Are you planning on serving a holiday feast to a group friends and/or family over the holidays? Nervous? Don’t worry. Whether it’s a group of old friends or new friends, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner; here are some tips to keep the event running smoothly and to keep your stress as host or hostess to a minimum.
- Focus on one dish. Make sure that only one item on the menu is complicated. All other dishes need to be quick, simple to prepare, or prepared ahead of time. This is a good rule to follow for any meal from breakfast through to dinner. This way you can focus on the central dish, get it just right, and make it magnificent.
Plan your meal. By coordinating the food colors, garnishes, and flavors across courses can really make a meal memorable. A sprig of spearmint really pops when placed on top of a scoop of cranberry sorbet. A bit of dill looks crisp when placed beside a dollop of cranberry-tomato chutney.
- Divide the tasks. Inevitably, someone arrives early and wants to help. Have them open the wine, set the table, cut vegetables,… If you have small tasks already thought through it’s easy to hand them over. This makes the meal go smoothly, and the guest feels useful.
- Choose the table linens and dishes to show off the food. For example, white plates are striking when serving a brightly yellow breakfast casserole, bacon strips, a corn muffin. Then add bright red tomato wedges and a leaf of basil along one side. Next sprinkle paprika around the plate’s rim and you have an eye-catching presentation.
- Create a theme for your meal. The theme can be as simple or as elaborate as you like. The Palmer House is in New England. I try to use local products in my cooking. We serve cranberry sorbet, cranberry nut muffins and cranberry-tomato chutney. Corn muffins, corn pudding, pumpkin pancakes and blueberry muffins. These offerings are all very popular. with our guests. New England maple syrup is also served with all of our pancakes, French toasts and waffles. On Independence Day we always serve Belgian waffles with strawberry topping. We sprinkle the waffle with blueberries and put whipped cream on the top. The waffle is served on a white plate that is dusted with a cinnamon-sugar blend. We then dust the waffle with powdered sugar and top it with a miniature American flag.
- Test new dishes ahead of time. Always make a dry run for each of the dishes to be served. I find that the first few times that I prepare a new addition to the Palmer House Inn’s menu, I always have changes and I record the changes on the pages in my recipe book.
- Preparation, preparation, preparation. Do as much preparation as is possible ahead of time. Count out dishes and place doilies on serving plates. Place platters and serving utensils together. Have hot plates and warming trays in position and make sure the cords reach the plugs. Arrange flowers, roll or fold napkins, choose candles and holders. Also, make sure that you have matches at the ready. At the Palmer House Inn, one of our favorite fruit courses is a fresh berry fruit cup. The day before the cup is to be served we count out the parfait cups and place paper doilies on the serving dishes. They are then stacked and placed on a side counter. We wash and cut red and green grapes and refrigerate them in a covered bowel over night. All the other berries are washed and fresh-cut just before they are served. We top the berries with freshly harvested spearmint from the Palmer House’s organic herb garden.
- Have fun. If you aren’t enjoying the process of preparing food and setting the meal, neither will the guests. One of the best lessons that I have learned during nearly a decade of serving breakfasts at the Palmer House is to keep smiling. Everyone makes mistakes. Don’t let errors throw you. Improvise, make do, make the best of it. Apologize for a mistake. Most folks realize that you are doing your best and understand a mishap.
More Serving a Holiday Feast Links
- Getting Ready for the Holidays
- A Cape Cod Holiday Walk
- Plan a Memorable Holiday Party
- 8 Tips for Serving a Holiday Feast
- 5 Crowd Pleasing Holiday Breakfasts
- Holidays by the Sea Weekend
While all of the bedchambers at the Palmer House have their own romantic charm suitable for relaxation after the most wonderful day of festivities on Cape Cod, we recommend the Harriet Beecher Stowe room, the Theodore Roosevelt room or the Emily Dickinson room. These rooms feature comfortable king beds, fireplaces, jacuzzi-style tubs for a relaxing stay before and after your day.