Holiday Entertaining Myths and Facts

November 27 00:00 2002 Print This Article

The best thing about the holidays is reconnecting with friends and family, so its natural that during this festive time of year, we love to entertain. Still, how often have you had the impulse to invite people over, only to start panicking about whom to invite, what foods to serve, and what to drink?

The key to successful entertaining is just to jump in and do it without letting yourself get stressed-out about particulars. People love to be entertained, whether it involves a meal or just a glass of holiday cheer. Since your guests will be thrilled to be there after all, its really you and the other company that draws them anything you serve will be appreciated.

That said, the best way to go about planning a holiday party of any size or scope is to relax, have fun, and dont forget the wine.

First, think about what kind of party youd like to have. If you love to cook, a sit-down meal might suit your mood. For larger crowds, plan a simple buffet. A roast turkey or ham goes a long way to feeding hungry revelers, and all of the trimmings and side dishes can be prepared the day before, eliminating day-of-the-party anxiety. These work well, too, for a holiday open house. Otherwise you might want to invite friends to stop by during cocktail hour for hors doeuvres and a holiday toast.

One of the most common myths about holiday entertaining is that its always expensive. (You'll find more "Holiday Entertaining Myths and Facts" further down).

In fact, its easy to keep costs down. No need to hire bartenders or wait staff. Just choose a small table to serve as the bar, open a few different types of wine, and let the guests pour for themselves. Sauvignon Blanc is a great go-with-anything white; Chardonnay is delicious with turkey. For reds, pick a lighter, fruity style, such as Beaujolais or Pinot Noiror both! These work wonderfully with ham or turkey, along with a wide range of hors doeuvres and side dishes. Throw in a Chianti, Dolcetto, or other light Italian red (or try a California Sangiovese) if you have salami, prosciutto, or similar cold cuts. If youre serving goose or duck, you might include a richer red, such as Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon; these are also great with cheese. Its easy to find any of these wines for under ten dollars or so.

Or if you really want to keep it simple, invite friends over for a glass of holiday bubbly, even at the last minute. (People love that these days.) Serve anything from vintage French Champagne to Italian Prosecco, from Spanish Cava to attractive, inexpensive California sparkling wines. Butter some thin slices of baguette or squares of rye bread, top them with small pieces of smoked salmon and sprigs of dill, and theres a holiday party right there!

And should you find yourself in the happy position of being invited to a holiday gathering, dont arrive empty-handed. The best gift to bring to a party? Wine, of course. Wrapped in a holiday gift bag, presented in a stocking, or even dressed up with a ribbon or ornament around its neck, theres nothing more festive.


MYTH:
A formal toast is required when you serve wine at a holiday meal.

FACT:
There's nothing formal about enjoying a holiday meal with family and friends, and a toast is always optional.


MYTH:
Everything must look perfect and run flawlessly in order for your holiday entertaining to be considered successful.

FACT:
Your company is grateful to be your guests and remember that some of the best party experiences are when things don't go exactly as planned. Just follow the mantra - don't cry over spilt wine.


MYTH:
You must serve white wine with turkey since it's white meat.

FACT:
The great thing about a holiday turkey is that both red and white wines match up well. White wine lovers will find that the rich flavor and supple texture of Chardonnay is great with turkey and the trimmings. Lighter, fruity red wines such a Pinot Noir, or Beaujolais are also excellent matches. The best "rule," though, is that you should drink the wines you enjoy.


MYTH:
It is not necessary to always RSVP to a holiday party.

FACT:
Whether you are able to attend a party or not, if the invitation says RSVP, you should reply. The only time you wouldn't need to reply is if the invitation requests a response for regrets only and you are planning to attend.


MYTH:
Red wine should be drunk out of a larger, fuller red wine glass.

FACT:
Just like any other type of wine, red wine can be enjoyed in any type of glass that you have on hand - even a tumbler will do the trick.


MYTH:
It is fashionable to show up late to a party.

FACT:
Don't always assume that your host expects you to show up late to a party. The general rule of thumb is that if the invitation says to arrive by 8 p.m., plan to arrive within half the hour, unless specified on the invitation that it's an open house.


MYTH:
You don't need to bring a gift to a party.

FACT:
Never arrive empty handed. Wine makes a great gift. Plenty of bottles cost between $10 and $20. And remember to wrap the wine in more than the paper bag you bought it in - many wine shops offer festive gift bags, or consider presenting the wine in a stocking, or tie an ornament around its neck.


MYTH:
As a host, it's okay to start cleaning up before your guests leave.

FACT:
Not true. This could make your guests feel like you are not enjoying their company or that you want the night to be over. As a host, it is important to make your guests feel welcome and appreciated by giving them your attention.


MYTH:
You need to hire a bartender in order to serve drinks.

FACT:
Wine serves itself, and most guests prefer to make their own choices. Sampling is in. Offer a variety of wine options; this way you and your guests will have options.


MYTH:
You need to spend a lot of money in order to entertain.

FACT:
Not true. Entertaining can be as inexpensive or expensive as you choose. Again, your guests are just grateful to be entertained. To keep costs down, choose a variety of under $10 bottles of wine to fill your bar instead of spirits, mixers and other drinks, which can run up the tab.


Leslie Brenner is a contributing editor at Travel + Leisure and author of Fear of Wine. Her acclaimed novel, Greetings from the Golden State, has just been released in paperback. Her newest book is The Fourth Star: Dispatches From Inside Daniel Boulud's Celebrated New York Restaurant. This article appears courtesy of WineAnswers.

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