‘Tis the season to eat and entertain – but doing it on a budget and stress-free may give you indigestion.
To the rescue! — Party planners extraordinaire.
“The holidays are the best reason to bring friends and family together with a fun evening of cocktails, great music and delicious food,” says famed celebrity party planner to the stars Colin Cowie.
Whether it’s a potluck party, wine and appetizers only, tree cutting/trimming get-together, ugly sweater or dessert party, “just open up your house,” says Cowie. “The key is to set everything up the night before. That way, the day of the party, you just have to put food and drinks out, and still have time to shower and change.”
Refrain from making the party too structured advises party guru Tara O’Grady, owner of the award-winning, Bliss Events. “The party and guests will take the party in the direction they want to." And if you can’t handle it, ask for help when hosting, stresses O’Grady, adding most guests are willing to help out by bringing food or drinks. “And having people of different backgrounds/cultures will surely spice up the food buffet with different taste sensations.”
Cowie suggests picking three things and doing them well, rather than five things on the skinny. Spend your money on elements that your guests will get the most out of - quality wine instead of party favours - and offer a signature cocktail.
Make a buffet station of sliced salami, dried meats, five assorted cheeses (from creamy and rich to hard) some dried fruit, nuts and assorted breads and crackers, advises Cowie. “These are all store bought and, when arranged creatively, will make a great statement. Pair with a selection of red wines from around the world - you can find good quality drinkable wines for $15 a bottle.”â¨
Dessert bars are big: Pick a simple holiday colour palette of two to three colours. Buy some desserts and make the rest – present it on different plates and vessels. Add a vertical element to the table to give it a focal point. “A must have on a dessert bar is a goody bag. Send guests home with a bag of your famous homemade cookies and include the recipe - this is personal and totally affordable,” adds Cowie. Have fun, adds O’Grady. “Nothing kills the energy of a party like a stressed-out host! Leave the dishes till the end, and ... truly enjoy your guests.”
Tips from the pro
Take these tips from David Connolly, premiere party planner to the stars, including Sarah Jessica Parker and Katy Perry, and wedding planner on the hit reality series Rich Bride, Poor Bride:
- Pieces of ham, 1-inch squares, alternating with 1-inch canned pineapple chunks on skewers
- Generic brand cereals mixed with bulk store pretzels and dried fruit
- Browned butter and Parmesan cheese popcorn
- Triangle sandwiches
- Curry chicken salad in lettuce cups
- Pineapple upside down cake
- Twist pasta onto a fork then pierce a meatball with it for bite sized spaghetti and meatballs snacks
- Soup in shot glasses
- Lime Jello, lime sherbet and cool whip in a mold
- Stuffing-stuffed mushrooms
Raise a toast with five must-have beverages, courtesy of Blissevents.ca.
Frothy eggnog: Classic, delicious and easy to make from scratch.
Bubbly: Prosecco or champagne puts everyone in the celebratory mood. Add food colouring to coordinate with the décor or a liqueur such as Chambord for Kir Royales.
Local beer: Offerings from a variety of small craft breweries make for great conversation.
Festive mocktail: Indulge non-drinking guests; get ideas at lcbo.com/fooddrink/recipes.
Festive cocktail: Caramel Apple Martini. Mix 1/2 oz. vodka, 1 oz. sour apple and 1 oz. butterscotch schnapps.