Fall is fully upon us! Brr, it got cold! Nothing like running a 5-miler in the zoo with the cheetahs to keep you warm. That and fun family and friend gatherings to get in the soon-to-be holiday spirit. What did you do this weekend? Continue reading
Tag Archives: entertaining
Dan and I have never celebrated New Year’s Eve in the traditional way. Well, if traditional means spending a fortune to be crammed into a restaurant or hotel with a few hundred of your closest strangers for 6 hours.
We’ve worked events together, although standing on a freezing loading dock waiting for Young MC during the midnight countdown isn’t exactly my idea of a great New Year’s Eve.
We’ve gone to concerts with a big group of friends, and while very fun we did pay too much and it was way too crowded.
And since we’ve moved about an hour away from many of our friends, we’ve had dinner parties at home. A few friends that stay over night, amazing food that you don’t have every day, and a wonderfully good time. Even pre-kids that was our favorite way to spend the holiday. And now that we have kids, it’s totally the way to go. No need to find a sitter, spend a fortune on tickets to an event. Use that money towards a really special night at home.
Here are a few ideas…some we’ve done in years past, some we’ll do one of these years soon!
1. Fondue: so, you got a fondue pot for your wedding, or on a whim. Now be honest, how many times have you used it? Here’s an excuse to break it out! This year we’ll be fondue-ing it up with Dan’s parents. I like this recipe from Food & Wine.
2. Champagne tasting: Dan and I got married in February, so around New Year’s we were looking for just the right champagne to serve at our wedding. Just the right $10 not-at-all champagne. So, I went to the local wine shop and picked up their finest $10 Cava, Prosecco, California sparkling, and French sparkling. We put them all in bags and did a blind tasting. A really fun way to spend the evening, since we’d be popping the bubbly anyway! Oh, and the winner? Charles de Fere, a French sparking wine. You really can’t go wrong for $10 a bottle.
3. Prime Rib dinner: Nicholas isn’t a big steak-eater yet, so we don’t really make big roasts for just the two of us. But invite a few friends over and treat them to a prime cut of meat. I like Tyler’s Ultimate recipes for this one:
4. Oysters & Martini’s: Oysters are in season right now, and they’re pretty easy to find at your local Whole Foods. Have the seafood market shuck them for you, then serve raw with mignonette or old school Rockefeller.
A Ketel One martini is the perfect accompaniment. James Bond made shaken martinis famous, and it’s a shame in my book. You want the vodka as cold as can be, but not chewy with ice chips. Put the vodka in the freezer hours before, chill the glasses, then gently stir the vodka with ice before straining and serving.
And don’t forget to serve something else…no one will make it to midnight on oysters and martinis alone!
5. Wine-centered meal: Do you have a bottle on the shelf that you’ve been saving for a special occasion? Break it out for New Year’s Eve! We’ve got a Barolo d’Alba we carried back from Italy 5 years ago that’s just about ready to drink. We’ll probably make a big Bolognese lasagna when it’s time for our Barolo. Grab your great bottle, then find a perfect match on Food & Wine.
How do you like to spend New Year’s Eve?
With the holidays nearly upon us, the calendar is getting full of events to celebrate. Some we’re attending: school plays, work parties, New Years Eve events. And some we’re hosting: 3rd birthday parties, dinners with friends. It’s not exactly the social calendar of our pre-kiddie days, but it’s still pretty fun.
It has gotten me thinking about what makes a good party. I’m no expert, but I have attended a party or two, and even thrown one on occasion. In fact, I’ve thrown a lot of dinner parties, and more than one of them a total disaster.
My first real dinner party was when I was 17. I invited my boyfriend, his parents, and my parents to meet for the first time. Yep, a super relaxing dynamic.
I made seafood crepes from scratch. After I elegantly hosted everyone for hors d’oeuvres for an hour or so, I left them all in the living room to go make crepes. FROM SCRATCH. Do you know how long it takes to make crepes? At least 2 hours…or eternity if you’re sitting in a room with people you don’t know and aren’t too sure you want to know. I’m sure they were trying to figure out if we had something to tell them. (we didn’t). For 2 hours.
Since then, I’ve gotten a little better at it. And in the past 11 years with Dan, we’ve hosted our share of epic parties. Or at least, we haven’t starved anyone for 2 hours in an awkward situation then tried to kill them with a heart attack on a plate in a while. So I thought I’d capture the top 10 things that make a good dinner party. But then I ran out of things at 8. So, top 8 things that make an awesome party. Maybe you can help me fill in #9 & 10?
Try something new on guests. Everyone else says don’t do it. I say, why not? If you’re having friends over, make them your guinea pigs. You’re inviting people into your home for a fun time. What’s more fun than being entertained by a spectacular meal or a royal flop? Either way it’s entertaining. Just be prepared that you might be ordering pizza.
Do NOT try something new on guests. If it’s a potentially tense or awkward scenario (see mine above), make something comforting and easy for you. If you’re relaxed, they’ll be more relaxed. Your boss, your in-laws for the first time, make meatloaf. Serve with a bourdeaux. You’ll be a rock star.
Make or prep ahead. There is nothing more boring than watching someone chop onions. Do as much as you can beforehand so you’re either pulling something out of the oven when they arrive or entertaining them with a cooking show.
Give your guests a job. Either have them bring something, or give them something to do when they arrive. Something fun, like opening wine or putting apps out. Trust me, they don’t want to chop onions either.
Make food people actually eat. No one is coming to your house for foie gras. Make something interesting, or make something boring and do something interesting with it (see meatloaf and bourdeax above).
Always have an awesome non-alcoholic option on hand. People like to share big news a dinner parties.
Go out to eat. If you don’t truly love having people into your home, in your kitchen, in your business, meet them at a restaurant. It’s fine.
Riff on an old classic:
The holidays are all about comfort and tradition, so I embrace that but add a little twist. You can’t go wrong with classics for potluck, especially one around the holidays. At the same time, you don’t want to bring the same old, same old. In times like these, I’ll come up with the substance of an old classic dish that I want to make and then go to recipes on food network or epicurious to inspire different seasonings, sauces, etc.
The cocktail meatball, for instance. Get a big bag of them from Costco or Sam’s. Then search Asian recipes on your epicurious app. One of the first recipes that comes up is Eggplant and Beef Stir-Fry–a Thai-inspired dish. Mint, soy sauce, chiles, ginger, fish sauce, lime juice, garlic, sugar. Yum. Mix up the sauce per the recipe instructions, pour over your meatballs and heat. You could do exactly the same thing with a pork butt or even veggies.
Make a dip:
You just can’t go wrong with a tasty dip at a potluck. It’s the work horse of the potluck table. You may not get as many props for bringing it, but you won’t be taking any home. My go-to dip: Spinach Artichoke Dip.
Thanks for the facebook question, sis! I hope this helps you out in your holiday potluck adventures.
I loved getting the question! Keep them coming!