Holiday Entertaining Tips
Katz, Ruth J., Newsweek
Holiday entertaining should be a delight-never a chore; if it is the latter, you may as well be partying with Scrooge. Following is your silent party-planning partner, a complete baedecker to successful entertaining. Whether your get-together is spontaneous and casual (good friends devouring a pot-hick supper around the kitchen table), or more structured ( Sunday afternoon cocktail party), or formal (black-tie, midnight supper gala), it should bear your personal touch, even if you hire a party planner. Remember, the fancier and more detailed the event, the more you'll need to rely on a "military" time chart/check list.
Guess who's coming to dinner.
How many people can your home (or the rented facility) hold?
Do you want to use the occasion to meet the new neighbors?
Pay back invitations? Revisit old friends? Get to know co-workers better? Catch up with family?
Should you create a real social, combining diverse groups of friends?
Do you want to include tots and/or your teen-age children's friends? Do you want a high-voltage, noisy bash? Or an intimate and cozy setting?
Will guests be standing, mingling? sitting, chatting? In warm weather climes, should the party be outdoors? Is it feasible to connect the party to an event--like an afternoon of ice skating? A snowman-building competition? Trimming your tree? A postchurch brunch?
Weekends provide you with lots of last-minute prep time. Guests linger on a "non-school" night; week nights mean early-to-bed. Weekend afternoons are perfect for an all-day open house, ideally suited to staggering arrival times on invitations, especially when you want to invite more guests than your house comfortably accommodates. Give guests plenty of notice; even Sleeping Beauty and Rip Van Winkle get lots of invitations at holiday time.
Interesting store-bought variety, with a dash of glitter or tinsel-or even a be-ribboned fir twig-tucked inside envelope.
Custom-crafted, using hand-colored photocopies, or rubber stamps, stickers, magazine cut-outs, metallic markers, etc.
Ornament (mailed in a little box) with a large hang-tag, with party info.
Elegant vellum papers with gold calligraphy.
Phone and novelty fax for last-minute events
What's for dinner?
Think through the menu and match it to the time of day, type of event, and invitees. Regardless of the fare, always have something that vegetarians, dieters, and those on restricted diets can eat. Some options you might not have considered:
Gourmet cheeses, fruits (candied and fresh), and a selection of grand wines [to ferret out good values, pick up Daniel Johnnes's Top 200 Wines (Penguin); on your invitations, say something homey, like "Join us for Berries and Brandy, Cherries and Candy")
Sweets, cakes, cappuccino, cocoa, and cognacs; splurge on Krups' new Espresso Novo 3000 ProCrema machine and mix in Godiva's luscious-flavored biscotti with your selection of goodies; add something a little surprising, like Jose Cuervo "Reserva de la Familia," a tequila so elegant and smooth it should be served straight-up like cognac.
Red and Green "Gourmet Gala," can consist of pastas, pizza and salads for an apres-ski event. Get Buckeye Beans & Herbs ( 1-800-449-2121 ) colored pastas, in holiday shapes.
Champagne and hors d'oeuvres [to cut costs, domestic sparkling like Domaine Chandon is perfect; for an extraordinary champagne-at an extraordinarily reasonable price-try Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru 100% from North Berkeley Wine (1-800-266-6585)
Food for thought.
Prepare as much as possible ahead freeze, if you can.
If you're hiring a caterer, be knowledgeable:
Ask friends for recommendations/collect names of caterers" whose cuisine you've enjoyed. Sample the dishes you're ordering. …