Catering in Holiday Cheer: Local restaurants offer tips for hosting parties this holiday season

2013-12-08T23:21:00Z 2013-12-11T17:47:10Z Catering in Holiday Cheer: Local restaurants offer tips for hosting parties this holiday seasonChristine Bryant Times correspondent
December 08, 2013 11:21 pm  • 

If you're planning a holiday party this year, take note — help is available.

Several restaurants and grocery stores across the region offer catering services for home holiday parties - allowing you to throw a memorable bash without the stress of making and serving all the food.

"This is the time of year where we do the most catering, during the months of November and December," said Steve Ippolito, event coordinator and bar manager at Martinis.

While throwing a party at your home can be overwhelming, with a few tips, catering professionals say the event will go off without a hitch.

 Plan enough food

"It's always better to have more food than not enough at a party," said Kate Witte, banquet manger at Asparagus. "If they say there's going to be eight people, we try to get food for 10."

Determining how much food to purchase can be difficult, especially for larger parties and when keeping under budget is a must. Brenda Wright, catering manager with Strack and Van Til, said one of her jobs is to assist customers with that task.

"They tell me how many people they are having, and I tell them what I feel is the appropriate portion for each person," she said.

Include variety

When determining what to serve, Witte advises to include vegetarian and vegan items.

"We always make sure there's items for everyone," she said.

Even if guests say in advance they can eat anything, there's other items to consider, such as someone who may be fasting or a party goer's guest may have food restrictions.

"There's a lot of things that come into play," Witte said. "It's always better to have something for everyone than not have something for them."

Know your timing

Depending on when you hold the party can have a substantial impact on what is served and the flow of the party, Wright said.

At parties held during cocktail hours, for example, appetizers are a great choice, she said.

If the party is buffet style, Witte said all food can be laid out at once.

"Usually it's nice to have appetizers at first before a sit down dinner as well," she said.

Be adventurous

Don't be afraid to step outside the box when planning holiday parties, Ippolito said.

"We have a few people who are doing wine tastings, pairing wines with meals," he said. "Holidays don't have to be about stuffing your face full of food. It can be about higher quality food and pairing it with different wines."

One client had a five-course meal prepared for guests, with each course featuring its own wine. Included in the presentation was a description of the wine's background.

The same can be done with various beers, he said.

"It's a fun way to try something new," Ippolito said. "It gives people something memorable to remember. Step out of the box and impress your guests."

Witte said it's also nice to include food items that guests normally wouldn't have elsewhere.

"It's always fun to get some different things people wouldn't think of on their own, especially in a buffet style," she said.

Determine a budget

It can be easy to get carried away with decorations, food and other festive accessories when throwing a holiday party, but knowing how much you want to spend will help catering professionals determine what direction to take.

"If they have a budget, I will work with them to keep it within their price point," Wright said.

Take advantage of resources

While catering companies in the region offer food for your holiday party, they also offer convenience.

"We can do one stop shopping for people," Wright said of the grocery store that can provide attendants at parties to help with serving food.

Other services include providing flowers from the floral department and baked goods like a Christmas cake and dessert platters from the bakery.

Many companies like Asparagus and Martinis will deliver at no charge, and help clients set up for their guests.

"A lot of times people will use our dishes so they don't have to use their own," Witte said. "The less mess the better. It all comes back to the restaurant and we wash it all here."

Asparagus also offers bartenders to help assist guests with their drinks, and Martinis offers a location if your house isn't quite big enough for your guests.

Call ahead

At this time of year, Witte said it's important to call in advance and secure a catering reservation.

People will call the week before and everything is already booked," she said. "Give time, especially during the holidays. Call at least two weeks in advance."

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