Season's Eatings: New Dining Ideas for the Holidays
A Different Approach to Holiday Entertaining
The easiest way to get out of the holiday routine is to mix things up and create new traditions. Here are some ideas for two different holiday dining paths — staying in and going out. No matter what your pleasure, delicious holiday food and fun are at your fingertips, so peel back your mittens and grab the season by the sled handles.
Enjoy a home-cooked meal without the pressure of shopping, cooking or cleaning.
- Staff Up: Hire a professional chef to step out of his restaurant and into your home to create a bespoke dining experience. Ask him to cook a meal you'd never attempt on your own, complete with a demonstration for you and your guests, and consider renting glassware, dishes and silverware. To allow yourself even more time with your friends and family, call in a bartender to shake up your beverage menu. Ask your guests to bring their favorite holiday tipple recipes and have a tasting party.
- Artisan Appetizers: Embrace the resurgence of American food artisans by ordering locally-sourced cheese and charcuterie packages from a renowned monger, as well as lightly-browned baguettes from the best bakery in your area. Pair your appetizers with some red and white wines from a nearby vineyard, and you'll discover a delicious way to support regional food and drink masters.
- Grandma's Potluck: With so many recipes on the Internet, it's hard to know what's tasty, time-tested and grandmother approved. So, ask each of your guests to bring a favorite dish that's been passed down for generations. Who knows? You might even be able to turn this dinner party into a holiday tradition.
Forge a new holiday tradition by leaving the homestead.
- Food Crawl: Map a themed food crawl and don your walking shoes to lead your guests on a holiday foodie adventure on foot. First, head to your favorite bar for before-dinner cocktails, and then stop for hors d'oeuvres at a nearby tapas spot. After that, lead the way to a great restaurant for the main course. Your final destination? A fun spot for dancing!
- Think Provenance: Mother Nature is the ultimate chef, so give her a nod by visiting one of the many destination farm kitchens that have sprouted all over the country. Reserve a table right where the food is grown for the freshest possible holiday feast. Because many agro-tourism farms also offer lodging, you could even make a mini-vacation of this experience.
- Food Scavenger Hunt: Send your gang out with a list of hard-to-find holiday goodies (real Italian panatone or German glüwein, for instance) to begin your eclectic seasonal party. Once everything's been crossed off the lists, rendezvous at a cozy location to enjoy your bounty in front of a warm fire. For those who can't do without a little tradition, be sure to include the fixings for homemade marshmallows and s'mores on someone's list.
Whether you're bundling up for a foodie trek over the river and through the woods or hunkering down at home, these tips and ideas will help you switch up the same-old holiday meals for something new and exciting.
Photo: © GettyImages/ Joe Biafore | Ian Knauer is a journalist who has written for Gourmet Magazine, Men's Health, Bon Appetit and The Wall Street Journal. He's the creator of the PBS series The Farm and recently founded a cooking school.