(MCT) — Now that Thanksgiving has passed, we’re officially in holiday party season.
If your formal dinner party has become old hat and Sunday brunch isn’t your style, here is some inspiration. Three event planners offer fresh ideas for seasonal gatherings that guests will talk about for the next 12 months.
Using Jack Frost as his inspiration, Chris Arredondo of Eclipse Entertainment in Arlington, Texas, shows that Old Man Winter is the perfect muse for a fun and festive party.
• The Setting: As guests arrive to your home, Arredondo suggests, welcome them into your winter wonderland with a snow machine stationed at the entrance and blue, silver and white LED trees lining the driveway.
For the inside decor, use German feather Christmas trees and an assortment of LED-lit holiday branches throughout the house.
• The Entertainment: No party is complete without music, so consider having a cellist play classic holiday songs as guests arrive, and then, during dessert, having a pianist play upbeat jazz tunes.
If you have the room and the ceiling height, a Cirque du Soleil-style artist hanging from a chandelier, pouring champagne, is a great way to serve drinks.
For his menu, Ar redondo collaborated with Fort Worth, Texas-based G Texas Catering (www.gtexascatering.com) to create a meal full of culinary favorites. Jack Frost martinis, made from pineapple juice, coconut, vodka and blue curacao, could be tasty sippers.
For appetizers, try grilled jumbo shrimp or crab claws displayed in specialty ice carvings and a mini martini salad bar. For the main course, spice-rubbed pork tenderloin, poblano and smoked cheddar-stuffed chicken breast and grilled rib-eye skewers would be winners.
Arredondo and the caterer suggest serving sides such as grilled portobello mushrooms, roasted garden vegetables and Greek salad.
After indulging in such a lavish and filling feast, keep dessert simple and sweet by passing around Godiva white chocolate truffles customized with your initials.
• The Party Favor: As the party draws to an end, send guests off with a happy goodbye by giving them a special gift such as a holiday wine or a white frost-themed ornament.
Shower your guests with Southern hospitality, as envisioned by Keri Cook from A Sophisticated Affair in Arlington.
For the party’s invitations and decor, Cook says to keep it simple.
Handmade invitations made from scrapbook paper and a metallic pen are understated, yet elegant. Mason jars tied with ribbons and nametags are great for doubling as glassware and place cards.
Decorate tables using lace cloths or an antique overlay with metallic details and floral centerpieces made from baby’s breath.
Cook suggests hiring an acoustic guitarist to play holiday tunes. Not only will the music give the party a country feel, but it also will keep the atmosphere laid-back so guests can enjoy themselves in comfort, she says.
Nothing says Southern like bourbon, so try a festive drink like a cranberry bourbon sour for your party’s signature cocktail. (You’ll find the recipe on Indulgedfw.com.)
For the menu, Cook chooses to celebrate with Southern-inspired dishes, including shrimp and jalapeño cheese grits (served in martini glasses) for appetizers and a main course of pumpkin waffles and chicken with an orange cranberry compote and vegetable medley.
For dessert, Cook likes a Southern twist on the French classic creme brulee with a selection of sweets that might include a white chocolate and cranberry bourbon creme brulee, pumpkin creme brulee with pumpkin brittle, and a ginger creme brulee with candied ginger.
BALLET AND BISTRO LADIES-ONLY NIGHT
Spend an enchanting evening with the girls this holiday season, as envisioned by Ashley Paz of Vera Green Productions in Fort Worth.
Paz suggests starting your party by attending The Nutcracker and following the ballet with dinner, drinks and a special project for the pint-size ballet students who perform in the suite.
• The Setting: Pair Nut-cracker tchotchkes with clean golds and whites. For greenery, use topiaries, garden roses and hydrangeas from local sources like Vivi Gray Design in Fort Worth.
• The Food: For her menu, Paz collaborated with Chandra Riccetti from the Bastion Restaurant in Fort Worth (www.bastionrestaurant.com) to create a meal that pays tribute to characters and dances from the ballet. For cocktails, the duo suggests serving drinks made from Russian vodka such as Narodnaya (a nod to The Russian Dance in the ballet).
For the first course, serve ciabatta bread with Spanish olive tapenade.
For the salad course, they suggest a salad of fresh garden greens, shallot sherry vinaigrette, herbed goat cheese and spiced pecans.
And in a nod to Paz’s favorite character, Herr Drosselmeyer, she suggests a main course of prosciutto and sage-seared pork tenderloin.
For the grand finale, serve a dessert duo of panna cotta with sugar plum sauce and “Arabian” chocolate tiramisu.
• The Entertainment: Af- ter the meal, move guests to the formal living room, where they can sip champagne and create gift bags for ballet students.
Paz suggests asking each guest to bring something that can be used to make the gifts, such as gold bags with the words “Merci!” or “Bravo!” written on them. Other items can include ballet-themed ornaments, hair ties, sugar cookies or any other items that the tiny dancers might love.
Spend the rest of the evening packaging the bags and box them up to deliver the next morning.
JACK FROST MARTINI
Makes 4 drinks
1 cup pineapple juice
1/2 cup (4 ounces) light rum or vodka, if desired
1/2 cup (4 ounces) blue curacao
1/2 cup (4 ounces) cream of coconut (not coconut milk)
10 to 12 ice cubes
Mix together and strain into martini glass. Rim the glass with shredded coconut.
PUMPKIN WAFFLES AND ORANGE CRANBERRY COMPOTE
Makes 8 waffles
1 cup milk
½ cup pumpkin puree (roast fresh pumpkin and puree for deeper flavor)
¼ cup packed dark brown sugar (add a teaspoon of maple syrup to light brown sugar to substitute)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt
Pinch of cloves
Pinch of nutmeg
1) Mix wet ingredients together; set aside.
2) In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients. Fold dry ingredients into wet and mix until just incorporated.
3) Place by ladle into pre-heated waffle iron and cook until golden. Serve topped with pan-fried chicken and orange cranberry compote.
1 pound fresh cranberries
1 cup orange juice
¼ cup pure maple syrup
½ cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
Pinch of cloves
Pinch of nutmeg
Place all ingredients in saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until cranberries have broken down and sauce has thickened. Add water if needed. Remove cinnamon sticks before serving.
CRANBERRY BOURBON SOUR
Makes about 8 drinks
1 ½ cups water
1 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
2 cinnamon sticks
4 cups fresh cranberries
1 1/3 cups bourbon
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1. Combine water, sugar, salt and cinnamon sticks and heat until sugar dissolves (discard cinnamon sticks).
2. Then combine this mixture with the cranberries in a blender and blend until smooth, strain through a sieve twice and discard solids.
3. Combine the cranberry liquid with bourbon and lemon juice and stir; serve over ice and garnish with a mint leaf.
Note: You can substitute a pure cranberry juice found in the grocery store for the homemade cranberry juice, just make sure to sweeten it.