Top 10 Tips for Hosting an Epic New Year’s Eve Party

As 2014 comes to a close, there’s still one last mother-of-all parties to throw—a New Year’s Eve bash!

We’ve compiled a list of our top New Years eve party catering tips to help make your party a stress free and fun time.  Whether you plan to host the soiree of the century or a simple night at home, these pro tips will help you make sure 2014 is a year people will remember.

Count down to the new year with these NYE party tips:

10. For any party—but particularly for a New Year’s Eve party—you want to have some fun, too, as the host. So make sure most of your food is taken care of before the first guest ever arrives. (Or better still, have it catered!)

9. The good news is, New Year’s Eve is perfect for finger foods—think gourmet popcorn or spiced nuts, quick pickles and charcuterie, cheese straws, olives, bruschetta—and maybe a fun chocolate fondue for dessert.

8. Think about entertainment: if the party starts at 7 and the ball drops at 12, that’s a long time for small talk. Will there be dancing or live music? For smaller affairs, I love this idea from Real Simple of turning resolutions into a party game: have guests write down resolutions and then try to guess who said what.

7. There’s no way around it: New Year’s Eve is a holiday for imbibing! So be sure to remind guests to designate a driver ahead of time, or think ahead by ordering taxis or a car service guests can avail themselves of after midnight.

6. Speaking of imbibing, Champagne cocktails or punch can be a fun addition to your party without having a full bar. If you do go with a full bar, you might consider hiring a bartender or assigning a friend the job so you’re not stuck mixing drinks all night long.

5. New Year’s Eve parties lend themselves to a theme, and guests love it. Coordinate the food, music, dress code for maximum impact. Think: black and white or masquerade for a more elegant affair, or go for laughs with a “come as your favorite resolution” or “wear your least favorite trend” challenge for your guests. Share your theme with your caterer for clever food choices.

4. Party favors make great decor. Inexpensive champagne flutes can be customized for the party or guests. Put brightly colored (glitter?) lipsticks and costume bling out for guests to go glitz and glam. Cookies and other desserts decorated with the year look great before going home with guests.

3. Hire a photographer or designate a shutterbug friend to snap candid photos throughout the night. If your guests are techy, create a hashtag for your party and encourage everyone to post and tag so you can all share photos.

2. Pass out mints, minty desserts or cocktails, or breath spray to elicit a giggle before guests pucker up at midnight.

1. Happy New Year! You know you’ll have bubbly to toast the new year, but how else will you celebrate? Balloons and confetti? Party horns and silly hats? Will you watch the ball drop on TV or be your own MC? It’s the highlight of the party, so make it memorable!

Got big plans for New Year’s Eve? Staying home to cuddle up and watch Ryan Seacrest? Let us know about it in the comments below!

What Your Valentine’s Day Drink Says About You—And Your Date

Whether you’re out with your long-time sweetheart or a relatively new love, what your date orders to drink can say a lot. We thought it would be fun—and educational—to decode some of the signals.

After years of attending parties professionally, we’ve begun to be able to deduce the way the night will go based on the drinks orders. Use this (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) guide to decode your date or to pre-program a night of fun when planning your own Valentine’s Day soiree.

Red Wine — A traditional, seductive choice. If you order for your date, make sure you know what you’re doing. And don’t try the swirl and sniff unless you really know what you’re doing, because if you don’t, you can look like a dork.

White Wine — Usually a lady’s choice, but a classic choice. If you’re ordering for the two of you, why not ask the waiter or sommelier to recommend a rosé to mix things up; the pink is romantic.

Sangria — Your date’s expecting a crowd, so don’t get too cozy.

Champagne — Trying really hard to be romantic, or a serious foodie. But who are we kidding? Bubbles are romantic. Pink bubbles even more so.

Straight Liquor, Neat or On the Rocks — A serious drinker; whether or not that is a serious problem depends on how many. (Unless it’s vodka, and then they might just be watching their calories. Skip dessert.)

Fruity Cocktails — An inexperienced drinker. Or, possibly, someone who just knows what they like and are very comfortable being themselves. Or maybe a Parrothead.

Beer — If they order a domestic beer, they might be driving. Craft beer, they might be a hop-head. But really, who orders beer on Valentine’s Day?? Unless you’re dining on heart-shaped pizza, I would be suspicious that their heart isn’t in it.

Old Fashioned — Probably very fashionable, in-the-know, and a foodie, because retro cocktails are all the rage right now. Take this date to a speakeasy to woo them.

The Valentine’s Day Special — If they order whatever the restaurant or bar is serving up as a special, it’s a good possibility that Valentine’s Day is extremely important and special to them. Text the nearest flower shop immediately and have roses delivered to the table.

Need something to wow your sweetie this Valentine’s Day? May we suggest the Mata Hari, a cognac-based cocktail with chai-infused vermouth. Or the Amore Vietato, from the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, with gin and blood oranges. Either way, you’ll be saying that you care enough to mix up something special.

Do you have a favorite romantic beverage? Keep the ideas flowing in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Mulia

Cauliflower: The New Kale? 7 Recipes to Convince You

Believe it or not, the unassuming cruciferous has been showing up on many experts’ 2014 food reports, including the Huffington Post. Expert foodies are predicting the shy veggie may wind up a superstar this year, much like kale’s stratospheric rise to popularity in the last few years.

 It’s already popping up on trendy restaurant menus all over the place. Vegetarian restaurant Dirt Candy in New York City’s East Village offered a popular meatless “chicken” and waffles plate that featured cauliflower, and Salvation Taco in Midtown offers a roasted cauliflower taco with curried crema.

Gone are the days of bland, white mush or being relegated to the crudité platter.  Cauliflower certainly seems to be stepping into the spotlight.  And with gorgeous purple, green, and orange varieties, it can really make a statement.

So we rounded up some of our favorite ways to serve this versatile veggie—no boring boiling allowed. Roasting brings out the cauliflower’s natural sweetness, and it goes equally well with creamy, cheesy treatments as it does in Asian and Indian dishes.  Incorporate one of these dishes into your next event’s menu and you’re sure to be serving up a trendy and tasty treat.

Cauliflower is a great option when you have guests’ health concerns to take into account as well. People come up with ingenious ways to use cauliflower in place of mashed potatoes, tater tots, and even pizza crust to comply with low-carb, paleo, and gluten-free needs.

 If these or any other cauliflower dishes inspire you for your next menu, let us know! We’d love to brainstorm a food-trend extravaganza with you for your next event.

Photo Credit: Admanchester via Compfight

Craft the Perfect Frothy Fall Cocktail

Fall is settling in, and we all need to adjust. As the leaves turn red and orange, our foods get a little heartier, our drinks darker, and our moods quieter.

To lighten things up and celebrate the cool, beautiful days, here’s a drink that walks a brilliant fine line between light and heavy, airy and substantial. Call it a gin sour, call it a Fall Gin Froth, whatever you call it, you’ll call it delicious.

Fall Gin Froth (makes 12 servings)

  • 2 ¼ cups London Dry Gin

  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice

  • ¾ Grand Marnier or similar orange liqueur

  • 4 large egg whites

  • 12 teaspoons orange marmalade

Combine the gin, lemon juice, and orange liqueur and chill.

Mix the egg whites in a small jar and chill until cold.

With these prepared ingredients, you will be ready to mix your drinks.

In a cocktail shaker, combine 2 ½ oz. gin mixture, ½ oz. egg white, and a teaspoon of marmalade.

Shake until the mixture is frothy (about one minute.

Fill the shaker with ice and shake until the outside is frosty.

Finally, strain your beautiful drink into a glass and enjoy with your guests.

This is a sophisticated, delicious drink that will not be overly sweet.

8 Tips to Prevent a Catering Misadventure

So you’ve found your caterer; the food is amazing, you’re happy with the decorations, and everything seems like it’s going to go perfectly.


But planning isn’t everything, and there are always details that can be forgotten.

If you want your party to be perfect, then you need to be sure you know what you want. Here are some tips to get the most out of your relationship with your caterer.

1. Communicate! It might be the most important thing. Make sure you have discussed presentation, timing, and clean-up with your caterer so that everything can fall into place without a hitch.

2. Understand terms for yourself and your catering team. Talk to your caterer about how involved you want to be during the party. Turn it over to your caterer, be a gracious host  and have fun.By making sure your catering team understands exactly what you want, you can get into host mode and really enjoy your own party.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If something is bothering you, ask your caterer about it. Most likely, if you have good caterer, your question or concern will already have been dealt with, but it’s very important to make sure that your caterer knows exactly what you want.

4. Be specific. If you have special guests or specific instructions, tell your catering team so they can make it happen. This will ensure that Aunt Brenda gets her salad dressing on the side and your father-in-law is never without his scotch.

5. Make sure your catering team understands the venue. Knowing the space is huge. If the team understands it well, you shouldn’t have any worries during your party, and won’t need to even think about the way things are going.


6 Sharp Kitchen Tips from a Catering Pro

For the culinary professional, keeping a kitchen in good shape is a must. My kitchen is my office, my laboratory, and my stage.

I like to tell my kitchen staff that a messy kitchen results in a messy end product.  For the sake of a stress-free cooking experience we’re sharing some of our tried and true tips for keeping it together in the kitchen.

1. Keep your knives sharp. Dull knives are more likely to slip and cut you, and a sharp knife will perform like magic. Never put your knives in the dishwasher. Clean them gently and carefully with soapy water. And make sure to sharpen them or have them professionally sharpened every six to nine months.

2. Clean as you go. Nothing will slow you down more than a cluttered kitchen. Once you finish a task take a couple of minutes to wipe down the counter and organize your ingredients and tools for the next task. 

3. Know your tools. Knowing the tools I need makes me a more efficient chef. For example, having a sharp, easy to hold vegetable peeler is essential for so many reasons. You can use it to peel all kinds of fruits and vegetables as well as creating perfect pieces of citrus rind for cocktails.

 4. Know where everything is. I save so much time by knowing my kitchen inside and out. I never wonder where a knife or a tiny saucepan might be; my hand guides the way.

5. Get a microplane grater. This handy item will serve you double-time, as you can use it to finely grate hard cheeses (we all need fresh Parmesan) as well as for zesting citrus.

6. Know your oven. It might sound silly, but all ovens are different, and if you are following recipes, you need to know if your oven runs a little hot, a little cool, or takes a particularly long time to reach temperature. This can save you a lot of heartache.