Stay Jolly This Holiday Season
Bi-Rite Cheese Buyer and entertaining guru, Jon Fancey, shares his tips for seamless holiday parties.
Entertaining can be stressful enough without the added pressure of doing so during the holidays. What’s your advice for keeping it fun when it comes to hosting this time of year?
I think there are several things you can do to manage stress and actually have a great time. The main piece of advice I’d give is to be realistic and not try to do it all. For example, if you’re having friends over, I’d recommend focusing on one or two things, like the drinks and one appetizer, and ask everyone else to bring specific items. Also, plan ahead. Don’t try to do all the shopping two hours before your friends arrive. Give yourself a few days, make a list (and stick to it) and enjoy the process since, in my opinion, that’s part of the fun.
Are there any staple items you recommend having on hand for impromptu gatherings?
Absolutely. Thinking ahead and purchasing key items with a longer shelf life now can make quick entertaining a breeze later on (and really impress your friends). To start with, stocking up on a case of wine is a no-brainer, especially with the Bi-Rite Wine Sale (Dec 13-16). It’s a great time to pick up a few bottles of sparkling, along with reds and whites to pair with parties and special occasion meals. Right now I’m really into Clos du Jaugueyron “Le Clairet” a rare natural wine made in Bordeaux. It’s a simple, easy drinking Bordeaux that is absolutely delicious and awesome value. Trust me, these wines will go quickly and you’ll thank yourself later when you don’t have to dash to the corner market at the last minute to buy something mediocre.
And what about cheese? As the Cheese Buyer we know you must have some thoughts in that department.
A cheese plate, whether it’s one you put together yourself at home, or one our cheese team assembles for you in the Markets, is a foolproof entertaining anchor. I’d recommend adding a few sturdy cheeses to your weekly shop, any Alpine, Gouda or Cheddar varieties are a good place to start, because they can last a few weeks in the refrigerator and are delicious crowd-pleasers. I’d recommend buying 3 to 4 different cheeses, each about half a pound in size. I’d also pick up some bulk dried fruit and nuts (Oregon hazelnuts are a personal favorite) and charcuterie from Olympia Provisions. Crackers from Rustic Bakery are a great addition and last longer than a loaf of bread which you’d want to purchase fresh. [Editor’s note: if you’re looking for more things cheese, check out our Holiday Cheese Guide here.]
If I want to take my cheese plate to the next level, how do I make a full evening out of it?
Fresh seasonal salads and soups are easy additions that transform your cheese plate into a satisfying meal, whether you’re cooking yourself or picking up dishes from the deli case. I also like to beef up the charcuterie selection, including our duck rillettes makes it extra special too.
Any other parting words for being a great host this holiday season?
Don’t be afraid to simplify and keep it casual. The more relaxed the gathering, the more fun you and your guests will have. Whether that means eschewing your grandmother’s china in favor of compostable plates, or having your groceries delivered, there’s always a way.