1. Greet them at the door and offer them a drink right away.
2. Introduce them to other guests and start them off on a conversation.
3. Find out if they have food allergies/sensitivities ahead of time and plan a meal around that rather than drawing attention to them with a 'special exception' dish. This is not always possible, but nice when you can.
4. Remember favorites (kind of wine or brand of whiskey, for example, or a special pasta dish) and be sure to have it on hand.
5. Don't assume that people from other countries want to eat the food of their home country. If you went to a home in Japan, would you want to be served cheeseburgers? That said, if you are confident that you excel in their cuisine and want to offer them a taste of homecooking, by all means give it a go.
6. If the group doesn't know one another very well, serve food that's not too difficult to eat or that doesn't requite a battery of special utensils.
7. Pay attention to the lighting and temperature in the room and adjust accordingly. Have blankets and shawls available if you're hosting an outdoor party.
8. Plan your meal so that you don't have to spend the entire time in the kitchen in a frantic rush. People love good food, but people love people even more and your friends are there to see you.
What do you do to make your guests feel more comfortable and at ease?
(Image: Dana Velden)