It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but we know that sometimes entertaining for the holidays can be stressful! If you’re hosting family and/or friends for a get together this year, continue reading for some tips and tricks for how to pull off a memorable holiday celebration with minimal stress, regardless of if you’re a DIY fan or if you’ve called in the professionals for some back-up!
If you’re going the do-it-yourself route and have a group coming over to celebrate the holidays, there are several different ways to approach the food, depending on the nature of your event. If you’re hosting a traditional Thanksgiving, Christmas or Hanukkah meal, a family style dinner might be the way to go for you! Family style dinners are a cozy, intimate way to serve your guests. With platters served on each table, your family and friends have the ability to select their portions through self-service. In order to successfully carry out a family style meal, a key factor is ensuring there is enough space at the tables to comfortably fit your guests, as well as the food and drinks.
Alternatively, maybe you’re hosting a New Year’s Eve pre-party before heading out into the city to ring in the New Year… This could be a great time to try heavy hors d’oeuvres. With heavy hors d’oeuvres, you can tailor your selections to provide a mix of stationary portions for all to share (think: baked brie & crackers or fruit, or spinach artichoke dip with fresh crudité), as well as bite-sized individual servings of your favorite appetizers, such as pear and prosciutto crostinis, grilled beef hibachi skewers, or shrimp cocktail martini glasses.
Drop Off Service
Another alternative for hosting the holidays is to hire a caterer for drop-off service. This is a great option for those who want help with preparing the food, but want to tackle the set-up and hosting themselves (and it’s also a great cost savings alternative!). You can still serve up heavy hors d’oeuvres or a lovely family style meal this way, or you might choose to serve your meal buffet style. Buffets are always an excellent option, particularly for those who want to serve a wide variety of food choices to their guests. Buffets provide greater flexibility, allowing guests to pick the items that most satisfy their palates, as well as controlling how much or little of each item is served. They also serve as a great way to provide a dramatic focal point for your event due to the endless display possibilities.
If you’ve called in for some back up and have a full-service caterer helping to make your holidays memorable (and alleviating some of the pressure on you!), you have a few additional options for service styles. First, you could plan to do food stations. Food stations are a fun, interactive alternative to buffets that allow for increased flexibility and menu options, but provide your guests with even more opportunity to customize their meals and to promote mingling. Multiple stations are set up, usually with a common theme at each station. For example, you may find a DIY potato bar with all the fixings at one station, whereas at the next station you would find a variety of sushi and sashimi, and other oriental favorites. Food stations are also a great way to provide an additional dimension to your reception. Depending on how elaborate you’re looking, food stations can give chefs a great opportunity to have more facetime with guests while providing interactive food displays as they prepare some of their signature dishes made-to-order!
Finally, a tried and true option for an elegant holiday celebration is the sit down dinner. Sit down dinners typically consists of a multi-course meal in which each course is often plated and served individually to guests. This option allows your guests to feel pampered, and is traditionally used for more formal affairs. Drawbacks to the sit down dinner include a more focused menu, as well as greater expense due to the increased staffing requirements to adequately serve your guests… However, formal sit down dinners can be quite regal and beautiful!
Remember that there is no one “right way” to host a gathering, and what works for one family may not be the best for the next. When choosing a service style, keep in mind the size of your party, family traditions, and the formality of the event and go with the route that works best for you… No matter which service style you choose, your loved ones will be thankful for your hard work and planning, and you all can celebrate together with good food and good company. Happy Holidays!
Michael Evans is chef-owner of Helga’s Caterers, a family-owned, full-service catering company with over 35 years of experience in providing fine food and excellent service for all of your catering needs throughout the D.C. Metro Area.