Think of how your evening is likely to go down to avoid any last-minute incidents—your guests’ estimated time of arrival (calculate the obvious tardies), what time to start serving dinner, who will sit where, next to whom, and so on.
Ready your home
Ensure that garbage bags, recycling bins, and the dishwasher are empty before your guests arrive. Fill up your dishwasher as the evening progresses to avoid your kitchen looking like a war zone by evening’s end.
Keep your guests comfortable
Have some extra chairs handy so that all your guests can sit and relax while they munch on appetizers.
Cook in advance
Prepare anything involving the meal ahead of time, in accordance with the number of guests who will be attending your shindig. A tapas menu, for example, is simple: it involves putting together many appetizers that can form a large number of courses of a few bites each. There are many that come pre-cooked and can be thawed out and, as Solène Thouin explains, this allows you to prepare the food in advance, which will give you plenty of time to entertain your guests.
The scent of cinnamon or of food, some candles spread out around the party area, and dim lighting are just some suggestions for a festive ambiance.
For your evening to be a success, stay calm and smile. If your guests sense your stress, it may have an effect on their experience. A good hostess should always have an enjoyable time; this will be emulated by her guests.
The dinner table
The focal point of any Holiday feast is the dinner table. Your guests will surely notice it as they are seated to eat, so think ahead: have enough utensils for everyone, elegant napkins, as well as wine glasses for each course. Read up on the art of setting a perfect table to ensure it is done right. Solène Thouin also suggests accenting the table with some pine cones and tree ornaments for an elegant yet simple look.
Start serving food the moment guests start arriving; they’ll be more patient for when dinner is served. Have various drinks at-the-ready: at least one bottle of chilled white wine, as well as one red (removed from the refrigerator about two hours before serving), mineral and fresh water, as well as juice for the kids.
Appetizers, both hot and cold
Having ready-to-serve appetizers gives your guests something to nibble on as they wait for more appetizers to come out of the oven. One suggestion is to buy pre-cooked shrimp (serve them cold), fill martini glasses with dipping sauce and place a handful of shrimp around the rim. Highly chic and original!
Don’t forget the cheese
Serving a cheese platter before dessert will show off your fine taste. Your guests will surely notice and appreciate it.
You can’t help but admit that ready-to-serve appetizers are life-savers during the Holidays. Just a quick pop into the oven or microwave, and you’re free to focus on other, lengthy meal preparations. However, add your own special touch by accompanying them with a few home-made sauces. They’re quick and easy to make, and will add some pop to the appetizers. And, most importantly, they’re made by you!
Here are a few sauce suggestions from M&M Meat Shops that will surely leave an impression!
Chimichuri Tapas Dipping Sauce
1 jalapeño, seeded
½ bunch fresh cilantro
½ bunch fresh parsley
1 tsp (5 ml) oregano
½ cup (125 ml) olive oil (or more, to taste)
3 tbsp (15 ml) lime juice (or white wine vinegar)
Purée all ingredients. Do not heat before serving.
Tomato and Rosemary Tapas Dipping Sauce
1 cup (250 ml) tomato coulis
½ cup (125 ml) sun dried tomatoes, measured and then coarsely chopped (do not use sun dried tomatoes packed in oil)
2 tbsp (30 ml) fresh rosemary, chopped
Purée all ingredients until smooth for easy dipping.
Cranberry Mojo Tapas Dipping Sauce
4 cups (1 litre) cranberry juice
2 cups (500 ml) cranberries (fresh or frozen)
1 small red onion, very finely diced
½ cup (125 ml) chives, finely chopped
1 jalapeño, minced (or 1 tsp of green Tabasco sauce)
3 limes, juiced
¼ cup (50 ml) olive oil
Reduce the cranberry juice in a saucepan on high heat until syrupy. Let cool. Coarsely chop the cranberries (or pulse in a food processor or with a hand mixer). Mix all the ingredients together. Cool dip in the fridge before serving.