Champagne Alive! - ©

Plan Ahead To Avoid Last-Minute Disappointments

Last weekend was for family. This coming weekend is for friends, neighbours and community associates. New Year’s is traditionally a time to open your home for larger parties – and to plan a really different kind of dining…

New Year's Eve Times Square - © The New York TimesNew Year’s in Times Square
I’ll gladly stay home and watch the giant crystal ball descent into the new year on the,
television – in the company of good neighbors, dear friends, and a special few
of the community associates who help make my year possible.

I always think of Christmas as a time to hold family close and huddle by the fire. New Year’s, on the other hand, is a time for me to bring together friends and other non-family associates I see off and on all year round for one last swing at the old-year piñata. Send it off with a hearty, “So long, it’s been good,” or not so good, as the case may be, “to know you!”

And a time let let loose. Plenty of time, starting January 2, to gaze out the drawing room window, in the grand old Victorian fashion, sigh, and lament the slow coming of spring as January and February drag by without a real holiday to celebrate.

Make your New Year’s celebration special

By now (two days before the event) you should have lined up all the bubbly you’ll need to celebrate the occasion in proper style. I knew a fellow, a retired Army Colonel, who had spent a good part of his career on lend-lease to the British Army, who used to buy Champagne by the case for his famous New Year’s parties. Served nothing else unless a guest had darned good excuse for not tipping the tall tulip style glass along with everybody else.

But even Col. R. had discontinued his self-made tradition in recent years as prices began to rise, people were tending to drink less – and we all had to spend our first holiday season isolating and hunkering down against COVID in 2020. Nevertheless… You’ll not likely find even a single bottle of sparking wine of any kind on the shelf at your go-to liquour store if you wait until New Year’s Eve to shop for special beverages. Do that today!

But it’s the food that really counts

Likewise, the edibles. It’s no longer a sin to buy-in some nibbles from the supermarket or other purveyors of frozen specialties to streamline your New Year’s Eve party down to a heat-and-serve affair. Same goes for making-ahead your own beloved or trademark treats for the occasion.

I strongly recommend you present your supper – usually a late-evening or early-morning affair – as a buffet:

Meats can be cooked ahead, cooled, tightly covered and refrigerated a couple of days before your event. They can be served reheated or (preferably) charcouterie style (cold).

Some salads may be made a day ahead and allowed to ‘marinate’ overnight before party day. They’ll develop a wonderful blend of flavours and a special character they would not have possessed, if you served them right after mixing them up.

Most desserts can be made ahead a day or two and not suffer at all if correctly stored.

Breads should be baked the day of the event. But remember, you can prepare some bread doughs the day before and stored tightly covered = sleeping, as it were – in the top shelf of the fridge. Just warm them gently and give them their final proofing midday of New Year’s Eve day. Cover them and forget. That lets them cool to ideal serving temperature before service – and gets the chore of baking them out of the way (and your oven) early in the game.

If you choose to serve bakery-bought breads, choose types that will rejuvenate themselves well with a little gentle heating in a moist environment. You may want to order what you need from your neighbourhood baker for pick-up fresh on December 31.

Concentrate on making delicate, ultra-perishable dishes (like Deviled Eggs, for instance) the day of the party.

New and enticing pre-dinner bites

I love these fresh, new finger food ideas for pre-dinner nibbles:

White Pizza Dip: A warm dip perfect with ‘restaurant style’ corn chips. Cheese lovers will fight over the last few swipes in the bottom of the casserole dish.

Toasted Tortellini Bites: Something I hadn’t thought of before. You’ll have your fave supermarket sourced fresh pasta Tortellini you’ll want to feature in this creative dish.

Avocado Strawberry Mango Salsa: What a great alternative / update to the usual Tex-Mex Salsa Cruda or Pico de Gallo! Dip in large yellow corn ships or use to top other nibbles.

Mini Baked Quesadillas: Ideal for dipping in the warm, gooey White Pizza Dip, above!

Just a few of the new, up-to-date cocktail bites you’ll discover if you boldy go and Google, ‘new and different new year’s eve party nibbles’.

Carry on, No. 1…

Above all…

Get your ingredient shopping done, and the last of your pre-orders from local bakeries and delis confirmed, today to ensure a trouble-free party this coming weekend.

This is the first opportunity some of us will have had since the holiday season 2019-2020 to get out and really let loose. As hosts, we must be aware of this as a prime opportunity to show folks we haven’t lost our event-planning magic!

~ Maggie J.