As if holiday shopping were not stressful enough, hosting duties can throw any new couple’s anxiety through the roof. Whether it’s creating a perfect December meal for your fiancé or toasting to the New Year with your in-laws, entertaining at home brings challenges: what to cook, how to curate an Insta-worthy cheese board, and where to find a place setting that rivals your reception. It’s all made especially difficult in 2020 when calling up the local caterer may not be as easy as years past.
Luckily, the world has sprung into action to help even the most novice hostess pull off the ultimate holiday celebration. Here are five services to try this winter season.
Cook a Dinner Like a Celebrity Chef
While you may not be dining out at a white-tableclothed restaurant for Christmas eve, you can do it at home, care of a few celebrity chefs and Goldbelly. The world-renowned Daniel Boulud, who holds two Michelin stars, created meal kits for the culinary marketplace that show off some of his famous recipes, like bouillabaisse and red wine-braised short ribs. It’s like dining at his namesake restaurant Daniel in the comfort of your own home. He even shares his beloved madeleine recipe in a dessert-making kit. Similarly, Wolfgang Puck, the culinary genius behind Spago in Los Angeles and the iconic Oscars Governor’s Ball, dishes up comfort food classes fit for any cozy, holiday night: truffle chicken pot pie, smoked salmon pizza, and decadent cacio e pepe mac and cheese. There is a slew of other restaurants on the platform too, including New Orleans’ Commander’s Palace, Chicago’s Girl & The Goat, and Nashville’s Hattie B’s Fried Chicken.
Consult a Personal Sommelier
Heading to the wine store regularly can be a daunting task, which is why Sotheby’s Wine launched Instant Cellars. The auction house’s sommeliers will curate a selection of wines at various price points, regions, and grape varieties to stock you for the holidays and beyond, with cellars ranging from 50 to 165 bottles. Whether you’re new to the wine world or looking to expand your connoisseur’s palate, you’ll chat directly with an oenological advisor in a complimentary consultation and get 10 percent off bottle prices. Delivery is available in 24 hours for many U.S. cities.
If you’re just looking to have your wine questions answered—Google really isn’t the best for this—sign up for the Dial-A-Somm subscription from the team at New York’s Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels. The highly respected sommeliers will answer any random question about wine, as well as help you with pairing suggestions for meals, gift-giving ideas, wine store recommendations, and finding hidden deals on the wine list for your next restaurant visit.
Decorate Like an Event Planner
If you’re anything like us, creating a tablescape like the ones you see on Pinterest is harder than it looks. That’s why wedding planner Virginia Trafton, the founder of Bluebird Productions in Colorado, launched Bluebird in a Box—a hostess’s arsenal for putting on a delightful evening as if an event planner had done it. The boxes are themed, such as "Merry & Bright" and "Winter Social," to include tips for place settings, staples like a grocery list for the menu, custom DJ playlists, downloadable templates for place cards, and even a seating chart. Even if you’re worried that conversation may suffer in an intimate group, she has a handful of entertaining ideas to foster conversation.
Should you want everything down to the flatware, check out the reusable party boxes from Social Studies. Each is equipped with a complete place setting: ceramic dishware from brands like Aerin Lauder, matching table linens, candles, and holders, paper goods like place cards and menus, flatware, and fresh floral centerpieces. There are even salt and pepper shakers. It’s all delivered to your door and you’re only charged by the number of guests. Keep it for the next party too.
Be Your Own Bartender
Imagine bellying up to your own home bar with some of the world’s best cocktails? That’s the idea behind the cocktail classes being run by some of the most noteworthy bartenders in the business. Together with Santa Teresa 1796 rum, mixologists like Meaghan Dorman of New York’s Dead Rabbit and Derek Stilman of Miami’s The Sylvester have launched the 1796 Virtual Holiday Speakeasy. You’ll get a bottle of rum, an ingredient pack, a small group virtual mixology class via Zoom with a serious pro, and step-by-step training to make festive classics like Hot Buttered Rum or Old-Fashioned. Once you have the recipe down, you can rebuy the ingredients to serve up at your barstool.
Upgrade the Cheese Board
It’s one thing to order a ton of fancy cheese. It’s quite another to arrange it like the pros. At Murray’s Cheese, you can do both in one stop. The cheese retailer’s “recipes” for cheese boards come complete with the cheeses, accompaniments, and assembly times. There are maps for each to show you just how to put it all on a plate, and a guide for cutting, plating, and serving, including wines and beers to pair with the platter. At Baldor Foods, cheese expert Zachary Goebel is literally on call to walk you through the process of building a cheese plate with their online platform, which includes the ability to filter out local cheeses so you can support small businesses in your area.