New Year’s Eve is just days away, and you’ve generously offered to host. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the responsibility, we’ve got you covered. We asked NYC chefs, caterers and designers to share their tried-and-true tips for throwing a great party.
Work in advance
“Prep as much in advance as humanly possible a day or two before,” says Milk Bar founder Christina Tosi. “I do all chopping, filling of bowls and platters with cold items and leave them in the fridge. All you have to do is grab and go when the party takes off!”
Have a system
“People focus so much on the food that they end up swamped by the end of the night with dishes and leftovers,” says chef Carla Hall. “You need to think like a caterer: Have a spot ready for dirty dishes, stay organized so that by the time you clean up, you already have a streamlined system in place.”
Balance sweet and savory
“I think a balance of bite-size savory and sweet snacks works best,” says Tosi. “Savory options include an eggy bite or a salty meat/protein nibble. I also love a good roasted/herb nut snack.” As for sweet, the pastry chef likes mini chocolate chip cookies.
Stock up on smoked salmon
“Always stock your pantry or fridge with some great local Catskill smoked salmon, preferably Catsmo,” says John Johnson, executive chef for the Four Seasons Hotel New York. “It is delicious as a canape on some toast points, grilled pita spread with horseradish cream or whipped with creme fraiche and lemon in a food processor and served in savory cones topped with caviar as an elegant canape.” Bonus: You can use any leftover smoked salmon for brunch the next day on bagels, he adds.
Get the cheese to please
To really impress your guests, go for Rolf Beeler’s cage-aged Gruyere, an artisanal raw cow’s milk cheese from the Swiss Alps, suggests Joel Pettersson, executive chef of Dean & DeLuca SoHo. “There are only 40 wheels produced every year, so don’t sleep on this one.”
Treat your guests like royalty
For dessert, you can’t go wrong with Charbonnel et Walker’s Marc de Champagne pink truffles, a favorite of the Queen of England’s, Pettersson says. “These truffles had front seats at the royal wedding.”
Cocktail mixers make party planning easy and “will help you become everybody’s best friend at the party,” says Pettersson. His favorites include Bittermilk No. 2 (Tom Collins with elderflowers and hops), Morris Kitchen’s Ginger Spice Cocktail Mixer and McClure’s Pickles’ Bloody Mary Mix, which is “great to serve post-midnight,” he says.
Spike your hot chocolate
Tosi loves to serve a specialty hot chocolate, such as with Baileys Irish Cream and candy canes. “This is always a cozy crowd pleaser!” she says.
Turn your sink into a cooler
If the fridge is full and you don’t have room for a cooler, turn your kitchen sink into one, says Betsy Helmuth, founder of the NYC-based firm Affordable Interior Design. “Fill it with ice and put beer and wine in there rather than over-packing your fridge.”
Keep decorations simple
“Having a lot of candles is easy and inexpensive,” says Justin DiPiero, a designer with the NYC-based interior design company Homepolish. “Everyone always looks good in candlelight — candles, twinkle lights, Christmas lights, anything like that is going to be really festive.” Designer Jonathan Adler suggests hanging a disco ball instead of mistletoe. “Those who are feeling frisky can smooch in style,” he says.
Put out games
“Games are great at a soiree — they’re a nice distraction, and most people are super competitive,” Adler says. “I love a high/low mix: keep it chic with one of my lacquer backgammon sets or make it real low-brow with something like Cards Against Humanity.”
Personalize party favors
“Going the extra mile to be thoughtful is what makes a great party favor,” Tosi says. “A hilarious t-shirt, trashy magazines with your names and faces in place of Brad or Angelina or Jen or one of the Kardashians always gets a great roar. If I’m feeling particularly crafty, I’ll make some friendship bracelets and a big batch of cinnamon buns I portion into small individual containers that just need to be popped in the oven the next morning.”
Don’t forget the noisemakers
“We give everyone a cheap noisemaker,” Adler says. “It’s fun, it’s festive and it annoys the neighbors.”
(with Heather Senison)