What’s your idea of a sublime celebration for New Year’s? An elegant dinner party, cocktail dresses and dancing long after the clock strikes midnight? Or, is this one of your favorite nights to cocoon with good friends, enjoying a simple dinner and good conversation? Dan and I have brought in the New Year all different ways, from attending or hosting formal soirees to donning our jeans and flannels and having a few neighbors over for a quiet evening. As you plan your New Year’s celebration, here are a few ideas to spark your creativity.
The Ultimate Dessert Drama
If you are in the mood for a truly memorable New Year’s Eve, throw a party loaded with delicious drama. How about desserts and champagne on the patio? These gorgeous photos, from my book O Christmas Tree (also available at Nell Hill’s), are of a holiday party staged by my friend David Jimenez, a master at visual displays and entertaining with flair. David’s luxurious portico was the magical setting for a late night celebration.
Tip: Save time by adding a few powerful displays in key places. The portico of David’s historic home was already dressed in elegance. He had ingeniously upholstered formal wing back chairs in weatherproof materials and added outdoor furnishings that were attractive enough to be inside. With the stage set, he simply needed to add a few holiday touches to make the space festive, like wrapping the colonnades in pine garland and lights.
Instead of dressing every inch in holiday fare, David focused his energy on creating one killer display: this showy floral arrangement in a Nell Hill’s black iron garden urn. He then tucked in a few modest florals in strategic spots.
Tip: Select a menu that’s not stressful to execute.
Preparing all the food for a New Year’s party can be stressful and exhausting. So my advice is to pare down your menu to a few easy to make dishes. Or, better yet, serve delicious food made by someone else! That’s always been my strategy: focus my time and energy on creating a lovely space, then picking up food from a favorite restaurant or bakery.
For the sake of simplicity and easy execution, David used laser focus when he created his menu. The entire affair included only white confections and red and white holiday candies.
He not only saved time, he created visual drama that was off the charts.
Other than this heavenly coconut layer cake, which he made with a friend over drinks the night before the party, David purchased all the food for the party, ordering the meringue cakes and cookies from a favorite local bakery. Brilliant!
Tip: Display your food with drama.
I have learned many things from my friend Marsee. Among my favorites is her entertaining mantra: Presentation over preparation. You can have the simplest of food for a party, but when you display it with pomp, it looks award winning. That’s what David did here, for his New Year’s soiree. A single meringue cake or cookie looks like artwork when served on a raised pedestal covered in a glass cloche.
Whether it’s ribbon candy in holiday curls and wheels, peppermint sticks, red hots or white jelly beans, candy looks amazing displayed in a variety of lidded apothecary jars, like a candy shop of old.
Don’t just bring out your Champagne at midnight: use it as yet another dramatic display. David covered a silver tray with a white cloth, then filled it with Champagne flutes and a simple but stunning bouquet of red roses and berries. Use a punch bowl as an ice bucket to chill the bubbly.
Instead of placing sweets on trays, and having a service that is all flat to the table, go up. Tiered servers are a must-have for a food service that’s high on drama. And, best yet, they are insanely easy to stage: All you do is stack each tier with treats. Because the server stands tall, it look stately, unexpected.
Remember, the whole reason for coming together with friends on New Year’s is to celebrate all that passed in the previous year, and to look forward to all the great things to come. For my friend Marsee, that means a New Year’s Eve dinner with her family. Every year, she prepares a lovely feast for this intimate gathering. The photo above is of her table from a New Year’s Eve dinner past.
For Dan and me, it means attending our friend Denise’s annual New Year’s Day dinner. Denise is like family to me, ever since I met her at Nell Hill’s years ago. She and her siblings adopted us when my father was dying because they too had suffered the loss of their parents. They kept us sane during that difficult time, and we forged a lifetime bond. I look forward to this annual feast of crab legs and shrimp, grilled steaks and boiled potatoes. But most of all, I look forward to starting a fresh new year surrounded by people I love.
Next week … Fast and easy holiday table centerpiece ideas!