‘Tis the season for holiday dinner parties, no matter what holidays you celebrate. It’s the season when we come together with family and friends, sit around the table, and enjoy delicious meals prepared with love. Today, I’m partnering up once again with Hood® Cream to show you how to host the most delicious dinner party of the year!
Dinner parties. Between the months of October and December, more dinner parties are hosted than any other months of the year because between holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas, along with other celebrations, friends and families love the sense of coming together to host a meal. For those of you thinking, “oh, dinner parties are way too much work!”, I’m here to tell you the opposite. As one that would rather be in the kitchen cooking all day, it was a pleasure to set the table with a few decorations and know that in a few hours, my friends would be coming over to enjoy a delicious meal.
So to help you in having the best dinner party possible, I’ve put together my top five tips + tricks on how to host a holiday dinner party with no stress, along with chef tips on creating a menu that’s delicious. You might also be wondering why I partnered with Hood® Cream for this post and it’s quite simple – Hood Cream is a premium, high-quality ingredient that is trusted by professional chefs and home chefs alike to ensure our favorite recipes turn out delicious time and time again. It’s the whipping cream I whip daily at the restaurants for our desserts, the half & half that goes into our restaurant’s clam chowder, and it’s the light cream that we all use at home in our coffees. The reason is obvious! Founded in 1846, today Hood® is one of the largest branded dairy operators in the United States and the number-one dairy brand in New England. Without further ado, here are my top five tips + tricks on how to host a holiday dinner:
1. It goes without saying, but when you start with the best products, you finish with great results. The holidays are not the time to skimp on products at the store, since it’s a time to indulge and really pull out all the stops at your dinner party. Whenever I am hosting a holiday party, my grocery list always includes half & half (to serve my guests their after dinner coffee), light cream (for soups and bisques), heavy cream (for potato based side dishes that need extra richness), and whipping cream (to whip for desserts). These last months of the year are tough months for the freshest produce if you live in New England and most farmer’s markets are switching over to pumpkins and apples, but you can still shop for the freshest by asking your grocery stores to provide. Another great source of ingredients are your local butchers and farmers – they’ll have the freshest cuts of meats for you to use in your recipes!
2. Setting the table is like setting the stage for a play – everything must make sense and look good, without being too overwhelming. If you’re like me and don’t have matching plates at home, check out your local party stores or even the more affordable “dollar stores” where you can get a set of matching plates for under $10! For this post, I called up my friends at KG Events & Design, local event planners on Martha’s Vineyard, and asked to borrow a few items to make the table really shine. Stick with a gold and cream color palette for your dinner party and add a few pops of red to really showcase the season. For mood lighting, endless tea lights around the table are the easiest and prettiest way to light up the dishes.
3. Just because you’re hosting a dinner party on a Saturday, doesn’t mean you have to spend all of Saturday cooking. Chefs don’t, so why should you? The sole mission of a chef is to get as much done ahead of time as possible, so when”service” comes around, you’re not rushing around too much. As a home cook, take this piece of advice and use it! Look at your menu and decide what can be done the day before. Dessert typically is the smartest choice to start with the day before, specially if you’re making something like a cake that needs to be decorated or creme caramel, a dessert that benefits from sitting in the fridge overnight. Soups and stews are another great item to make the day ahead and just reheat for the dinner, as we all know they are best the next day after the flavors have come together nicely. Does your protein need marinating? Will your side dishes need some chopping, dicing, and mincing? All of these things can be done the day before so that day of you’re not running around like crazy during your dinner party.
4. Create a menu that makes sense. Get inspired by all of the delicious recipes over on the Hood® Cream website, where I created my menu for this party. During my recent dinner party, we enjoyed a Wedge Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing, Stuffed Sugar Pumpkins, Creamy Mashed Potatoes, Pork Loin & Apples, and Creme Caramel. A simple menu that was perfect for us – a salad, two side dishes, a main course, and dessert! The great thing about the recipes on the website is they are all chef trusted and created by Chef Chris Coombs, chef owner of some of the best and most indulgent restaurants in Boston! Not only that, but the sweetest thing about his partnership is that his grandfather drove a Hood truck for more than 40 years – how’s that for perfect?!
5. Relax, it’s just dinner! My final tip is obvious but most people forget to do so – but please make sure to just relax. That night, if you’ve prepared most of the things ahead of time, you should be able to take a long hot shower before dinner and listen to some holiday music while getting dressed. Light the candles before the guests arrive, make sure the music is playing in the dining room, have the water glasses poured on the table, and be ready to welcome guests into your home for what is to be a delicious night. Don’t stress about the food being perfect, the decoration being pristine – that’s not what holiday dinner parties are about. Whether it’s a typical weeknight or you’re cooking for a special occasion, Hood Cream helps create special memories and traditions with your friends and family. It’s about letting people that love you into your home, to enjoy the food you’ve made with so much love. Cheers to a happy and delicious holiday season!
To find these recipes and more, head over to Hood® Cream website. Remember you can find all Hood® products across New England grocery stores – and if you don’t see it at your local store, ask them to carry it for you!