Photo by Kelly Larkin
Parties, family, and friends are arguably the best part of the holidays and New Years–it’s what they’re all about! However, with any gathering of humans comes the inevitable stress associated with entertaining. Always trying to please the pickiest wine snobs? Asked to bring an appetizer when you don’t know how to turn on an oven? No time to make a playlist?
Not to worry, lady. I got you. Just in time for New Years, I pulled together my thoughts on how to solve even the peskiest entertaining dilemmas, so you can throw the best soiree of your dreams, and have fun while you’re at it.
How do I prevent champagne from inevitably flowing over and making a mess each time I pour it?
I actually just picked up this trick from reading this month’s issue of Food & Wine. All you have to do to prevent overflow is to pour a small amount of champagne in each glass first. Let it settle, and pour the rest. The settled amount in the bottom will prevent it from overflowing. (Because, science.) Also, if you can, invest in a set of champagne coupes (not flutes) as the shape will help prevent overflow. (Plus, I think they’re way prettier!)
What are some affordable, yet good wines to stock up on that won’t break my budget, yet will impress my wine snob friends and family?
This is always a conundrum, however, there are a variety of wines that are delicious and crowd-pleasing. For reds, Pinot Noir is always a good choice, as it’s delicious both by itself and with food. (As opposed to say, a heavier Malbec, which is really much better when consumed with dinner.) Pinot Noir is also a medium-bodied wine, but light enough that more finicky drinkers will likely enjoy it. I love Mark West, as well as Leese + Fitch.
For whites, a Sauvignon Blanc is a safe choice, as Chardonnay tends be a do or die variety, (people either love it, or loathe it) and I prefer the smooth qualities Sauv Blanc as opposed to the bite of a Pinot Grigio, which may be off-putting to some people. It’s not too sweet, too sharp, or remotely oaky. Clos du Bois and Joel Gott make some great budget-friendly versions, which usually run between $12-$15.
For bubbly, I love Freixenet Cava. It’s a delicious sparkling wine from Spain, and typically only runs about $10! But if you want to go for the real champagne, my very favorite of them all is Veuve Cliquot Rosé. (And for those who don’t know how to pronounce it, because I didn’t until recently–it’s “Vuhv Klee-Koh”.)
Finally, once you’ve stocked up on your wines, you must take a sip of said wine and acknowledge that you simply won’t please everybody. If there are truly impossible to please guests, kindly let them know they are more than welcome to BYOB.
I have zero time, and/or zero ability to cook–yet, I need to bring an appetizer to my Christmas party. What do I do?
You don’t have to know how to cook to put together an amazing starter. Sometimes the simplest appetizers are the best–especially the ones that don’t involve cooking at all. Stick with the basics and go with:
A crudite: Think of how fancy you’ll feel when you say, “Oh, I’m bringing a crudite” to the hostess? (In reality, that’s just a sassy word for veggie tray.) But you don’t want to be that girl who shows up with a pre-made platter from Whole Foods. It’s so much more impressive to make your own! Simply pick up some carrots (get small carrots with the stems still attached, it looks so rustic and lovely) green beans, radishes, mini peppers. Then, whip up a quick, creamy herb dip, and you’ll have a really impressive appetizer!
Antipasto assortment: Meats, cheese, crackers, maybe even some picked veggies if you’re feeling extra fancy. You don’t need to go wild on the cheese–a hunk of parm will do the trick. Get some sliced salami, sopressata, and proscuitto from your local butcher counter. Also, pickling your own veggies is an absolute snap. You can read more about in this article. You can also whip up a quick batch of herb roasted nuts, which are sure to please!
I don’t have time to make a playlist, and the ads on Pandora drive me insane. Any suggestions?
I know there are Pandora lovers out there, but I’m really not a fan. Spotify is a much better alternative. It’s free on your computer, they have no ads, and they have tons of amazing playlists for every occasion or mood you might be feeling.
I have nothing suitable to wear and no time to go shopping. How can I pull together a festive outfit with items I already own?
I know there are plenty of suitable options in your closet!
Option one–stick to something simple–like an LBD, or even navy. Then, dress it up with accessories–a swipe of red lipstick will make anything look festive. Top off with your favorite heels–metallic hues especially will make any outfit feel “NYE-ish”. Have a sparkly necklace and earrings? Throw that on as well!
Option two–what did you wear for New Years last year? Gasp–I know some may consider it a faux pas to re-wear the same outfit as in years past, but chances are, NOBODY is going to remember what you wore an entire year ago! (Especially if you aren’t going to be with the same group of people.) Better yet, call up a girlfriend, and see if you can swap outfits from last year.
Option three–are you sure you don’t have time? Zappos and ShopBop offer free 2 day shipping (and they partner with Amazon Prime!) so you might be able to score that adorable dress just in time, after all.
I’m no chef, nor do I have an expansive budget. What is an easy, cheap, yet still impressive dinner I could make for my friends and family?
For a dinner party recently, I made Beef Bourginon, and it was perfect. I’m also a huge fan of Coq Au Riesling–which I wrote about WAYYYY far back in the GG archives. (The photography is terrible, but the recipe is divine, I promise.) Both of these dishes are warm and comforting, but still special enough to be suitable for a soiree. They’re both one-pot meals, which makes it easy to feed a crowd on a budget. Plus, you can make them ahead of time, so the only thing you have to do when guests arrive is have fun! Serve it with crusty bread, and a simple salad, and you’ve got an impressive meal! BON APPETIT! (That was a Julia Child reference, for those of you who didn’t get it.)
Help! I made the food too salty–is there any way to fix it?
WINE! first, take a sip of it, and take a breath. Second, pour some of it into your gravy, soup, sauce, or whatever mixture you’ve overly saltified. Of course, this doesn’t work on everything, but as a general rule of thumb, wine is a great way to cut anything too salty. Just make sure you use the correct kind of wine: if your sauce is light, white, or poultry based, use white wine (preferably something dry, and not too sweet). If it’s beef based, or dark, use red. Pour in just a bit at a time and taste as you go–you’ll know when you’ve got the mix down right. Wait a few minutes for it to incorporate, then serve! See? Piece of cake.
I don’t want to spend a ton of time or a fortune on decor–what’s a way to make my table scape pretty without a ton of hassle?
Why, yes there certainly is! Got any festive blankets? Yep, throw those on the table. They’ll be your tablecloth or table runner. Your favorite wrapping paper, or even butcher paper will also make an awesome table runner. (I love doing this for an appetizer bar, or champagne bar!) It’s okay if you need to layer it over a regular tablecloth, the pop of color or pattern and bit of texture will add a ton of personality to the table. (Hint: Give any blankets, runners, and tablecloths a once over with some Scotchgard beforehand, to protect against spills and stains.)
Also, my friends over at The Foxglove studio have some amazing tips for an easy floral arrangement here. (Seriously, so good.) You could also, you know, just purchase one of their floral arrangements, if you wanted to go the hassle-free route.
Do you have any other entertaining dilemmas? Ask me, and I’ll answer below!