If I could rub a magic lamp and have the Genie inside grant me three wishes, my self-indulgent trifecta would be: a day spent with great friends, shopping and eating chocolate. My friend Marsee found a way to combine all three, plus throw in a party, no Genie needed! (This is one of the many, many reasons I love this lady.)
So, here is how this brilliant event came about. Like most of us, Marsee and her friends all had a long list of holiday gifts to purchase for loved ones. Instead of seeing the hunt for the perfect presents as an exhausting chore, why not make it a party? She invited a group of great friends to grab their gift lists and spend the day shopping together. After hauling all the shopping bags to their cars, the tired but elated band gathered at Marsee’s house for the ultimate reward: a bacchanal feast of rich and creamy chocolate.
Marsee is a very fit lady, for whom a healthy diet and regular exercise are a way of life. But on this afternoon, moderation was a naughty word. She created a decadent spread that made everyone feel like the proverbial kid in the candy store.
The group gathered in Marsee’s living room for a rousting cup of creamy hot cocoa, complete with a dollop of whipped cream, chocolate shavings and a cinnamon stick. Since woman cannot live on chocolate alone, Marsee also served finger sandwiches of prosciutto, shaved Romano cheese and watercress on herbed rolls. Notice the bronze boxes tied up with ribbon? Those are gifts for each of Marsee’s guests: luxury spa items like scented lotions and bath salts, so her friends could melt into a hot bath after the busy day of shopping and fun.
It’s from Marsee that I learned the mantra that transformed how I entertain: presentation over preparation. Translated, that means that you can serve the simplest of food, but if you present it beautifully, it will look regal. This spread of chocolate delicacies are from the local bakery and confections store, so Marsee didn’t have to spend a minute in the kitchen. For me, that has meant I am not stuck working at my party, but with my guests, enjoying myself, too.
With the yummy chocolate treats purchased, Marsee could focus her energy on what she does best: display the food in a way that’s a feast for the eyes. She carefully selected confections that brought in a variety of colors and textures, like chocolate dipped strawberries, bonbons, cakes and cookies.
She dug into her china cabinet and cupboards, pulling out serving pieces, picking an interesting variety of trays and platters, cake plates and footed bowls, pitchers and cups. Marsee is a master at creating irresistible food displays, and she knows that the secret to a stunning spread is a multi-layered presentation. She experimented with this award winner, stacking platters on top of trays, cups inside of cups, bowls poised on pretty plates, mixing together silver, china and crystal.
If you love the idea of bringing together friends for a day of shopping or fun during the holiday season, but don’t want to tempt yourself with quite this much chocolate, pare down your offerings a bit. Here, we set up a lovely afternoon tea service on a writing desk.
Biscotti dipped in white chocolate, served on a darling holiday plate. A glass filled with chocolate-covered peppermint sticks. Your favorite blend of tea poured from a brilliant silver pitcher. It’s the perfect finish to a day spent with a few friends and family, or a reward to give yourself for crossing so many things off your holiday to-do list.
In the hustle-bustle of the holiday season, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by it all. So take a tip from Marsee. Turn your tasks into fun by blending work and play. Enjoy!
Next Week … The holidays are a wonderful time to dress up your table. I’ll share some of our favorite looks.