Remember the 1997 book Entertaining for Dummies? The book, which sold more than 30 million copies, promised to transform hopeful hosts and hostesses from dumb to Martha Stewart. I had a copy, and I will say people find me to be somewhat entertaining.
I give all credit to the book perceptively branded with bright yellow and black, which conjures caution tape and “Don’t Drown Turn Around” street signs.
The holiday season is upon us, and many people find entertaining to be stressful, which isn’t fun for anyone. I asked a few local experts to give me their tips for making holiday entertaining easier and more enjoyable, and here they are.
Invoke Family Traditions
Anastacia Quiñones-Pittman, Executive Chef, José
“For me, holidays are all about familia — gathering around the table, spending time with loved ones in the kitchen, and cooking up recipes that have been passed down through the generations.”
One trick AQ uses to liven up her gatherings is using Jose’s Turbo Salt to dress up cocktails with a sweet and salty sparkly rim.
Be Flexible and Organized
Jim Seversen, Executive Chef and Owner, Sevy’s Grill
Known to his friends and guests as Sevy, Jim offers timeless, practical advice. “Organization is key” to holiday entertaining. “Prepare the spread over different times, don’t try to do it all in one day,” he says. He also loves to see diversity in his menus such as offering some warm foods, cold foods, and choices for everyone. “My wife doesn’t eat fish, so I will always have options for her.” He also likes to offer sauces for the proteins, which adds a layer of elegance and flavor to any holiday buffet.
Add Personal Touches to the Table
Corbin See, Duro Hospitality
If you’ve ever been to The Charles, Sister, or Café Duro, you know that design and interesting visual elements are everywhere, making dining experiences there even more special. Corbin See offers his must-haves for holiday entertaining in a very on-brand way.
“Fresh floral,” he says. “A tablescape always needs a bit of nature. Also, everyone loves a personal touch. Handwritten place cards or even better have the kids in the family decorate them.”
Infuse Your Cultures
Yasmin and Braden Wages, Malai Kitchen
“My parents are of Indian descent, born and raised in Tanzania, East Africa, and lived in London, Germany, and Canada before eventually settling in Texas,” says Yasmin. “And if you combine all those cultures and, of course, our love for Southeast Asian flavors, you might expect a crazy global buffet at our holiday reunions. But, we do love tradition.”
Our Thanksgiving table is as classic as it gets but our Christmas spread is a little more European. Both of these meals haven’t really evolved over the years because we crave the dishes while we get to enjoy my mother’s African and Indian traditional dishes throughout the year for other religious and family celebrations.”
Rely on Vendor Relationships
Chris Bracken, Nicholson-Hardie
Chris’ husband and brother-in-law own Nicholson-Hardie, a place I consider to be the mecca for finding items for tablescapes, hostess gifts, plants, and greenery for holiday decorating. “Shop local –customer service is KEY to less stress,” she says. “Establish a relationship with your favorite local shop, and they will help you get the job done.” Her go-tos include Kuby’s City Café, Party Bazaar, and Jimmy’s, where she says she can count on them for whatever she needs for holiday entertaining.
She also says that a great playlist sets the mood and recommends Nancy Meyer’s Kitchen Spotify list.
Have the Right Equipment
Franchesca Nor, Chef, Co-Owner Dive Coastal Cuisine
“I’m an old-fashioned chef who’s not into gadgets and gizmos,” says the talented, no-nonsense chef and mother. “I recommend a basic knife, cutting board, Dutch oven, skillet, and sauce pot,” she adds, saying that keeping things simple and organized is the key to success.
Don’t Overthink it
Elizabeth Copeland, owner, The Fab Fête
“I host an annual ‘come and go’ chili party that gives everyone a chance to connect with friends and loved ones amid the seasonal bustle. I typically host it the weekend prior to Christmas, and about 150 guests show up in attire ranging from jeans to tuxes, making all feel (welcome), no matter what event they’re off to next.”
One party, come and go as you are, and a simple menu. That’s a great entertaining hack. The Fab Fête also sells its Oprah-approved soufflés you can order online and pop in the over for impressive and easy entertaining.
Whether you choose to host 4 or 400, the point is to gather and celebrate. Wishing you a very merry, happy, peaceful, and sane holiday season. Cheers!