The holiday season is upon us! It began a week early this year with Thanksgiving falling on the fourth of five weeks in November, giving us all a precious extra seven days of preparation for the December holiday whirlwind. Bowen & Company’s event planners got the night off this Turkey Day, as each of us was an invited guest at someone else’s home. What a fantastic opportunity for inspiration! Here are some great ideas we’re stealing from our hosts.
At Ease, Soldiers
What’s better than seeing your gracious host gliding around the room and mingling with guests? One of our investigators assumed her host must have a catering staff in the kitchen, but alas, it was a solo act. The question is how do you serve up a complex menu, put it all on the table hot, and not spend the cocktail hour bound to the stove? The answer is the same for events of all sizes: prepare, prepare, prepare. Discipline yourself so that everything that can be done in the days prior, like cranberry sauces and pastry doughs, is prepped ahead. It will leave you more time to enjoy all you’re thankful for this holiday season.
Play It Cool
James Beard Award winner Hugh Acheson’s recipe for Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad provided a fresh alternative to the much-maligned boiled sprouts of generations past. This yummy dish is ideal for those with small kitchens and only one oven, because it does not require cooking.
And the Rest is Gravy
Gravy can make or break a meal. The secret is opting for a gravy-based recipe instead of the more well-known giblet gravy recipe. Epicurious has a delicious recipe online. To take full advantage of added flavor and one less thing to worry about at crunch time, prepare gravy a day before with a final strain and simmer right before the meal.
It’s human nature. We love to be surprised. So, try something unexpected on your next holiday menu. One of our hosts offered up a twist on the traditional dish of mashed potatoes with mashed turnips. Just be cautious about cutting out a sentimental favorite all together. Our host offered both options, and rave reviews followed.
With each passing year, you may notice the guest list growing longer and the guests getting shorter. Friends will appreciate the host who plans fun activities for the kids, who apparently do not consider long conversations over a bottle of wine “fun.” After dinner, our host handed out glow-in-dark bracelets and necklaces and encouraged kids out to the yard on a scavenger hunt to find glow-in-the-dark eggs (homemade with a little glow tape on spray-painted plastic Easter eggs). Frankly, who couldn’t use a little run around the yard after a big holiday meal?
No Pie Left Behind
For years, one of our hosts has always finished the Thanksgiving meal by dispensing Tupperware-style storage containers to each guest to assemble their own little “doggy bag” to take home. It ensures that none of the delicious holiday leftovers go to waste, and nobody misses out on the traditional day-after-Thanksgiving refrigerator raiding. This year, in the spirit of greening their household, the hosts asked everyone to bring their own takeout containers from home, and guests were more than happy to oblige.
Deepest thanks to all of our wonderful hosts this Thanksgiving: Brian Blythe and John Kristiansen, Doug Bowen and Gerri Librandi, Jackie Ferrara, and Elaine Kanarek.