‘Tis the season for holiday parties! Are you excited?! Some of you are. Many of you are lukewarm. Some of you even dread it. But throwing a memorable holiday party – whether it is a sit down dinner or a cocktail party – doesn’t have to be stressful. The two keys to success are to keep it simple and to start planning now. If you are hosting a party for friends, family, or colleagues, here are a few tips to make sure it is unique and, wait for it, fun!
Casual cocktails? Elegant sit down? Buffet? Each has its perks. Regardless of type, the secret to success is to select dishes or items that can be easily prepared in advance or taste delicious at room temperature, allowing you to optimize time with your guests.
Start simple with appetizers: a nice pâté and cured meats with crusty bread. Sprinkle marcona almonds with paprika. Buy nice (pitted) olives. If you do a cheese platter, remember they often require a bit of knife work.
Make your dessert first. Pick a recipe that can be made the day before. Chop any vegetables or make vinaigrette the day before. Try to keep your “cook to order dishes” to a minimum of ONE, like a salad. Even better, choose a main course that tastes better on the second day (think braises and stews), keep them warm in the oven, and serve them on the table directly in a beautiful cooking dish (I’m partial to Staub).
It may sound super fun to shake a cocktail shaker all evening to impress your guests with those amazingly unique bitters you acquired, but trust me the first thing your guest will do is go for a drink. A bottleneck at the bar is no bueno. Pre-mixed punches are decidedly hip and you can serve them in your grandmother’s punch bowl. Offer a signature cocktail and supplement with beer and wine. Don’t forget to put your drinks on ice about an hour before the party starts. You will also need more ice than you think, plan for about 10 pounds for every four guests. Make sure you have enough booze – plan for an average of two drinks per person in the first hour and one drink per person each hour after.
If your party is a seated dinner, open a few bottles of wine and put them directly on the table as part of the decor. They add visual interest and guests can serve themselves, freeing up your time to focus on plating food and tending to other needs.
Be sure and invite at least one very funny person and/or one very charismatic person. It takes the burden off of the host. If possible, sit these “anchor” guests at the center of the table, put the more reserved or shy guests closest to you, and try not to let couples sit together.
Shameless plug! Stomping Ground is a fun and unique event space. The vibe is relaxed and similar to a dinner party in your own home, except you don’t have to worry about the prep or clean up. We take care of it all including the food and drinks. We offer three options for format: cocktail, buffet, or full seated service. We have suggested menus but we are happy to customize based on your needs. Hosting your party at Stomping Ground allows you to throw an amazing party with not a lot of work. We still have some availability, but act fast. Email Stephanie Swick at firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s not too late!
If you wander down Del Ray’s, “The Avenue,” you won’t miss the farm-red building with a rustic fence bordering the patio. Stomping Ground opened two years ago and quickly became popular for its made-from-scratch biscuits and its neighborhood vibe. On weekends, excited guests line up before Stomping Ground opens hoping to be the first to get a just-out-of-the-oven biscuit or a fresh salad. Stomping Ground is mostly known for its fast casual breakfast and lunch but on Thursdays and Fridays they provide a full dinner service after 5:00pm. All meals are built from local, seasonal food that is organic whenever possible.
2309 Mt Vernon Avenue
Alexandria, VA 22301