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Converted from paper version of the Broad Ripple Gazette (v14n24)
Life of the Party - Holiday Entertaining. Stay Classy. - by Elizabeth Morse
posted: Dec. 01, 2017

Life of the Party header

Holiday Entertaining. Stay Classy.
It's easy to feel the pressure of the holiday season. The latest promos are stacked attractively to catch your eye everywhere you go. Your inbox is flooded with promo codes. Should you send Christmas cards or Seasons Greetings? Include EVERYONE at the office to your cocktail party? And how about food, what should you serve? You want to be trendy. You want to be in the now. You WANT that bottle of Pumpkin Spice Moscato but you know it's probably wrong. Secretly, you're over "hip" and you just want great food and drink, and well, an awesome vibe. You want your guests to leave relaxed, thinking that your event was a welcome and refreshing oasis of holiday bliss. Well, folks. I'm here to let you in on a little something. The classics are ALWAYS going to be cool. Here's how to have smooth sailing this tinsel time:
You see, good choices never go out of style and that said, it's time to talk about the upcoming season and what excellent entertaining selections look like. And by selections, I really mean three things: the style of the event and the food and libations that you plan to serve. During the holidays, you can't go wrong by choosing sparkling wines. Fizz is festive, great food wine, fits any budget and runs the gamut from dry to sweet. For the most part, bubbles also don't stain carpet. You'll find one paired with each of the parties mentioned.

Category 1- The Open House
First things first. Set the mood for your event with a fun invitation. I'm a proponent of paper, but has some clever (free) options and you can track RSVPs quickly.
You won't need tons of food/wine options for folks to enjoy themselves. A huge platter of colorful cut-out cookies (stars, trees, Santas, etc.), a super-fresh and varied selection of fruits and vegetables with both sweet and savory dips (*Tip: lemon yogurt is a great fruit dip) and a chaffing pan full of spicy meatballs. I love making little "stations" around the house to spread out snacks. For instance, cookies and a stack of napkins in the living room with meatballs closer to the kitchen. You get the idea. It prevents clogs of people and helps migration and conversation. As far as beverages go, offer a few non-alcoholic options and just one festive bubbly! A value-driven option when you need decent wine and lots of it, is a fine way to go. I'm loving a fun Italian varietal called Duvello (that's the grape, like Prosecco) and the specific wine I'll suggest is Palladiano Durello Spumante Brut. This wine has been served in the bars of Veneto for years. Just a good, solid sparkler. Bright fruit with loads of Granny Smith apple flavor tempered by a bit of honey. Delish. About $8.99 per bottle. Finally, make sure you've got your play list filled with up-beat holiday tunes. Think Brenda Lee & Ertha Kitt. Turn on the tunes, put the pets in a bedroom and turn the porch light on.

Category 2- The Dinner Party
Typically one is hosting these events for besties. Frankly, if you're going to have dinner with folks you don't adore, why go crazy cleaning your house and cooking for them. Right? I mean, if you don't love them-go out. If they've made it to the inner circle and they're coming to a dinner party at your house, pull out the stops. Create an impressive menu that can be prepared largely in advance so that you can enjoy time with friends. Personally invite friends with a phone call or card. I think an Evite here is a little tacky. Again, set the tone for your event. When guests arrive, have a nice piece of Mycella Blue Cheese and ginger snaps out to snack on. For dinner serve: green salads with cashews, pear slices & dried cherries (made ahead and set in the fridge). The main meal could be a beautiful truffle-honey roast chicken & root veggies (email me for these recipes). It's one pan, beautiful and delicious. For dessert, bourbon brownies served with ice cream. One of my all-time favorite wines is Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé. A French classic with a stunning deep salmon color. Strawberry, raspberry & cherry flavors. If you really feel fancy, there's a site online that will cover your bottle in mad amounts of glitter-any color. Tah-dah! Now you have a center-piece for your table. Just google the name of the wine and the glitter site will pop up. You're welcome. Worth the $80ish price tag. Offer coffee with dessert and don't forget your tunes.

Category 3- The Big Family To-Do
If you are hosting the big gathering, then you can organize the meal. This can be a little dicey in some families, but it's your house. Here's how I'd proceed: make a list of who's coming and how many people need to be fed. Identify what needs to be made (turkey, ham, three savory sides, four pies, Aunt Sally's special marshmallow salad) and make a LIST ON PAPER. Next, call or send everyone an email and ask them to please bring whatever you have assigned to them. Keep the correspondence light, never bossy, just pointing out that nobody wants to have 5 green bean casseroles and no scalloped corn. You shouldn't feel like you need to make every single thing (unless you want to-then be sure to spread the word!) but there needs to be a semblance of order. Chaos ruins big events. As the host you should provide the main course and the beverages. In this category, I'd go with J Vineyards Cuveé 20 Brut for the meal. A traditional blend of Champagne grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier) from California. There's a little apple in this one too, but I love the citrus and pear flavors and the delicious yeasty smell. Around $34.99 This is a little expensive, but at family events, do you really want everyone indulging? I vote for offering a nice glass at dinner to toast the family. One and done! *I almost forgot! A note about kiddos: It is so nice to grab a bottle of sparkling white grape juice to include youngsters. It really makes them feel grown-up and you may be surprised at how they rise to the occasion.

I'm also always a click away and happy to help you with your entertaining quandaries. Would like a recipe mentioned here? Shoot me an email at and I'll respond.

Elizabeth Morse, owned the Corner Wine Bar in Broad Ripple for close to 20 years. She is a graduate of IU, Hoosier Chef, Food Writer, Wine Guru & Advanced Master Gardener who believes in supporting all things local. Check out her blog: Email her at
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