Hello December! This long-awaited holiday season is finally here. Time flies, and I am getting hitched in just a few days! You may call me Mrs Alicia Chow Kirwan by 10 December.*squeals*
Putting personal news announcement aside, this month is dedicated to spending quality time with enviable companies over bountiful of festive dishes. One of the best parts I remembered was hosting my family to the place where Ryan and I lived last year. It was a stressful experience being a host for the first time. In all honesty, I was slightly overwhelmed by my overachiever self. There were unforeseen challenges in planning a gathering that led me running around like a headless chicken last year. I could still feel that self-inflicted pressure and my heart palpitating wildly when I served just in time for my family.
By this point, I bethought to myself of my mistakes, and refined them by putting together “8 tips & tricks to nail your holiday gathering’’! It is a simple guide for you to refrain from my pitfalls, be organised and efficacious.
Download this FREE GUIDE here, if you’re considering to host your first holiday gathering, and still figuring out where to start.
This is a summarised version for you to print out and refer to anytime in an old fashioned way (instead of checking on your phone all the time).
I am a huge believer in taking achievable baby steps. The crux of planning a gathering is to be realistic with how much you can handle in terms the space, budget, and time. Once you’ve sorted that out, you can proceed to this ultimate guide below:
8 TIPS & TRICKS TO NAIL YOUR HOLIDAY GATHERING
Consider the scale
The space in your house plays a determining role in the scale of your gathering. Are you thinking of an intimate dinner with a closed group of friends, or a massive party? The scale adds to your stress level. Remember, you want to enjoy the process of planning your gathering for not just one time. A comfortable number of guests will be between 4-6 pax for a good start. In this post, I’ve prepared for 4 pax including Ryan and I.
2. Colours set the mood
Colours set the mood and vibes of your gathering. Be it warm and rustic or cool and minimalistic, choose a scheme from the Pinterest universe that matches your home interior. Once you are set, it makes buying decisions for your table styling much easier and efficient later.
3. Plates are essential
Plates are the canvases to our home cook masterpieces, especially the ceramic ones. They play a long supporting role to our food stories over several occasions which we will reminisce and retell in future. So scrap the idea of using disposable plastic plates and utensils for temporary convenience. We are hopping onto the sustainability train to reduce waste and our carbon footprints this holiday. So where do we start? For myself, I invested a lean set of Luzerne’s tableware for four last year. You may call it my starter kit.
What affirmed my buying decision were two key aspects of sustainability this home-grown brand commits to; the environment and a long product lifetime.
The environment: Luzerne complies to global green initiatives to reduce carbon emissions by employing smarter manufacturing practices, and utilising more energy-efficient and environmentally- friendly materials.
Product lifetime: Luzerne’s tablewares are made from refined quality of Kaolin clay that contains no animal bone ash to resemble bone china. A sturdy touch displays it’s stronger quality than bone china, and its lasting craftsmanship promises excellence in heat resistance and chip resistance at extreme temperatures. Such conditions consist of freezer, microwave, oven and dishwasher. This means that their products will not crack even when removed from the oven (180°C) and remained shine resilient for 5 years, with proper care and handling.
As for the price, they are actually not expensive when you’re paying for the intangibilities— supporting efforts of tackling climate change, religious concerns, animal welfare, safety and optimal hygiene as the plates are non-porous and do not absorb stubborn stains, grease, odours and bacteria. To throw the raddest gathering, you don’t need a ton of them of tableware. What you need are primarily the individual plates for the number of mouths to feed, and two to three communal plates for a good start.
If you’re a fellow Miss/Mr Practical like me, you would gravitate towards white plates for their practicality and versatility to match most colour schemes, special occasions or, even better, every day use! But wait, let’s go beyond some boundaries by selecting diverse textured or patterned white plates instead. After all, our homes are designed to be casual and tranquilise, solid white plates embody a rigid, and formal setting like in a hotel or fine dining restaurant. This is not what we are aiming for an intimate gathering. Also, the choice of a neutral palette creates a brilliant contrast with the foods plated on them, highlighting their textures, colours, and depth.
In this post, I’ve handpicked individual show plates and sharing platters from the Marble, Knit, and Urban collection to correspond with my minimalistic approach.
Individual plates: To achieve a soothing pleasure to the eyes, I picked a 16.5cm Round Couple Plate from the Urban Collection in Grey Web as show plate and layered with a 21 cm plate in Matt White from the Knit Collection.
Communal plates: If you’re looking for a “one size fits all” type of tableware, go for the 26cm Bowl from the Marble Collection. The bowl‘s unique structure caught my attention, it was love at first sight. Despite the shallow depth and wide circumference, it is unexpectedly appropriate and acceptable to serve stews, pasta, salads, roasts and chips!
Cup & Saucer: Holding a mug of steaming mulled wine in a cooling home enhances the Christmas atmosphere. My ideal taste of a home-brewed mulled wine has to be refrigerated for at least a night from the day of brewing and reheated before serving. Pouring the mulled wine into 170ml Cup & Saucer from the Marble Collection, followed by reheating them in a microwave ovens is a safe and convenient solution for me, as opposed to glassware.
4. Sharing is caring
Food tastes better when they are shared. For a intimate gathering, having guests to help themselves and pass around communal plates are primal and authentic acts of togetherness. Also, platters make your food looks good and presentable. 1 cheeseboard, 1 main, 2 sides, and 1 dessert should suffice for 6 pax. Don’t forget your wine and spirits to pair along.
5. Be a smart superwoman
If you’re preparing everything by yourself, time management is key. Learn about the dietary requirements from your guests first. Select recipes that you can cook without an oven because some of us don’t own one:/ Pre-cut some ingredients a night before to cut down preparation time on the next day.
Don’t feel embarrassed to purchase store-bought sauce for pasta or salad dressing. You’ve got to serve maybe 6 hard-to-please guests on time. You don’t have to make them hangry just because the idea of making everything from scratch is romantic.
6. Set only what you’ll use
Think about washing the dishes. Don’t set extra cutlery, plates and glassware, just because they look pretty. You will ended up confusing your guests. Only put necessary things on the table that will be used throughout. Set forks on the left, while spoons, knives and glassware on the right. Spend less time washing and more time chit-chatting with your guests.
7. Less is more
Mealtimes aren’t supposed to overwhelm everyone with clutter on the table. We are no playing Candy Crush here to clear the table. Avoid adding more wine bottles if your table can’t handle them. Everybody needs space to dine and relax. Put a trolley by the table, stack your stash of spirits, and ice buckets.
8. All about the details
Keep your flower centrepiece small to maintain eye contact with the person opposite, or you can set it aside on the table. If you’re feeling crafty, place a small gift and a handwritten card for your guests to take home. Intricacy gives you more brownie points for a host.
Before I end this post, here’s a recipe of Poached Salmon Gift boxes with Orange and Rose Wine! For extra festive vibes, these salmon are wrapped into little gift boxes, and soaked in a herbaceous, umami bath. Level up! Within 20 minutes, you can serve your guests with sturdy, rosy pink salmon confidently without the fear that they crumble.
Thank you Luzerne for sponsoring this post and be part of my annual humble holiday gathering planning. Before I forget, we will be giving out a Luzerne matching set of tableware for a family of 2! Check out my instagram page @poutandchow for all the details to win!
POACHED SALMON GIFT BOXES WITH ORANGE AND ROSE WINE
Preparation time: 10 min
Cooking time: 18 min
710g fresh salmon, sliced into 10cm chunks
250ml rose wine
300ml organic white miso broth (1 heaping tsp miso paste dissolve in hot water)
2 star anise
3 small oranges, sliced
2 sprigs fresh thyme
6 fresh chives
2 pink radishes, sliced
Roast garlic and Cornish sea salt
1 tbsp pink peppercorns
Combine wine, miso broth, orange, 1 sprig thyme, star anise and pink peppercorns in a wide 28cm frying pan. Bring it to simmer over medium high heat. Add chives into cooking liquid to cook for 1 minute until just softened. Take them out and set aside while cooking liquid is still simmering.
Season and rub both sides of salmon chunks with sea salt. Take a salmon and lay on one piece of chive. Take both ends of the chive and tie a ribbon over salmon. Repeat for the rest of the salmon chunks.
Gently slide salmon chunks into cooking liquid and poach until flesh turn rosy pink, for 17 minutes over medium heat. When poaching at the 12 minute, scoop cooking liquid over the surfaces of salmon for them to fully absorb the flavours.
Cut the remaining thyme in 6 pieces. Gently slot radish slice and thyme to each salmon gift box. Lay orange slices at the base of the platter bowl, use a kitchen tong to place salmon gift boxes on top. Ladle cooking liquid over and serve.