Entertaining tips for the Holidays

perfect-settings-columbia-pa.jpgPeople dread Holiday entertaining mostly because they feel like they can’t host parties with flair. People with flair need not be concerned. The following is information for the rest of us that require Holiday direction. When I started research to write this I thought “No wonder people despise hosting parties the plethora of information is overwhelming!” However, it doesn’t have to be. It’s pretty simple if you keep it simple. Consider a holiday get together as dinner for you and your family but at a larger scale. In reality that’s really what it is. According to the Buitoni website, the only site I found that didn’t have information overload, Holiday parties are easy and simple: Serve 4-5 bite-sized dishes. People like to eat while they drink, and some may use this as dinner. Think big flavors – people won’t be eating a whole plate of it, so aim to impress in one or two bites. Serve one or two meat dishes and a vegetarian dish. Buitoni suggests a crudité be served. I disagree. As someone that has events or entertains just about every weekend of the year, crudités are hardly ever eaten. Guests will sample the carrots and celery but that’s about it. If you plan to serve a veggie tray try spicing it up a bit. Buy nice Greek olives, asparagus, stuffed jalapeño peppers or any other veggie. Be sure to sear them on the grill. I promise it will always get eaten. Planning on this going late? Then make one plate of dessert bites (hint: little cookies always work). If you don’t have time to bake cookies don’t let that upset you… Columbia has a wonderful Market House with many different cookie vendors. I’ve tasted every vendor’s cookies that are sold there … I would serve these at the most elaborate of events. Plan your food strategy in advance. Have the cold starters plated in the fridge – just pull off the plastic wrap and set them out. Keep warm ones in the oven on very low heat so all you have to do is plate them and set them out. Periodically check the table and remove any empty or nearly-empty plates. And make sure you have receptacles for olive pits, used toothpicks and shrimp tails. Preplanning your event is the difference between a good event and a fabulous event. The last thing you want is to have guests start arriving to find you with your hair still wet and not a stitch of makeup on. Best of the rest. Remember to have plenty of mixers (tonic water, mineral water, dry vermouth, orange & cranberry juice should suffice), as well as lime and lemon wedges and good olives. Provide some good wine and beer for those that don’t like liquor and some classy non-alcoholic choices for people that don’t like all the above. For equipment, a cocktail shaker and strainer, enough glassware plus at least one corkscrew and bottle opener and a small knife. Consider serving one special drink for the evening. Margaritas? Mojitos? Sidecars? You decide. A good host is a safe host. Always, encourage guests to drink responsibly. Remember, your job as host is to make sure everyone has a good time, and to make sure everyone gets home safely. Have phone numbers for taxi services handy, and don’t be afraid to take the keys of someone who’s had too many. It should go without saying but a good host is also a sober host. A host should be ready to party at least ½ hour before any of the guests are expected to arrive. Expect the unexpected. Sometimes a great party is an impromptu party. Having nice serving trays, store-bought raw cookies, olives (that you can toss in garlic and olive oil), cheese, table water crackers, pepperoni, chicken wings, ice and plenty of drinks on hand will get you out of any party pinch. You can prepare any of the above and be ready to mingle with your guests in a matter of 15 minutes. No party needs to be complicated. Be sure to rearrange furniture so that guests can move freely without knocking over items. With a little organization you can confidently say “Bring on the Holiday Parties!”