The holidays are a great time to update your parties with new traditions. However when the time comes to plan a menu, or choose the wine, hosts and hostesses alike can tend to feel overwhelmed. Here to help you prepare a glamorous and stress-free event, Food Network personality, restaurateur, & cookbook author Donatella Arpaia shares her tips on how to set the stage for your best holiday party yet!
When shopping for your event, it can be difficult figuring out how much to buy. To avoid over or under buying, keep these numbers in mind. Expect each guest to have an average of three drinks, four to six hors d’oeuvres if a meal is served, and twelve pieces if it is cocktail only.
When choosing a menu, go with easy to prepare dishes like Donatella’s Sautéed Spicy Cracked Olives, Baked Figs with Prosciutto & Gorgonzola, or Mixed Italian Salami with Artisanal Jams. For dessert opt for holiday treats like Ricotta Cheesecake, Rice Pudding, or Donatella’s Popcorn.
While there may be a stigma surrounding the use of pre-made products, it comes in handy on cutting down prep time. The key is to choose wisely and add personal touches so that your creations appear du jour. Pick up a cocktail sauce from your local fishmonger, or an olive tapenade from an organic specialty shop, add your own fresh grated horseradish or chopped herbs for garnish, serve in your best flat wear, and surely no one is the wiser.
Change up the traditional red and green holiday colors for a sophisticated ambiance of red and white, using gold and silver to accent. Arrange tall branches of winterberries and pomegranates in square modern vases, and intersperse mercury glass votives with candles for a warm glow.
When sending out invitations—whether electronic or traditional- invite your guests to include a song request along with their RSVP. Compile their music choices and mix them with holiday tunes and perennial crowd pleasers like Bing Crosby and Ella Fitzgerald for a playlist that appeals to everyone on your guest list.
When guests arrive, offer them mini sparkling wine bottles or signature cocktails so that the evening feels special and personal. During the festivities persuading guests to mingle is one of the greatest challenges of entertaining. When introducing strangers, help break the ice and incite a connection by sharing a bit of information about each guest. For formal dinner parties, separate couples and close friends to encourage new connections and stimulate a rich conversation.
I always like to give my guests a parting gift so they remember the evening! Beautifully wrapped gifted cubes, filled with a selection of nuts and chocolates, or homemade muffins, so my guests can enjoy them for breakfast in the morning, make for great goodbyes. If you don’t have time to bake your treats, send guests on their way with MARTINI Prosecco, Asti, or Rose mini bottles- they are easily adorned with ribbon to share your holiday blessing or wish!
This holiday season don’t just host your party, make sure you enjoy it. By following some of Donatella’s party tips we’re sure you will be able to accomplish just that!
For Donatella’s recipes, Donatella Cooks, BUY NOW, $6.12
Donatella has appeared on the Today Show, The Martha Stewart Show, and is a judge on the Food Networks’, Iron Chef and The Next Iron Chef. She has been featured in In Style, Elle, Glamour, and Women’s Wear Daily who said “if James Bond had a restaurateur girlfriend, Donatella Arpaia would be it.”