2020 has been one for the books, but i’m not letting it stop me from hosting my annual Thanksgiving feast. In march I had no idea that I would need to make all sorts of alterations to my usual hosting prep. Along with my favorite hosting tips, I am including a few ideas to keep everyone safe during your small COVID holiday gatherings. Happy Hosting and stay safe!
Set up a Sanitation Station
Find an area near the door, to place a stool or small table to sanitize. Include antibacterial gel, spray, wipes and face mace masks. Your guests will be able to prepare after the commute but before greeting and eating.
Cover your food until serving. I found these cheap but eazy covers to place over the many sized serving dishes (they look like shower caps). Of course this is a good idea in any case, but especially during COVID times covering up is law.
The Host Serves
If Possible, serve the food yourself. Have each person come up one at a time and make the plates yourself. This way only one person is touching the serving spoons and you don’t have a hoard of people gathered around the spread.
I am on the fence with plastic cups and flatware. There are pros and cons, but I think the cons outweigh the pros for me. I hate waste, there is extra expense and I personally dont like drinking out of plastic or cardboard. On the other hand, there will be fewer dishes and fewer surfaces that have potentially been contaminated. It’s just an idea – I’ll let you know which way I go!
Tip 1 – Prep Ahead
If the devil is in the details, then god is in the prep! Half of my cooking is done the night before any event. The chopping, peeling, washing, and most of the baking is done on the holiday eve. Now that I am working from home, I’m excited to see what other tasks I’ll slip in between designs and meetings. Check your list (see tip 2) and get the simple stuff out of the way. Also, consider cooking burners, oven space and baking times you will need on the big day.
Tip 2 – Make a list
I’m a VIRGO so I can not stress this enough. I make all sorts of lists when party planning. A guest list, a SHOPPING LIST, a list of things to do that don’t involve cooking, and a list of things to cook in ORDER.
Tip 3 – Style your table
Styling your table doesn’t have to be expensive and you can get creative. It’s less about the theme of the event but more about creating a feeling that ties into the food. It could be as simple as picking a color to focus on or picking an accent to design around. Start with tablecloths, candles, and colored napkins. Any of these things can be found in the dollar store, only – stay away from the plastic table clothes. Do purchase tealights, ribbons and simple candle holders.
Tip 4 – Clean while you cook
I live in NYC, though my kitchen is larger than most – the pots and pans stack up quickly. I try to keep a bowl of soapy water in the sink when I’m not using it to quick wash or rinse utensils and pots and pans. Items that I won’t use again I neatly stack in the dishwasher. This technique is very useful but I somehow always end up with a full sink – I shudder to think about what it would be like if I didn’t cook and wash.
Tip 5 – Save your takeout containers
I don’t eat out often, but each year I accumulate an impressive amount of throwaway plastic containers. These come in handy for doggy bags for your guests as well as small portion leftovers.
Tip 6 – REFILL- napkins (and ice)
I can’t stress the importance of an abundance of napkins. Again, the dollar store is good enough. For the meal, I actually use large cotton napkins for my guests. Since I don’t use an actual table for place seatings it’s nice for guests to throw them over their laps. Ice is cheap, better to have more than you need than not enough. No one likes warm egg nog! EASY HOSTING MATH: 1 pound of ice per guest. 4 paper napkins per guest. 1 drink per guest per hour.
Tip 7 – Provide a selection of beverages
My guests LOVE my homemade egg nog. I usually provide it as a novelty, but last year there were a few non-alchoal drinking egg nog lovers so I needed to make due. Provide a selection, equal parts, soda or juice for those that don’t drink. A simple (house) white and red wine for cheers-ing, and of course plenty of water. P.S. I always keep a nice bourbon or whiskey for celebratory shots to end the night.
Tip 8 – Plate your Platters
As you finish your dishes, plate them and cover with foil so you can quickly warm them when guests arrive.
Tip 9 – Provide a playlist
Your party needs a soundtrack! Generally, I play what I like to listen to – festive but bluesy music to set the tone for dinner. I’ve learned that this isn’t everyone’s preference so I let the guests take over the ipad after dinner. Guests should be mingling and chatting too much to care about the music before dinner anyway.
Tip 10 – Have something for everyone
Consider, vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options based on your guest list.
Tip 11 – Make sure you have enough seating
The holidays are a time to be surrounded by family and friends but no one needs to be right on top of each other especially in COVID times. Consider your guest list and how many you can sit comfortably while eating, you may need to cut the list this year. I am not allowing “new” plus ones. I invested in a few simple stools, which can be used for seating or individual mini tables.
BONUS* Buy plenty of CHEAP foil – Go to the dollar store and stock up. You will use countless rolls before the day is over and it’s better to have more than less.
These are tips that I actually use and that help me not freak out during holiday planning. Start with a list!
Happy Holiday Season and sty safe.