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Hosting The Spouse's Boss - Advise please?

After the end-of-year holidays cease, and the winter doldrums set in, I know the perennial question of hosting my Hub's boss and wife for dinner will come up. Other circumstances have intervened, thankfully, in the past, but this year has a few extra twists and I think I will have to do it, for reasons related to work politics and marital harmony.

I have never hosted a two-couple dinner with the Boss being an element, and am feeling like a newly-wed Laura Petrie ("Oooooh, ROB...!!). Am looking for some sage advice from those who have quaked in their boots and gritted their teeth and gone on. And survived.

My most salient questions (I'm sure I'll think of more later):

- How to deal with a Boss who has extremely non-chowish tastes (per reportage), especially since my Hub (gotta love him) has lauded my cooking to the Boss. Problem: I cook fairly chowish AND ethnic AND, well, with seasonings. How have you managed this?

- How to manage the alcohol consumption (of both Boss and Hub). Cheeriness and conviviality, yes, but intoxication, no. How have you managed this?

- How one deals with the fact that one's setting is "not like other settings;" to wit, we are a household of artists, both trained and untrained (Hmmm...sounds weirdly icky), and our home is not exactly decorated in a Dinner With The Boss fashion. Does one dumb down the more creative home in case it doesn't loo "right," whatever right is? How have you managed this?

- Finally, are any of my paranoid (I admit I am) worries even warranted? Can one be as one is with one's friends: welcoming, convivial, feeling accepted simply by opening one's home and being oneself, or is there a complicated recipe of political maneuvering and host choreography that I did not line up for when they handed out this knowledge?

I would appreciate success stories as well as cautionary tales. Really. Either that, or send tickets for me to be far, far away...

Thank you!

Cay

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  1. I haven't had to entertain "the boss" in many years (being divorced and all) but I'd concentrate on getting the best quality ingredients, and make the best damn roast chicken (or beef tenderloin), the best potatoes au gratin, and the best (simple) roast veggies ever. Make a terrific chocolate layer cake, some crudites (using the best produce you can find) and a great dip and call it a day. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow and stiffle the your chowish instincts.

    As for the alcohol consumption, you have to be a responsible hostess and cut them off. Lock the liquor cabinet or say you just didn't buy enough. Don't worry about your home, if it doesn't look right to Mr. Boss that isn't your problem. (Unless of course, you have *questionable* items on display, and I'm thinking of "The Birdcage" movie that was on the other night!)

    Edit: Relax, and have a great time!

    2 Replies
    1. re: rednails

      Yes. Roast chicken is the first thing I thought of when Cay said boss is "non-chowish." With any dinner where you're hoping to impress someone, or nervous for some reason, it's always best to go with a dish that you could make in your sleep. Now is not the time to try new recipes that you're not sure about. It could turn out great, but the stress involved isn't worth it.

      As to the other issues, e.g., how the house is decorated, etc., don't be crazy. It's your house. They're your guests. They don't like it, they don't have to come back.

      I can't imagine alcohol consumption being a big problem if you're dealing with normal people. Is there some reason you (addressed to OP) are worried about this? Just pace things and hope that your guests follow your lead.

      1. re: rednails

        I love "The Birdcage"! If you serve soup, make sure there aren't questionable poses depicted at the bottom of the soup bowl!

        Have you considered making soup? Even non-chowish tastes will enjoy a beautiful, hearty bowl of soup, esp. this time of year. I think rednails hit on the head with her suggestion of traditional dishes with the best ingredients possible.

        As for your home, don't change a thing, but make sure it's clean. I think, if anything, cleanliness would be noticed more than decor. Of course, the aforementioned questionable items notwithstanding!

      2. Hi Cay,
        Repeat after me... "Your husband's boss is JUST a PERSON". I have been on both ends of the situation (both as the wife of the boss and as the underling) and I do think you are worrying too much!

        (- How to deal with a Boss who has extremely non-chowish tastes?)

        Stick to the basics and put all sauces on the side. make something like chicken or beef...maybe your husband knows of something he does like...what does he bring/eat for lunch??

        ( How to manage the alcohol consumption (of both Boss and Hub). Cheeriness and conviviality, yes, but intoxication, no. How have you managed this?)

        They're both adults, no? This should be a non-issue. I was recently invited to a girls night out with the women that work for my husband, obviously I had a couple glasses of wine but certaintly wasn't knocking back shots :-)
        However, if there is someone in the scenario with a true drinking problem, I would not advise cutting off the boss, this would only make him uncomfortable.

        (- How one deals with the fact that one's setting is "not like other settings;" to wit, we are a household of artists, both trained and untrained (Hmmm...sounds weirdly icky), and our home is not exactly decorated in a Dinner With The Boss fashion.)
        I would dim the lights and light some candles, if you have a fireplace, use it. Your place will end up looking cozy and maybe bohemian??

        (- Finally, are any of my paranoid (I admit I am) worries even warranted? Can one be as one is with one's friends: welcoming, convivial, feeling accepted simply by opening one's home and being oneself, or is there a complicated recipe of political maneuvering and host choreography that I did not line up for when they handed out this knowledge?)
        Again, he is just a person, relax and have fun!

        2 Replies
        1. re: SweetPea914

          All very well said. And if for some reason the alcohol consumption gets out of hand and it's time for him to go home (hopefully this doesn't happen before dinner), turn up the lights, serve coffee, etc.

          1. re: MMRuth

            RE: Alcohol - make sure you have snacks/apps while the pre-dinner cocktails are flowing to soak up libations.

        2. The answers you've received, pot roast or roasted chicken, should be right. You probably want something without a rigid timetable. Some $12 to $15 bottles of wine and some beer would be sensible. If the Boss has too much to drink, Mrs. Boss will probably be on him. If your DH gets too much too drink, well, it's his Boss, so why would he. You probably need to stay straight. The best thing you can do is be mannerly.

          1. I really don't want you to serve chicken to the boss unless he is no-meat-eater. I would do a beef burgundy (make the day before to marry flavors) with pasta or noodles, a lovely green salad and crusty bread plus red wine.
            If you are worried about alcohol consumption, have a short cocktail hour, your dinner is hearty and have a dessert and COFFEE.

            10 Replies
            1. re: Gail

              I'd avoid any food made with alcohol! No matter how much you think the alcohol is cooked off, some still remains......

              1. re: rednails

                I'm not sure about that. But even if some remains, it would not be enough to create any physical or mental impairment.

                1. re: Gail

                  My point is--why even take the risk? I wouldn't serve anything w/alcohol, on even a 1% chance that there would be any negative effect.

                  1. re: rednails

                    Are you talking about serving food to an alcoholic? I'm talking about possible dishes for the OP to serve to Mr. & Mrs. Boss. This thread has taken a real drift...

                    1. re: Gail

                      I agree - I don't recall the OP mentioning alcoholism as a problem, just wanting to make sure folks didn't drink to much.

                      1. re: Gail

                        I'm saying apparently there is an issue with alcohol, the consumption of it. Not serving an alcoholic per se, but when there's a potential of abuse, why exacerbate it? There are alternatives to beef burgundy, that's all.

                      2. re: rednails

                        Even when I was pregnant, and given a crazy list of things not to eat, beef burgundy, chicken marsala, and even penne a la VODKA were all deemed ok by my Dr. If we were talking about true alcoholics, then maybe a dish with alcohol might be an issue. But I think a dish with cooked alcohol should be fine in these circumstances.

                    2. re: rednails

                      I've always wondered about the alcohol cooking off issue. My only point of reference is a very good friend from London who comes to stay with me for a few weeks a couple of time a year. He's been very active in AA for more than fifteen years now. When I first started cooking for him on a regular basis, I asked him about putting white wine in mussels muniere, for instance, and he told me to go ahead, that the alcohol cooks out and only the flavor remains. And this is from a man who will ask me to taste his dessert for him to see if it has any alcohol in it.

                        1. re: danhole

                          Thanks for pointing that out to me. Both the article and the comments and links were very interesting. I don't know whether or not my friend knows that, or if it would change his mind if he did. I guess he must go by the assumption that if he can't taste it, it's not a problem for him.

                  2. Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking books have wonderful stories about entertaining under less than ideal conditions, by the way, in case you need more moral support!

                    http://www.amazon.com/Home-Cooking-Ki...