How to entertain a crowd at your place
I think Dorothy from The Wizard Of Oz said it best: “There’s no place like the cabin” – or something like that. For me, bringing in the New Year with family and friends at the cabin is a good alternative to the glitz and glamour of the Emerald City.
It’s an all-day affair for us. Everyone meets at the local ski slopes early on the morning of New Year’s Eve. We ski all day and then meet up for a wonderful evening feast at our place, Log Off. Some time after midnight, exhausted from a day of skiing and tummies filled with fine food and drink, everyone dons his or her favorite pajamas and hunkers down for a well-deserved night’s sleep.
A hostess who parties. Each year, as the number of celebrants has grown (this year it will be nine families), I have added more to the menu. But I certainly don’t want to start off the New Year exhausted from a long evening of entertaining houseguests. And I don’t want to turn into some kind of wicked witch passing out coasters and flying around on my broomstick sweeping up crumbs and spills. So I resolved a few years back to find ways to both participate in and enjoy the evening’s celebration – and do as little work as possible.
When I begin thinking about the menu for the evening, I try to find a balance between festive fare, complementary dishes and flavors and simple preparation that I can spread out over the days and hours leading up to the party. I choose recipes that can either be made days in advance or that require very little prep time.
I find that I can enjoy myself (and ski that much longer) if I’ve done the planning, organizing and prep work before everyone arrives. I head to the slopes knowing that everything is set and ready to go.
How I do it. Typically I set up a buffet table in the hearth room. Shortly before guests arrive I strategically place a few appetizers on coffee tables where I expect guests to sit and gather.
I greet my adult guests with hot chocolate and Kahlua. For the children I provide hot chocolate and miniature marshmallows.
By the time all the hungry skiers arrive and unload their ski gear, the crudités, shrimp cocktail and steamed edamame are out and ready for eating. Wine and drinks are poured, the fondue pots are simmering and I’m removing other hot appetizers from the oven. Everyone is settling in for a wonderful evening of family and friends sustained by delicious food, wine and, of course, the requisite bottles of champagne for the midnight toast by the fire.
Check out my menu and wine recommendations on the next page. And cheers!
After the dishes are done and the guests are tucked in, Deb Mallin and her husband, Dan, always take some time together to bring in the New Year with a few quiet moments of reflection.
2006 New Year's Eve Menu
Foods FOR AFTER the slopes
• Crudités (assorted cold vegetables and dips).
• Cheese fondue (try a combination of Gruyere and Emmenthaler cheese with a little garlic, white wine and kirsch) with warm French bread slices and apple chunks.
• Shrimp Cocktail (Garnish cocktail sauce with parsley, fresh grated horseradish and lemon wedges.)
• Edamame (frozen soy beans) steamed and lightly seasoned with kosher salt. (Set out a decorative little bowl for guests to discard the pods.)
• Blue corn tortilla chips with guacamole and cilantro or pineapple salsa.
• Local cheeses and assorted seed and grain crackers. (Garnish cheese plate with fresh grapes and apple slices.)
Foods for later in the evening
• Tyropita, three-cheese phyllo appetizer (available in the freezer department of your local grocer). Serve with raspberry preserves.
• Homemade pizzas (crusts available in the grocer’s deli or freezer department). Suggested toppings:
#1: Pesto, provolone, sun-dried tomatoes and shrimp
#2: Pesto, artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, and fontina and Parmesan cheeses
(Pizzas can usually be prepared, covered and stored the morning before, then baked for 8-10 minutes right before serving.)
• Marinated and skewered chicken. (Marinate the night before, skewer, broil and serve.)
Dessert (if anyone is still hungry)
• Dark chocolate fondue. (Serve with marshmallows, angel food cake chunks, dried apricots and cherries, fresh strawberries and bananas, sandwich cookies and red licorice twists.)
• Hot chocolate
- with mini marshmallows for the kids
- with Kahlua for adults
• Bottled water
• Alcohol for mixed drinks
• Lemons and limes
• White: 2005 Sauvignon Blanc from Hanna (Sonoma County, Calif.). Retail: $16.
• Red: 2004 Malbec from Tamarí (Argentina). Retail: $12.
• Sparkling Wine for toasting: 2000 Brut from Argyle (Wilamette Valley, Ore.). Retail: $24.