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The Dinner Party Returns

With older kids eligible for vaccination and the holidays upon us, local chefs give their tips for great dinner parties



Ah, the dinner party. Remember it?
That thing you'd spend all week agonizing over, only to see plates passed and glasses clinked and people laughing, as if they had no idea that you'd nearly overbaked the chicken and the dessert didn't come out quite the way you planned. ...

With the holidays upon us and more of the population recently eligible to be vaccinated, this year's holiday season may once again see the return of gatherings that seemed taboo just one year ago.

We've got dinner party tips just in time for the holidays. - COURTESY SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Courtesy Shutterstock
  • We've got dinner party tips just in time for the holidays.

"Because many generations tend to gather to celebrate holidays, the best way to minimize COVID-19 risk and keep your family and friends safer is to get vaccinated if you're eligible," advised the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding holiday celebrations.

Closer to home, some local chefs and food purveyors have advice of their own about how to see a successful return of the holiday gathering.

Set the table

"Holiday meals are meant to be lingered over, appreciated and enjoyed. It is time to put aside the disposable, the plastic, and let the table shine with tablecloths, crystal, silver and candles," said Menoula Stanitsas, co-owner of Kefi Fast Fresh Mediterranean. Her home in San Diego was the "party house" for over 30 years, she said. Now in Bend for the past two and a half years, her more modest eight-person table set is still something to behold. "My special touch is real cloth napkins and napkin rings. I have an extensive collection of both! Even if fine china and crystal are not in someone's budget, a pretty satin napkin and a sparkly napkin ring can add a touch of festivity to an otherwise utilitarian table setting. Fold or roll the napkin, insert in the napkin ring, place on the table with cutlery on either side and instantly the place setting is elevated to party mode!"

Don't forget the drinks

"Don't forget the cocktails!" reminds Dave Flier, owner of Rockin' Dave's Bistro & Backstage Lounge. "One thing I love to do is a holiday punch. It's kind of a Cosmo idea, but I use a holiday syrup by toasting some cinnamon sticks, whole cloves and whole allspice—toast that in a dry pan and add water and sugar to make a flavored simple syrup. But instead of equal parts sugar and water, I usually cut back on the sugar and make it more like 75% water to sugar so you can get a little bit more flavor without it being so sweet."

Then add cranberry juice, vodka and ginger. Flier likes to swap regular ginger for ginger liqueur, then adds ice and soda water and garnishes the drink with a little bit of lime. While the addition of soda water and ice makes this a proper drink, the core ingredients can combine to make a great shot for those extra-hoppin' parties.

If you're creating your own bar for people to make their own drinks, having a quality ginger beer on hand, as well as good juices like fresh grapefruit or tonics from Fever-Tree or other quality purveyors, can add oomph to your holiday party bar, Flier said.

You don't have to bake it

Also not to be overlooked: The snacks that come before a meal.

"Our favorite addition to any dinner party we throw is one of our naturally leavened, sourdough loaves from our bakery at Jackon's Corner," said Tessa Miles and Alex Mayer of Jackson's Corner. "Not only is it a hearty and nutritious addition to your dinner that everyone will love, put it in a beautiful bowl and you have a bountiful centerpiece that no one can take their eyes off of.  We recommend any of our loaves warmed and paired with local butter and large flakes of sea salt, but the simplicity of our bread lends itself to any type of cuisine."

Charcuterie boards are all the rage right now and are easy for even the uninitiated to assemble. But for Flier of Rockin' Dave's, the bread and its accoutrements—however simple—are also key.

"Whenever I go to a dinner party the easy appetizer is some good, soft goat cheese that you pour yummy olive oil over and salt and pepper, with bread on the side," he said. "If you're in a pinch and you need something quick and good—one of my friends always does that and I always look forward to going to her house."

About The Author

Nicole Vulcan

Nicole Vulcan has been editor of the Source since 2016. (Blame her for everything since then.) Favorite car: A Trek commuter bike. Favorite cat: An adopted dog who looks like a Jedi master. Favorite things, besides responding to your comments: Downton Abbey re-runs, Aretha Franklin albums, and pink wine.

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