Holiday Party 101: The food, booze and sweets you need to win at hosting

Holiday Party 101: The food, booze and sweets you need to win at hosting

When hosting a holiday party, the most important detail is the guest list. Nail that and everything else falls into place. Well, almost everything. There’s also the matter of what to serve. Guests want to be surprised as well as sated, and they will remember a host who puts in the extra effort to set out a memorable spread.
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We’ve considered the must-haves for such a fête, and offer the following nuggets of stress-free inspiration.

>> Jump ahead to: Drinks | Food | Desserts | Host gifts

The Apps

The Ultimate Charcuterie Board

The Cheese Boutique’s Afrim Pristine lives and breathes charcuterie, so we asked him to design the perfect mix for a discerning crowd.
 

Tap or hover over red dots to see more. Photo by Dave Gillespie.

 

The Drinks

A signature cocktail

Frankie Solarik’s Spiced Maple
It’s easy to whip up a batch of manhattans in advance (it’s two and a half parts whiskey, bourbon or rye, plus one part sweet vermouth and a dash of Angostura bitters). But for something more exceptional, we had Frankie Solarik—the man behind Queen West’s Barchef and some of the city’s most creative libations—design a winter cocktail guaranteed to impress a mixology-minded crowd.

Solarik's Spiced Maple cocktail. Frankie Solarik’s Spiced Maple cocktail.
 

Ingredients
1 ½ oz. Canadian Club
¼ oz. madeira
1 oz. 10 per cent cream
¾ oz. maple syrup
¼ oz. fernet branca
1 egg white
1 sprig rosemary
cinnamon stick for grating
1 star anise

Method
Add all wet ingredients to a shaker, and give it a hard shake. Add ice and shake to chill. Pour into a coupe glass. Run the rosemary sprig along the rim of the glass. Garnish with rosemary sprig, a grating of cinnamon and star anise.

 

The Beer

A mix of crowd-pleasing favourites and seasonal drink picks is the mark of a thoughtful host. But many winter beers are higher in alcohol content, which could make for a premature end to the evening. These lighter festive picks from the LCBO will ensure just the right kind of pleasant party buzz.

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Beau’s All-Natural Brewing Co. Farm Table: 80 Shilling, 4.7% ABV
Toasty caramel notes in this Scottish-style ale pair great with everything from gingersnaps to baked-brie-and-cranberry hors d’oeuvres. $4.55.

Hop City 8th Sin Black Lager, 5% ABV
A light and bubbly beer from the Brampton brewery, with a roasted coffee edge. $2.95.

Czechvar, 5% ABV
A five-litre mini-keg or two of this crisp, old-school pilsner helps cut down on empties at the end of the night. $22.95.
 

The Wine

A festive occasion calls for bubbles, reds and whites by the case. These picks are intriguing enough that any leftover bottles are worth stashing away for a rainy (or snowy) day.

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Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Brut
$29.95 | Niagara | 90 Points
This traditional Ontario sparkler scores just two points below Veuve Clicquot, at less than half the price. It has a hint of sweetness and a slightly lemony, nutty finish. LCBO 217521

Anselmi 2015 San Vincenzo
$16.95 | Veneto, Italy | 88 points
This versatile dry Italian white from the country’s northeast is bright, fruity and exuberant. Perfect party wine. LCBO 948158

Doña Paula Estate 2014 Malbec
$16.15 | Uco Valley, Argentina | 89 Points
A youthful red that’s perfect for social sipping or pairing with heavier appetizers and meats. Plus, any unopened bottles will age well until the 2020 holiday party season. LCBO 394783
 

Eggnog

This seasonal dairy-case denizen often gets a bad rap. But, done right, it’s sure to make a crowd jolly. Instead of slaving over a stand mixer, try serving up a batch with this local nog that’s as good as homemade.

Ingredients

5 parts Harmony Organic premium eggnog
1 part Yongehurst Distillery spiced rum
Fresh nutmeg for grating
Whole milk, if desired, for thinner consistency

Method
Combine rum and eggnog in a punch bowl. Top with nutmeg.

just-craft-soda

 

Non-Alcoholic

Non-drinkers shouldn’t be stuck with pop from the bar cart. Just Craft Soda is an Ontario sipper that comes in flavours such as apple-ginger, lemon-lemongrass and peach-habanero. Serve over ice with fresh fruit and the cocktail crowd will be craning their necks. Available at gourmet shops throughout the GTA.
 

Booze Delivery

Planning a holiday party is stressful enough without having to wrangle and cart home bottles, cans and mini-kegs from the store. These delivery options do all of the heavy lifting.

LCBO.com
Pick from the LCBO’s entire catalogue, including items rarely stocked in stores.
Delivery charge: $12 with a $50 minimum order.
Speed: Two to three days.

The Beer Guy
Online since 2001, The Beer Guy features an easy-to-use interface and the same products (and prices) found at the LCBO and the Beer Store.
Delivery charge: $9.75 in Toronto. Surcharges ($1.50 each) apply for orders of more than 36 bottles of beer, three bottles of liquor or wine, and stops at both the LCBO and the Beer Store.
Speed: Two hours or less in the GTA.

Urbery
This newest entrant to the grocery-delivery market also handles LCBO products, so adding some six-packs or bottles to an order of party snacks is no problem. Download the Urbery app or shop via urbery.com.
Delivery charge: Grocery orders over $65 get free delivery; orders including alcohol incur a $10 charge.
Speed: As fast as two hours, but many time slots are booked up to 24 hours in advance.
 

The Provisioners

These options feature some of Toronto’s top trends and gussied-up classics, and will earn a host serious cred among foodie guests.

BBQ from the Carbon Bar
The Carbon Bar The Carbon Bar
 Photograph by Dave Gillespie

It would require a very talented host to prepare for a party while tending a wood-burning smoker. The Carbon Bar’s all-in TCB BBQ package takes care of the latter: for $190, it includes enough brisket, ribs, fried chicken, slaw, beans and pickles for six to eight very hungry guests. Order at least 48 hours in advance. 99 Queen St. E., 416-947-7000, thecarbonbar.ca.

Porchetta from When the Pig Came Home
When the Pig Came Home When the Pig Came Home
 Photograph by Dave Gillespie

The Junction butcher shop stuffs a pork shoulder with a savoury seasoning blend before wrapping the thing in pork belly and slow-roasting it for up to 12 hours. A final blast under the broiler gives it an irresistible crust. A whole porchetta starts at about $100 and can sate a small army. 3035 Dundas St. W., 647-345-9001, @when_the_pig_came_home.

Sushi platter from Miku
Miku Miku
 Photograph by Dave Gillespie

No guest will forget a stunning platter from one of the city’s finest sushi purveyors. Miku handles such orders in an hour, with 50-piece trays of rolls and seared oshi starting at $90. 10–105 Bay St., 647-347-7347, mikutoronto.com.

Nashville hot chicken from P.G. Clucks
P.G. Clucks P.G. Clucks
 Photograph by Dave Gillespie

Nashville hot chicken is southern fried chicken’s spicier cousin. Owner Pawel Grezlikowski dredges pieces of deboned leg meat in a secret seasoning blend and serves them regular, “crazy spicy” or “a little less spicy.” Get 12 pieces, pasta salad, potato salad and slaw for $32. 610 College St., 647-925-2226, @pgclucks.

Smoked fish and salatim from Schmaltz Appetizing
Schmaltz Appetizing Schmaltz Appetizing
 Photograph by Dave Gillespie

The Smoked and Cured platter ($12 per person) from Schmaltz Appetizing includes cold-smoked pastrami-cured salmon and house-cured gravlax, served with cream cheese, garnishes and Kiva’s bagels. (Add pita and a selection of Middle Eastern dips from the adjacent Fat Pasha for $6 per person.) 414 Dupont St., 647-350-4261, schmaltzappetizing.com.
 

The Sweets

No veteran partygoer is going to swoon over creatively iced sugar cookies. These classy picks really play-up the pretty.

Macaron tower from Delysées

Delysées delivers party-ready macaron towers in festive stacks of 100, 220 and 325. Prices ($235, $500 and $750) include tower delivery, set-up and pickup. 780 King St. W., 416-360-0095, delysees.com.

Delysées delivers party-ready macaron towers in festive stacks of 100, 220 and 325. Prices ($235, $500 and $750) include tower delivery, set-up and pickup. 780 King St. W., 416-360-0095, delysees.com.

Eclairs from Nügateau

Nugateau

These choux pastry creations, made by Nügateau’s Le Cordon Bleu–trained Atul Palghadmal, are filled with mousses, caramels and cremeux, and finished with a sparkly selection of seasonal glazes and toppings. Custom éclairs are available, too. $5-$6 each. 717 Queen St. W.; Holt Renfrew at Yorkdale Mall, 3401 Dufferin St., 647-748-7001, nugateau.com
 

Host Gifts

Hosting a holiday shindig is hard work, so it’s nice to reward an invitation with a token of appreciation.

Chocolates X Brandon Olsen
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Former Bar Isabel and Black Hoof chef Brandon Olsen has a bit of a Willy Wonka streak. His Brockton Village shop, CXBO, produces a rainbow of confections that are almost too pretty to eat, sold in hand-painted boxes of nine ($20.25) and 18 ($40.50). 1132 College St., no phone, cxbo.ca.

craft-cider-packBrickworks Gift Pack
The seasonal cider six-pack includes the Parkside Cherry cider, a black cherry–infused refresher with brilliant bubbles and a pink hue that sparkles in champagne flutes. $17.95. Available at the LCBO.

toronto-distillery Toronto Distillery Co. First Barrels Straight Canadian Whisky
The city’s first new distillery since 1933 released its debut whisky this fall. It’s 100 per cent organic and, unlike many of its kindred Canadian spirits, it is not a blend. Plus, the throwback label will class up any bar cart. $50, while supplies last. 90 Cawthra Ave., 416-558-5523, torontodistillery.ca.