Get Your Holiday Party Game on Point
Sun Basket’s test kitchen team lays down some wisdom for holiday entertaining.
"Keep it simple" is our kitchen team's mantra for the holidays. While they all love to cook for their family and friends, they've learned not to let stress get in the way of the good times. Here are a few of the things they do to keep the holidays happy. And don't forget to check out our Sun Basket Holiday Survival Guide for healthily getting through the holiday season.
- Create a timeline. “The sheer number of tasks to complete when preparing for guests can easily become overwhelming,” says menu board manager Brittany Howlett. “I always make a list of things I need to do, groceries to buy, and food to prepare a week before my party. Then, I give myself a deadline for each task to minimize last-minute stress and ensure I don’t forget anything important.”
- Start early. “The night before a party, I pull out my platters and serving dishes (don’t forget the utensils), get the wineglasses out, and stack up the napkins,” says executive chef Justine Kelly. “Basically, anything that’s not food is out and ready to go at least 24 hours before the party begins."
Get the kids involved. “My daughter, Stella, and her cousins love to decorate the table. They write up menus and place tags,” says Kelly. “It keeps them busy, so I can focus on the things I need to do, and it helps them feel included in the party."
Premix a cocktail. "I mix a big batch of Negronis (equal parts gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari) and store it in empty wine bottles. You can do this weeks, even months in advance because it only gets better with time,” says executive R&D chef Alan Li. “Just before the party, I put out a bowl of orange peel for garnish and a bucket of ice and let my guests help themselves. I offer that, plus beer, wine, and a non-alcoholic option like Jamaican Sorrel Punch."
- Don’t be afraid to outsource. “When I prepare an entertaining menu, I focus on the things I really love making, like my smoked trout dip and caramelized onion apple tart (I cheat and buy puff pastry—you should too),” says Kelly. “I outsource everything else. I've found that my friends love to contribute their own favorite party foods, and I fill out the table with cheese, charcuterie, and other store bought, party-worthy snacks."
- Set the mood. “Keep the decorations simple but beautiful,” says R&D sous chef Kate Langheim. “I fill different-sized Mason jars or glass tumblers with fresh herbs or small citrus fruits like kumquats and key limes. I also like to put fresh cranberries and white gardenias in water in big glass bowls.”
- Music, music, music. “When I'm not cooking, I'm playing drums with my gypsy jazz band, The Sambassadors, so tunes are key to any gathering at my house,” says R&D chef Paul Conte. “During the holiday season, Vince Guaraldi's A Charlie Brown Christmas plays on the regular."