Mastery of Holiday Entertaining

Winter 2008 CSANews Issue 69  |  Posted date : Dec 23, 2008.Back to list

There's mastery to holiday entertaining. You don't have to be extravagant. The key is in mastering the art of getting organized.

A few guidelines will help you keep preparations simple over this holiday season. The more organized you feel, the better your mood. Your mood will directly affect how comfortable your guests will feel in your home.

Think Ahead!
Always clean and shop the day before your event. This gives you time to decompress, make a few last-minute appetizers and focus on your own appearance.

Time of Day and Dress Code
What time of day would work best for your holiday event? Do you plan on hosting a dinner party, cocktail party or an evening bash? Is your event formal, semi-formal or casual? Be sure to mention these details on invitations, so that your guests can set aside the appropriate amount of time and dress appropriately.

Clean Out the Closet
I've attended many events at which my winter coat was thrown on the host's bed underneath a large pile of other coats. At the end of the evening,it's annoying to have to hunt for my coat in order to leave. Clean out a closet so that your guests can hang up their coats. This little detail creates a seamless beginning and ending to your event, affecting the mood of your guests both as they arrive and as they leave.

The Shopping List
Read through the recipes in their entirety while making the shopping list for your ingredients. (Always reserve an hour on preparation day to run out to obtain last-minute items.) The moment you arrive home, trim the stems of your fresh herbs. Stand them upright in a small bowl of water, cover it with a plastic bag and place it in the refrigerator. This will keep your herbs fresh for your recipes and garnishes.

The Mood
The mood that you set arouses emotions and stimulates thought. Think about the mood which you intend to create for your event. Lighting contributes significantly to ambience.

Lighting
Consider the lighting of the rooms in which your guests will be sitting and mingling. Do you want the atmosphere to be bright and happy, dim and comfortable, or interesting and dramatic? The area in which your appetizers and wine are to be served should be well lit. This is so that guests can see what they're eating and can read wine labels.

Consider placing a set of lanterns on the front steps to welcome your guests and so that they can see where they are stepping. Candles also create a festive atmosphere. Place the candles around focal points in the room and in the bathroom reserved for your guests. Make sure that the candles are unscented.

Music
The music which you play will not only make or break the mood of your event, it will also affect the tastes and flavours of your appetizers and wine. So be sure to choose the appropriate music for the tone that you want to set.

Scents
Refrain from using scents to create mood, as these smells will interfere with the aromas of your hot appetizers and wines. (This includes wearing strong perfume, especially if you, personally, are serving the appetizers to guests.)

Floral Décor
Fresh flowers help support the mood which you intend to create. If using candlelight or low lighting, choose flowers in warm colours, such as orange, yellow and red. Cooler shades, such as blue and purple, don't suggest romance or intimacy. For brightly lit rooms, buy flowers in deeper huessuch as burgundy, deep blue and dark purple.

Think about the details and cohesiveness of the entire event. The fresh flowers that you choose, for instance, can echo the colours in the national flag of the country whose ethnic cuisine and wines you intend to serve. If you're focusing on Chinese cuisine, consider red and gold (yellow) flowers for good luck. If serving classicEuropean dishes, pastels create a traditional mood. Be sure to keep your fresh flowers away from fruit trays. Fruits put off ethylene gas, which can cause some flowers to wilt.

Glassware
Wine glasses need not be expensive, just the right shape. Look for glasses with a rim that's narrower than the bowl. This helps concentrate the aromas. A narrow rim also enhances flavours.

The shape of the wine glass lures the eye and the palate. In fact, the shape of the glass actually affects how we feel about the wine experience to come. An inexpensive, poorly shaped glass tells us that our experience will be mediocre and average, like the glass itself. But a well-shaped glass suggests sophistication and inspires excitement and curiosity about the wine to be tasted. Just as importantly, the shape of the glass plays a vital role in helping us detect the intensity of the wine's aromas. The way in which it makes the wine flow over the palate emphasizes certain tastes and flavours. One glass may bring out a wine's fruity aromas, while another will stifle them. A properly shaped glass can highlight a wine's tanginess and make it taste refreshing.

Pic 1: Appetizer, Snack Food and Wine-Pairing Chart

Pic 2: I've taken a tiny piece of the information below from my new cookbook entitled Orgasmic Appetizers and Matching Wines – Tiny Bites with the MOAN factor (ISBN #1-55285-923-1, Whitecap Books).