By Anne Raso
Painless Winter Holiday/New Year’s Hosting: Create A Fantasy Fete In Under One Hour!
The holidays are a time when we are all supposed to be joyous but it can be stressful more than anything else. When you have to plan a winter season party whether it be for Christmas or New Year’s (or any other holiday this time of year), you want things to go smoothly, you don’t want to break the bank and you want everyone to have a good time.
How can you have an event that classy and elegant without taking on the expense of a serving staff or professional chef? And what should you splurge on and what should you save on? That depends on the size of the crowd. Set a budget, and then you can splurge on good wine or bubbly if the budget allows. Good “spirits” are a necessity at any holiday bash or New Year’s party. There are plenty of great proseccos or Sonoma Valley sparkling wines of excellent quality that go for $12 to $15 per bottle and it’s just a matter of a quick web search to find the crowd pleasers.
Food-wise, it’s always easier to have finger food instead of giant plates that need to be kept hot. Pick items that are either good cold or at room temperature. This is the reason why artisanal cheeses are always a good choice—be sure to spring for a couple of loafs of excellent freshly made French bread that you can pick up at elegant bakers chains such as Payard or Maison Kayser. The $6 splurge on a loaf of good bread is oh so worth it.
Trader Joe’s and Aldi’s both many excellent frozen appetizers that just need to be heated up in the oven for 20 minutes or less including Greek spinach pies, samosas, and even shrimp puffs. If you don’t care about the budget or have a small amount of guests with picky palates, you can order from the ultimate luxury frozen food line, www.babethsfeast.com (they also have several Manhattan stores). They have buttery cheese twists and quesadillas that can be cut up into multiple bite size pieces at about five to six dollars per box. Babeth’s individual cheese and chocolate soufflés price out at about $9 each and come in their own china-like dessert dishes but they make a great impression and the clean up is so easy.
There is nothing wrong with asking your guests to bring their favorite finger food or a bottle of wine—or with using elegant paper plates (Papyrus.com has some of our favorite winter designs and the plates are strong). If your guests have kids, inquire what they eat or if they have allergies and buy children’s food items accordingly.
When giving a holiday party remember that you should be having fun and not just having to “work it” by cleaning up after people or asking if they want another drink. Let guests take care of themselves. You really should only have to go to the oven, pour drinks or clean up a few times during your winter fete. Do your best to smile and try to be a guest as well as a host!