space, it is well worth having a personal stash so you don’t have to spend time running all over the place picking up and returning chairs. While some schools of thought suggest going for narrower chairs in order to maximize the number of seats at the table, others prefer something slightly wider so that you don’t have to worry about bumping elbows with your neighbors while cutting your chicken. While researching this article, I Googled “best folding chairs” and got multiple hits on Mity-Lite’s Flex-One folding chair, a slightly wider seat that garnered excellent reviews. Its slightly flexible, lattice-look plastic seat and back are surprisingly comfortable, offering great lumbar support and just the right amount of give. Available in more than a dozen colors, rated up to 1,000 pounds and with a 12-year warranty, this steel-framed chair is durable, lightweight and definitely a great pick as you put together your essential stockpile of chairs.
Another invaluable party item? A solid corkscrew. I know, I know. Oenologists and bartenders can seamlessly open a bottle in just seconds, but somehow I inevitably destroy the cork, probably because I can never seem to drive the corkscrew in at a 90-degree angle. So I am going to leave the bartenders’ corkscrews to the pros while I will stick with something foolproof that goes in right the first time and saves me from embarrassing myself in front of guests. There are quite a few corkscrews out there for cork-impaired people like me, but I am a huge fan of Oxo’s Steel corkscrew, which is not much larger than your average winged model and comes with a built-in foil cutter to make life easier. Its soft non-slip turning knob is intuitive and easy on the hands, with a convenient window that lets you monitor your progress, and removal is also a no-brainer. Simple, easy and no cork in your wine – how awesome is that?
Probably the most used item in your kitchen and the one most likely overlooked and taken for granted is the garbage can. Back in the day, a kitchen garbage was a non-descript plastic container you stuffed in a corner and ignored; today, trash cans are having their moment in the spotlight, with gleaming stainless steel models the norm in many a kitchen. These beauties do cost more than their homely plastic counterparts, but the main problem is that many of the stainless steel ones are motion-activated, making them off limits on Shabbos. Thankfully, the Joseph Joseph Titan compacting trash can is an exception. It is the winner of the coveted Good Housekeeping 2017 seal of approval, is good looking, opens via a foot pedal and isn’t overly massive. While technically this 30-liter garbage should only hold eight gallons, an innovative inner compacting system allows you to squash your garbage down, making more room in the bag, a really helpful feature when you are doing that post-party cleanup or even for those days when you just aren’t in the mood to take out the trash.
Of course, before you even start the party, you will probably want to make sure that your house is guest-ready, which means tackling those unpleasant cleaning jobs that we all try our best to ignore. Let’s face it, most of us have them lurking somewhere in our homes, and since Pesach is still a few months away, having company is as good a time as any to tackle them, especially when you can blast them to kingdom come with a steam cleaner. At first, I wasn’t quite sure if I needed a steam cleaner, but having seen my parents use one on their tile floor with fabulous results, I decided to give the handheld Nugeni Steampac a try. After clipping on the shoulder strap, filling it up with water and choosing a few of the many attachments in the box, my mid-sized Steampac and I started having a party, dissolving grease and dirt with streams of pressurized steam. A few blasts with the squeegee attachment and the handprints that my little guys left on my sliding glass doors as souvenirs of their last visit were gone. Snapping on the bristle brush, I got my bathroom tile sparkling clean in a matter of minutes and even got rid of the yucky stuff that had accumulated on the corner organizer that holds the soaps and shampoos in my shower. I am definitely excited about the idea that instead of tedious scrubbing I can just blast the steam and wipe away the dirt. Besides having tremendous potential for Pesach cleaning, the Steampac, which looks like a refugee from one of the Star Wars films, also does a great job de-creasing clothing. It goes without saying that while you want to have things looking nice pre-party, you know that the house is going to need a good steaming when the party is done, so you might want to keep your Steampac nearby. A special thank you to the nice folks at Nugeni for including a convenient hanging mesh bag to store all of the attachments. Also, a good thing to remember – be very careful when using any kind of steamer to avoid serious burns!
I couldn’t write this article without including a token decorative item, one that showcases my favorite part of any meal: dessert. The trend in dinnerware in recent years has been towards simpler dishes with clean lines that let the food take center stage, and Le Creuset’s white cake stand is the perfect way to show off that gorgeous cake or really spectacular kugel. Nearly 12 inches wide, it is big enough to accommodate just about any cake and Le Creuset’s signature enamel finish is beautiful in its simplicity, yet tough enough to stand up to even the sharpest knives. Best of all, it is dishwasher-safe, because who wants to be hand washing delicate items after all your guests have gone home?
So whether you are getting ready for a Super Bowl party, a milestone birthday, a Purim bash or just having your favorite peeps over for a post-Shabbos bash, take the time to make sure you are well stocked with the party essentials. I promise you – you’ll be glad you did.