Behind every great wine dinner is an essential ingredient: everyone is having a great time. Yes, even the person opening their home to friends and family. If you’re the one turning on the burners and setting the table this year, consider this your low-stress guide to holiday entertaining.
Design your space
Earlier this year we featured advice from Richard Felix-Ashman. He designed the gorgeous restored townhouse in Tribeca that is now One White Street, the restaurant opened this year by Chef Austin Johnson and Master Sommelier Dustin Wilson.
The key takeaways apply year round, but are particularly helpful during the holiday season when decorative excess can sometimes get out of hand. For instance, Richard says we should ask ourselves: “How can design elevate the experience, without being the dominant influence on memory?” That seems like an especially poignant contemplation this time of year. Read his tips here.
Make a plan in advance
While no one wants to feel scheduled during party time, having a plan in advance actually takes the pressure off and allows everyone to have a better time. A few weeks before the event, flesh out the timing for conditions that are partially out of your control.
For example, if you need your linens dry cleaned, be sure they are in and out in time for you to prep. Or if your family loves that German chocolate cake from the local bakery, get your order in now so that you aren’t disappointed if they run out. With cold weather approaching, get your wine order in early. Remember that someone needs to be there to sign for it, so you’ll want to consider the delivery schedule. Jot down everything you prefer to have in place and refine the list to an achievable order.
Don’t stress about pairing
It may come as a shock to read this — especially from a wine merchant — but your best bet is on wine that works with a variety of foods for a variety of people. If you are too worried that someone will sip the Syrah with the salmon, you will create unnecessary tension. The good news is, wine pairing isn’t exactly rules based. If you opt for wines that you love to drink, with food that you love to eat, your guests probably will too.
One bit of easy advice: have a selection of different bottles available on a self-serve basis. People can enjoy a glass of their choice before dinner and then parktake in your selections on the table when the meal is served. Or, go self-serve all the way and let everyone mix and match. For food pairing advice, check out the Perfect Pairings section.
See “hosting” with fresh eyes
In every holiday movie there’s a scene where something goes wrong at the family dinner. Clark’s turkey is parched and there’s cat food in the jello. Kevin’s family goes nuts when milk — and a two liter of Pepsi — spills all over the pizza. Buddy the Elf gets overly generous with the syrup and sweets.
This is funny because it’s true: life happens, even during the holidays. Trying to be the host with the most turns the focus on all the things that you believe you must get right for people to have a good time. What everyone really wants is meaningful conversation, nourishing and quality food, and a festive atmosphere that makes them feel welcome. Remember that and you’ll be all set — until Cousin Eddy wears out his welcome!
Happy holidays from the Verve Wine team to your home!