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Fall Entertaining: Life Hacks For Fall 2020 Hostess With The Mostest Vibes

Six Tips, Sources & Words of Wisdom
For Hosting A Holiday Fete
root cellar design's willow table linen and our table designs
a mix of vintage tableware

With Thanksgiving days away, the Holidays are roaring ahead. This year will certainly be a unique season for us all.  I suspect, it'll become all about keeping it down to small gatherings in our homes.  For now, large gatherings and public events are n hold (for obvious reasons during a Pandemic).  Taking social distancing precautions, we will ring in Thanksgiving through New Years this way.  This may be the time to heed some advice on entertaining at home to keep the stress levels down, the style and fun levels up and create an easy environment for you the host to enjoy yourself after a long, difficult several months.  You deserve it and well, it will be decadent to spend time with those we love (utilizing social distance practices of course).   So, now more than ever, entertaining should be stress-free.  I recently had a Zoom call with cooking guru Ina Garten who has just released her new cook book Modern Comfort Food,  She professes to keep it simple when entertaining, and gave us a plethora of examples on how to do that as a host.  Don't try to over impress, and remember your priorities are to spend quality time with these folks.  So, how do you juggle being cheery, and conversational without burning the roast?  Well, for starters no roasts....Ina's correct, keep your holiday entertaining simple this year.  Do your work and preparation ahead of time, choose wisely what you'll serve and she highly recommends a one-dish casserole.  I love this idea.  When entertaining, I make the one dish ahead of time and simply warm it up and serve- a soup, a stew is fantastic.  I opt for those dishes that are home cooked, and are delicious but don't need my extra attention in the kitchen much during the party, except for serving time.  

Success!  For my dinner party last weekend in East Hampton where I hosted a few guests for dinner, I opted for a white wine Coq au Vin (because although I love the red wine version, I'm not a fan of the burgundy red color the chicken turns from cooking in the wine).  However, to my surprise, the white wine version I made was superb in flavor- the bacon, the cognac and white wine, leeks, the shallots- it was over the top (in a good way)! My guests gushed for days after the party, and the more it cooked the more the flavors melded together and it was honestly one of the most delicious chicken dishes I have eaten.  The recipe I chose instructed me to cook it for 1 ½ hours so I cooked it for 1 hour, then popped it in the oven for 30 minutes before serving it piping hot.  I served it over mashed potatoes (which I also made ahead of time).  So, let's start from the minute the guest arrives, the cocktails, the appetizers, and give you 6 hacks to make your holiday entertaining fun and easy...

1. Offer Your Guests A Creatively Designed Cheese, Charcuterie and/or Crudite Board As An Appetizer
put out one large beautifully displayed board/tray out and don't fuss with passed hors d'oeuvres or fancy appetizers.  Trust me, your guests will gush.  For starters, invest in a round tray with a tall lip and pack it tightly with a couple wedges of cheese (I opt for a soft, a hard and a goat), crackers or crostini, nuts, fresh & dried fruit and put alongside a dip or as we did here some herbed olive oil and olives. Benefits- this can be made ahead of time. I often make hummus or roasted tomato confit with crusty bread too. This plate my daughter whipped up when I hosted an antique tour to a group of interior designers two years ago.  
2. Set Up A Self-Serve Bar Cart And Take It Up A Notch 
With A Signature Cocktail
another host secret is to stock your bar, make a signature cocktail before-hand and leave an entire pitcher of it on the bar cart along with sparkling water, wine and other spirits.  The cocktail will impress your guests and they won't mind pouring it themselves (don't forget to leave a large bowl of ice and lemons/limes)
3. Prepare a One-Dish Meal Ahead of Time and Invest in A Large Dutch Oven 
trust me, you will use this Dutch Oven again and again, and although they can be pricey a good one will last a lifetime.  I have been cooking and serving large dinner parties for years and sometimes using two pots or two casserole dishes but I picked up this large Dutch oven and I love it!
This beauty is currently on at Sur La Table the  Staub Coq au Vin
I used this Coq Au Vin (which means chicken in wine) recipe from Country Living Magazine- I added carrots, replaced one of the onions with a couple shallots, and in addition to white wine I added a cup of cognac.
our table designs for Hope Lodge fundraiser- antique Blue Willow plates, custom made pinwheels, root cellar designs' table linens

4. Set A Creative and Pretty Table  
Have fun with it...forget the plain white table linen and mix and match your dishes.  I like to pepper in some antique plates with my every day plates.  I add candles in all sizes and shapes, and if it's fall I do pumpkins and gourds in vignettes and sometimes I even bring in garden urns and fill them with vegetables or squash.  In winter, acorns and pinecones.  These creatively set dinner tables are really fun talking points and gathers guests enthusiastically around the table.  Last week I took a large basked and filled it with all dark cranberry colored potted Mums.  Use the bounties of the season to set your table, and don't fuss over an elaborately created floral arrangement, you can use potted cauliflower or fresh produce from the farmer's market or farm stand to create a warm and cozy ambiance.  
5. When a Guest Asks "What Can I Bring" Take Their Support and Suggest A Dessert.  If you're having a large party, and more than one guests asks (I almost always concede if they insist ), then I have two guest bring dessert, and that course is totally covered.  I do buy a couple containers of Artisan-made Ice Cream and Sorbet (Just in case they come up short) and serve it up with whatever they bring. It's one less thing off your plate. I happen to be fortunate in the dessert department since my daughter is a master baker and she almost always brings over dessert for our gatherings- check out her pies and she shares them on her Goodies by Gab Instagram 

6. Make A Holiday Party Play List on Spotify.  I have always fussed with music but the best thing I have done in a long time was create lists on Spotify.  I do this for working out, taking walks, cooking and now entertaining.  I love making these music playlists on my weekends and free time, and it's the perfect opportunity to put together all my favorite must from the past and present.  I have a new one named Fall Dinner Party which is perfect for this time of year. Check out my playlists on Spotify. 
Happy Nesting
XO Tamara

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