If, like me, you’ve promised yourself that this year will be different, that for once in your adult life you will glide through holiday entertaining with serenity and joy in your heart and a smile, the advice of successful local hostesses can be inspiring — and perhaps even serve as a lifeline.
Some of the dynamic hostesses featured in the book “Napa Valley Entertaining” shared their entertaining insights and strategies with me when I emailed them questions.
Q. What do they find most helpful when entertaining guests during the Christmas holidays?
A. Blakesley Chappellet: “Advance planning! Repeat five times! I’m a big list maker so I create a to-do list and figure out what I can get done in advance. Cook anything that will keep or freeze. Set the table the day before. Completing things early will allows me to be more relaxed and to spend more time with our guests.”
A. Laurie Claudon, Clark-Claudon Vineyard: “For some, holidays can be stressful. Consequently, my main goal is my guest’s comfort. My own sense of calm, joy and warmth can contribute to their pleasure. This means me being well organized with good preparation. Then, once my guests arrive, I am ready to be a genuinely warm hospitality.”
A. Leslie Frank: “Staying on schedule in the kitchen is important. It keeps me calm and allows me to enjoy the festivities with my guests. Having the wine ready to pour and the holiday playlist cued up when the guests arrive is a sure way to put them in a festive mood.”
A. Barbara Colvin: “A good plan” and lots of organization. I assemble all my ideas as I think of them in a bucket container, so I have them at the ready to set the table and start collecting recipes and food ideas.”
A. Lauren Ackerman: “What I find helpful when entertaining during the holidays is being as organized as possible in advance with all the little details that make the events feel magical when a guest enters. Food planning and prep is organized by type and time, each room in the house has its own prep for guests’ comfort and the house evokes a sense of calm, warmth and welcome the minute guests come through the front door. For me, what is helpful is focusing in on what will make the event memorable for each guest. Guests that are happy to be there make me happy and that makes for a successful event.”
Question: Is there a favorite dish that you always serve for Christmas?
A. Amelia Ceja: “Dungeness crab in a savory Mexican/Asian (Mexasian) inspired salsa is one of our family’s favorite dishes for the holidays. It is served hot (rather than cold) with flavors of chili, tamarind and soy sauce — it has yummy umami flavors! We love it with sparkling wine or Ceja Vineyards Chardonnay and Pinot Noir!”