Holiday Affair

Three event pros share ideas for toasting the season in style

a customized label bearing a corporate message, a recipe for cider served at the event and a sampling with a mug, and donations to a charity in someone’s name are other engaging ideas.

Caterer Sherifa W. Phillpotts, owner of Distinguished Daughter, says timing is vital to freshness and aesthetics of food. She allots the first 30 to 60 minutes of a dinner party for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres-usually six items presented in staggered intervals. “For a standing affair, provide seated cocktail tables for 60% of the expected crowd,” she advises. “That [urges] guests to interact.” She also suggests opening up food stations 45 minutes after your cocktail hour and in the interest of keeping food fresh, closing them after two hours.

The menu is really the highlight at a holiday affair. And Phillpotts, 31, originally from Kingston, Jamaica, has discovered that culturally rich dishes appeal to well-traveled and ethnically diverse crowds. Fusions like lemon paprika quail with Southern Mediterranean squash, Australian red desert salmon with mango ginger Thai noodles, stimulate taste buds and conversation about the epicurean experience. Consider a printed menu to offer tidbits on the cultures incorporated into each course. Phillpotts, who has 15 years in the catering industry, notes that chocolate is a holiday favorite for dessert. Molten chocolate lava cake, truffles, and chocolate cr_me brul_e with rum cream sauce are some ideas. Wild Sweets Chocolate by Dominique and Cindy Duby (Whitecap; $40) offers delicious inspiration. For the after-dinner party, stick to uncomplicated, light fare. Phillpotts suggests creating a raw seafood station contained in an ice sculpture to serve as a centerpiece. Cold canap_s (mini hors d’oeuvres) of lobster lollipops with mango dipping sauce, seared beef tenderloin, and sesame-marinated tuna make for an alternative station that is vibrant and easy to replenish, and offers guests a snack as they twirl the night away.

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