At this point, your probably have the holiday party basics down: Overstock on ice, pick make-ahead dishes and don't let Aunty Sandy anywhere near the rum punch. Now it's time to upgrade your holiday hosting game with these ideas from hospitality experts at New York-based design firm AvroKO. In addition to operating six of their own restaurants in New York, Napa and Moscow, the team has executed dozens of of innovative restaurant concepts for heavy-hitting chefs like Mario Batali and Michael Mina, so they know what they're talking about. Here are some of their favorite tips and tricks for creating an unexpected, super stylish holiday shindig.
1. Get personal. Bottle your own cocktails ahead of time and mark your guests' names on each one. This way you don’t have to mix on the spot, so you can spend more time with guests (plus, they feel super special).
2. Don't ignore the bathroom. Project a loop of a classic holiday movie (like old-school, claymation Rudolph) from a laptop on the ceiling for a nostalgic surprise.
3. Light it up. No fireplace? No problem. Create a warm glow by re-purposing a few silver seafood towers (available at a restaurant supply store) and lining the perimeter of each level with tea lights in glass votive holders. The tiers will add a bit of a Christmas tree effect.
4. Flip expectations. Instead of dinner plates, serve your first course on butcher blocks. A charcuterie or cheese starter works brilliantly.
5. Keep things lively. At AvroKO's larger dinner parties, they’ll ask everyone to change seat positions every course to keep the conversation fresh. It can get manic at times, but that’s part of the fun.
6. Be unexpected with serveware. Serve a mid-course dish on vintage hand mirrors.
7. Break out of the kitchen. Do some of your preparation tableside—make your dressing or carve your goose on a re-purposed bar cart.
8. Forage at the table. Make your centerpiece into edible art. Use berries or sprigs of mint as part of the design that are meant to be added into cocktails.
9. Take the party home. Send guests off with customized chocolate boxes at the close of the night. A simple ribbon and a handwritten message adds a personal touch.