This past weekend, a friend told me that I’m going to be “The next Martha Stewart…but with an edge.” I’ll take that, especially as I love to host a good gathering like Martha.
The hubby and I hosted a post-holiday party for a few close friends that has become a tradition, as the holiday season can be a tricky time to make plans with friends. We celebrate everything from Christmas to Chanukah and even the Chinese New Year with a menu that reflects all of that, but centered around our favorite traditional Chanukah fare, Latkes.
Just when the holidays may have gotten the best of you, there are more celebrations to be had. Whether you’re hosting a New Years Eve soiree, a birthday celebration, or even a post-holiday party, you too can be a Martha with my go-to tricks for being the “hostess with the mostest.”
1. Create a menu and post it somewhere for your guests.
It’s helpful for your guests to clearly write out all of the menu items somewhere, so they can leave room for items coming out as they are ready. Additionally, you can use it as your own checklist. You can also leave out labels for each item on the table as well, in case you have any guests with allergies or dietary restrictions.
2. Create a signature cocktail or two and make sure there are non-alcoholic refreshments available too.
Your guests will appreciate that they aren’t standing at the bar area dumbfounded on what to make.
Some sort of punch or sangria is perfect for guests because you can make quite a bit of it ahead of time. Make sure if your recipe calls for club soda, to add it right before guests arrive so it doesn’t go flat. I tend to make these cocktails slightly weaker, so party-goers don’t feel so guilty when they tend to drink it like juice.
If you decide to make a signature drink that cannot be made beforehand, then leave out instructions for your guests, so in case you’re busy greeting someone, they can handle it themselves.
3. Set up all of the dishes and plates for your hors d’oeuvres and bites prior to serving
It’s helpful to lay everything out prior, so you’re not scrambling while guests arrive. We even try to make as much as possible the night before so we can reserve last minute touches for the day of.
4. Get a head count of your guests and make enough food for a third more.
While you may have politely asked for RSVP’s on your invite, there will always be those that bring a friend without mentioning it or those that come pretty hungry. It’s always best to prepare more and have leftovers for yourself and guests to go home with. Nothing makes people want to leave a party more than one that has run out of food and drinks.
5. Create an activity for your guests.
Whether it’s a parlor game like the ever popular Cards Against Humanity, or another group activity, it’s great to have an ice breaker or something that guests can participate in. I leave out some games like Jenga or Apples To Apples for people to play with just in case the party starts to get quiet.
It’s become a tradition for this post-holiday party to do a “bad gift exchange,” where friends can bring a gift they received over the holidays that they weren’t a fan of (like the moldy farmer’s market turnip my mother-in-law gave us…just kidding) and trade it in for someone else’s wrapped gift under the tree before they leave. The subjectively “bad” gifts this year included a kitten calendar, a heart shaped candle, a tinsel scarf, texting gloves, and the one I received and am actually excited about, paper and binder clips. It made for some great laughs and actually made guests leaving early much less awkward for them.
6. Make an easy and unique appetizer that your guests will demand at every party
The most memorable parties are the ones with the food that you continue to talk about. My agent once made this cream cheese wasabi spread at a party and I begged her for the recipe because it was such a hit. Turns out it was ridiculously simple to assemble and now my friends are demanding it for all of my gatherings and even to bring to their own.
Here’s how to make the Cream Cheese Wasabi Spread Served With Rice Crackers.
1 block of regular cream cheese (low fat is difficult to work with!)
rice crackers for serving
Cut the cream cheese in half lengthwise.
Spread on a thin layer of wasabi paste.
Drizzle with soy sauce.
Place the other half on top and repeat the last two steps. Then sprinkle a layer of sesame seeds on top. Serve with a spreading knife and pair it with rice crackers.
Of course the best way to host a party in style is by making sure everyone is having a good time, introducing friends to each other and making sure that even you are enjoying yourself.
Have a happy, healthy and *stylish* New Years. See you in 2014!