Is it your turn to host the annual holiday gathering? Perhaps you pulled the lucky straw at the “who gets to organize the office party” draw.
The highlight of nearly any festive get-together is the food. You want a menu that dazzles while offering something for everyone. Here are five tips for creating a winter holiday party menu.
1. Create a Theme
Your party’s theme could go along with the spirit of the season, such as a white elephant or ugly sweater gathering. However, you can also be more original. For example, a tropical beach-themed cocktail party might be just the thing to beat the winter blues. Those with more sophisticated tastes might enjoy putting together a tea party that’s more Queen Elizabeth than “Alice in Wonderland.”
You can incorporate your theme into everything, including your food and drink choices. For example, keep winter beers like stouts and porters on tap if you go with a traditional ensemble. Are you opting for a favorite movie or television show? Cook up vittles that appear on-screen, such as Zeke’s cookies from “High School Musical.”
2. Include Something for Everyone
Many people have food allergies and sensitivities, and others follow specific diets to benefit their health. You don’t want people to feel left out of the festivities because they can’t indulge in what you serve. Offer various dishes to appeal to as many appetites and restrictions as possible.
You don’t necessarily have to pull double or triple-duty in the kitchen to appeal to everyone. Look for meals that meet multiple qualifications, like these festive cookies that are both vegan and paleo-friendly.
You should label every dish with the ingredients, especially at office functions and other large gatherings where not every guest has a chance to chat with the host. If serving buffet style, let those with sensitivities go first to minimize cross-contamination risk.
3. Think Beyond the Main Course
If you’re hosting a family gathering, tradition might dictate what you serve for your main course. You risk your relatives’ wrath if you do away with the turkey.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get creative with sides. For example, pumpkin and cheddar scalloped potatoes take advantage of seasonal produce. Oyster and kimchi stuffing has a unique flavor you won’t need to cover in gravy. Bacon and pecans take your sweet potato pie to the next level.
4. Get Creative With Your Presentation
Top chefs know that the presentation is a large part of what makes dining out so special. Your guests deserve the same attention to detail, so get creative with your presentation.
You don’t necessarily have to spend a lot. You can create glorious table placeholders and centerpieces using natural materials like branches and pine cones you can gather from your backyard for free.
If you’re brave, you can bring a little fire to the table. Learning to make a real English flaming pudding will make any winter holiday party dessert an event to remember.
5. Make Cleanup Less Cumbersome
Cleanup is the worst part of nearly any party, including those around the winter holidays. However, you can take steps to minimize the mess.
Place trash and recycling bins around the party venue so that lazier guests aren’t tempted to set their empty bottles on the table, where they forget them. You can do the same with soaking containers for large gatherings. All you need is a clean plastic tub filled with dish soap to whisk away the stickiest bits, leaving you with little to do but rinse the plates and place them in the dishwasher.
Gather leftover containers before your event to make divvying up the remains a snap. Better yet, ask guests to intimate family affairs to bring along their favorite storage for taking home a piece of the holiday bounty.
Create the Perfect Winter Holiday Party Menu
Creating the perfect winter holiday party menu doesn’t take much effort. The five tips above will make you the ultimate host.