Holiday Entertaining Guide

The last of autumn’s color-changing leaves falling from the trees signifies the start of the holiday season. Albeit not too bad (after all, this is Florida), there’s a highly welcomed chill in the air. Shopping malls and luxury boutiques decorated with tinsel and ornaments push their holiday sales. We won’t welcome any snow in these parts, but that doesn’t take away from our celebrations. From at-home bars to floral arrangements, here’s what to know when planning your holiday soirees. by Zlata Faerman

THE DECOR

The Table
Tablescapes can change as often as bedsheets. Depending on how many parties you’re throwing and what kind of theme each one has, your dining room can morph throughout the entire holiday season. Breeze Taylor of Breeze Taylor Events recommends selecting three to four colors for your holiday theme and sticking with them. “This year, shades of silver — including metallics — with touches of merlot and aubergine will be the colors of the season,” says Taylor. “Adding anything sparkly with a touch of bling will complete any tablescape.”

Table setting tips
To create a unique table setting, use rustic items like garlands, berry sprigs and pine cones along with sparkling candles and metallic ornaments to bring on the bling. “When a dining table is too busy, it looks messy rather than elegant,” says Taylor. A monochromatic look on a table bolsters creativity and appeal for guests. Creativity is key for your tablescape. Use different sized antiqued gold and silver vessels for your floral arrangements, making sure to never pack them in too tightly. Consider using ripe fruits like apples or pears with a personalized cutout tag as placecards. Instead of printing menus on paper, use mini chalkboards to write out each course. When it comes to desserts, mini cakes or pies that are presented in single-serve cake stands are always a hit. (561.477.0665, breezetaylorevents.com)

What We Are Loving
Restoration Hardware’s new Vintage Hotel Collections pieces all work together effortlessly in a mix of finishes, like the Short Champagne Bucket ($159, 8” diam., 8 1/4” h) shown in aged brass and the Hudson Glass Stemware ($74, set of two Pinot Noir glasses) in smoke. Chinese Porcelain Grand-Rimmed Dinnerware, $50, set of four 11” and $58, set of four 12 1/2”, aged brass Coasters, $84, set of six, and Napkin Rings, $52, set of four. All set atop a white Stonewashed Belgian Linen Tablecloth, $129, which comes in eight sizes and five stunning colors.
 restorationhardware.com

Floral Arrangements
Artwork and sculptures around the abode speak volumes when it comes to your sense of style. Floral arrangements are no different. They are literally the living and breathing variety of style and class, adding charm and sophistication to any area. Different times of year and different climates call for specific florals for the home.

Tall vs. Short
Like with fashion, there are floral faux pas that one should be aware of when decorating for the holidays.

“Tall floral designs are best placed in the entry to welcome your guests,” advises celebrity event designer David Merrell of AOO Events. “They can also be tucked in with a buffet spread.” His tip is to choose a design that coordinates with the other elements but is different enough to stand out and make that special impact. For floral arrangements that are going on a dining table, the rule of thumb is to not go above a foot in height so that the guests can make conversation with other guests across the way. It is also important to choose florals that are not heavy in fragrance that could interrupt the culinary experience. (323.467.2111, AOOEvents.com)

Colors of the Season
Bronwen Smith, owner and founder of B Floral, says that even after Labor Day, whites still work. He recommends warm whites in your holiday arrangements with hints of silver and gold for a rich, holiday feel. When making a statement, use deep shades of red flowers like roses, ranunculus, anemone and highlights of berries to bring a bold sophisticated feel to your table.

Marsala and Mint will be the trending colors of the season. Surround them with natural elements like wood, coral, leaves and pine cones. Stylist Leeann Cerrito, who runs the online and storefront Love, Leanne in New York says that florals should only enhance, not overwhelm the space. “Subtle arrangements mixed with other elements like candles, herbs and fruit, always help to elevate the overall theme.”

THE FOOD

After leaving Miami’s prestigious Miami Club, Joy Wallace started a small catering company to treat South Florida to the kind of inviting hospitality she’s known for. Eventually, A Joy Wallace Catering Production, Inc. (305.252.0020, ajoywallace.com), grew into a highly regarded catering and design company with a team of 50 that averages more than 500 events annually. Even as president and CEO, Joy herself attends almost every event that’s produced. “Seeing our team’s events come to life is truly the best part of the business,” she says. Here are tips from both Joy Wallace and the company’s award-winning executive chef, Elgin Woodman, on the best hors d’oeuvres to serve at a holiday party.

Have Variety
Make sure you have something for everyone. Take your guests into consideration and offer beef, vegetarian, chicken and fish so there’s a variety from which to choose.

Be Unique
No matter how simple your hors d’oeuvre selection is, try to have one hors d’oeuvre that is unique (or has a unique ingredient) that your guests will find exciting.

Plan Ahead
If you are cooking, make hors d’oeuvres that can be prepared ahead of time. Start as early as two days in advance so that you don’t have to stress about cooking in addition to everything else you have to do when planning your party.

Food Matters
Make hors d’oeuvres that hold up well and won’t get cold or soggy. A caprese skewer is a great example. Classic and popular, this appetizer can be made more exotic by using colorful baby heirloom tomatoes and served with olive tapenade.

Consider Quantity
When hiring a caterer, make sure they are bringing enough food for your guests and that there are enough waiters to pass it around. If you are placing the food on a table, you’ll need to order more than if it is simply passed.

Holiday Help
Managing a home, a family, guests and holiday events this season can leave little time for what really matters: shopping for presents! This truly is the busiest time of year, and sometimes you can use a little Santa’s helpers of your own.

When you don’t have time to do it yourself, hire a personal assistant. Savvy Shelly is a personal concierge and errand business with an extremely wide variety of services from which to choose. If you need an extra set of hands for everything from going out to purchasing your gifts, or decluttering your home before the new year begins, give them a call. 756.553.3808, savvyshelly.com

THE BAR
No holiday party is complete without a bounty of beverages where there’s something for everyone to enjoy. At the office, you gather around the water cooler, but at a holiday soiree, all the fun happens around the cocktail bar. Making sure every guest is happy is of the utmost priority to any proper host. Since the holidays are a great opportunity to show your playful side, providing fun and festive cocktails is key.

Let Guests Participate
“Offer guests the opportunity to be a part of their cocktail creations,” says Caroline Olsovsky, director of conferences and events at Langham Place, New York. She recommends having premixed drinks such as vodka, St. Germain and lemon in a decorative pitcher, and inviting guests to add raspberries, cranberries and sprigs of rosemary to their own taste. Mulled apple cider is another great option, where guests can add their choice of brandy or rum and garnish with candied orange slices and cinnamon sticks. Providing a fun ‘DIY’ station for guests gives them an alternative option for beverages and frees up the bartenders, preventing long lines for other guests. 212.695.4005, langhamhotels.com

Behind the Bar Must-Haves
Jung Lee, owner of FETE NY, recommends that every home bar contains the following items to make sure no guest feels like there’s nothing for them to drink: cognac, white rum, gin, bourbon, vodka and tequila, along with mixers: Cointreau, red and white vermouths and bitters. Line up fresh squeezed juices like grapefruit and orange, and freshly cut lemons, limes and oranges. (Can you picture all the beautiful colors yet?)

Bar snacks are also a must! Popcorn with a touch of Parmesan cheese or truffle oil, cheese straws, olives, spiced nuts and peppered chips are all good options. 212.725.7268, jungleeny.com or feteny.com

Cocktails at Your Door
Subscription services like Plated and Blue Apron, where food ingredients and recipes are sent directly to your home, are all the craze. A service built on convenience for the consumer, there are now subscription boxes in a wide variety of offerings. Cocktail Courier, as the name alludes to, is a cocktail delivery service that brings the craft cocktail experience right to people’s homes. Each delivery provides a cocktail kit that features drinks made by local, professional bartenders. For your next event, consider showing off your own mixology skills by making use of this porch present. 917.969.9180, cocktailcourier.com

Celebrate the Cheers
There’s no better way to get into the holiday mood than by indulging in some ultra-luxe spirits. These limited edition beverages are great staple items for your home bar — and will be the envy of friends and family.

Patron Spirits recently introduced Patron en Lalique: Serie 1, a collaboration with the ultimate symbol of French luxury. This limited-edition crystal decanter is handmade by Lalique’s master artisans. The design of this exquisite bottle was inspired by Mexico’s indigenous Weber Blue Agave plant, from which tequila is produced. Inside is an exceptional blend of the oldest and rarest Patron tequilas. This special series is limited to 500 bottles worldwide. $7,500, concierge@patronspirits.com

Premis, a brand that’s been in development for over 10 years, offers an array of luxury fine cognacs. Produced from the House of Meukow in Cognac, France, Premis features the world’s first specialty spirited Pink Cognac. Aged for three years, this signature beverage embodies posh sophistication and exquisite taste. Premis Legend is a VSOP+ cognac that’s been aged for six years. Developed with ICONE quality, this superior brand of cognac is considered greater than VSOP, falling on the border of an XO quality. For a true home bar stunner, get the bottle that’s covered in Swarovski crystals.

Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Century is the latest premium whisky made to commemorate Jack and Frank Sinatra’s special friendship in the year that would be his 100th birthday. Only 100 barrels of of this specialty whiskey were created. This big character, 100 proof bottle is a one-time, limited release that comes with a selection of previously unreleased Sinatra tracks. $500 approximately per 1L, jackdaniels.com

PRO TIP
“When decorating a holiday table, I like to avoid clutter while still keeping it festive by incorporating ingredients I’m using. For example, when serving my favorite cocktail, the Frangelico Frizzante, I’ll put hazelnuts in a jar and surround them with ornaments.” —Giada De Laurentiis, an Emmy Award-winning television personality, New York Times Bestselling author and successful restaurateur.

THE GUEST ROOM

The holidays are a great chance to be able to spend time with family and friends from near and far. If you’re having any guests stay with you in your home, you want to make sure their entire experience is both comfortable and memorable. Being a good host or hostess means thinking ahead so that any and all anticipated needs of your guest are met. This starts with the guest room, where they’ll expect to find all the comforts at home, but with your personal touch.

Luggage Rack
A luggage rack provides the perfect place for your guests’ belongings and can easily be folded up and put away later on. Metal and Leather Strap Luggage Rack, $525,
 Restoration Hardware, restorationhardware.com

Bedside Water Carafes
This might not be top of mind, but what a pleasant personal touch it creates. Carafes of fresh water will come in handy for your guest so they don’t have to go downstairs to the kitchen in the middle of the night. $50, W/W Carafe by Benjamin Hubert, layerdesign.com

Fresh Linens
After a full day of activities, nothing beats getting into a bed of fresh, clean sheets. Make your guests feel right at home with the luxurious feel of crisp, cool linens. $900, White Ikat Bedding Duvet Cover by AERIN, aerin.com

Blankets
A good room temperature for you, might not be for your guest. Adding a throw blanket to the foot of the bed is an invitation for comfort. $160, Asher Market Alpaca Blend, ashermarket.com

Flowers
Florals are a great way to add a personal touch to your guest room. Consider putting fresh and fragrant hydrangeas on the bedside table.

Guest Bathroom Scents
We don’t need to tell you why a pleasant refreshing scent in a guest bathroom is important. Jo Malone diffusers offer a variety of smells. Red roses, perhaps? $85,
 Jo Malone, jomalone.com

Alarm Clock
Maybe your guest wants to sleep in, or maybe they want to go out for a morning run. Let the choice be up to them with Sound Rise. The modern and chic alarm clock also has a Bluetooth speaker, so it doubles as a way guests can listen to some of their favorite music off of their mobile devices. $100, Sound Rise, soundrise.com

PRO TIP
“When stocking a guest room, I try to think of essentials that people might forget, but the best way to know if a guest room really works is to sleep in it yourself one night. Then you’ll quickly find out if anything’s missing.” –Aerin Lauder, Founder and Creative Director, AERIN; Style and Image Director, Estée Lauder

The After-Party: Where To Recharge
When all is said and done, no one deserves a day of pampering more than you. Take a day and spend it at your favorite local spa. Get a facial, a massage and even a manicure and pedicure combination. The more hours spent there, the better. Turnberry 
Isle Miami Spa in Aventura (305.933.6930, turnberryislemiami.com) offers a Post-Holiday Revival Package that includes a complimentary Spacoustic Therapy session with the purchase of their 50-minute massage — your choice of The Oriental Massage or a Thémaé Regenerating Massage. You’ll also receive a glass of champagne, access to the fitness center, fitness classes, locker rooms, steam room, and Castcata Pool & Lotus Lounge.

Don’t feel like leaving your home? Try Zeel Massage On Demand (zeel.com). You can book same-day, in-home massages with licensed and vetted therapists. Download the app and choose what type of massage you prefer, appointment length, and preferred gender of therapist. That’s it!

Seeing as how subscription boxes are all the craze, why not jump on the bandwagon? MonthlyExpress (monthlyexpress.com) delivers high-end bath, body and lifestyle products from around the world to your doorstep on a monthly basis. Each collection focuses on wellness and creates moments of relaxation and rejuvenation. So go ahead and indulge in a little bit of ME time.

DESIGNER SPOTLIGHT
Antonio Cabrera is a Venezuelan designer recognized for his creativity and perfection in the field of large-scale unique holiday decorations. He has worked with celebrities, athletes, politicians and fashion designers to create decadent and lavish designs in their homes. His most prestigious and honorable assignment was his work with the White House, which is seen on a national and international scale.

Cabrera’s inspiration comes from natural and organic elements. “In this world, simplicity and beauty surround us,” he says. “I think of that when I work diversity and sophistication into my projects.” He believes that every home should have outdoor, open spaces that refer to nature. Indoors should contain fresh flower arrangements of different sizes and complimenting plants in most rooms.

For the 2015 holiday season, Cabrera forecasts tones in bronze and gold as strong trends. “There are so many amazing options to design with these tones. Consider leaves, glass balls, garlands and wreaths to start. Use potpourri scents to emphasize the natural elements you use in your design.” 954.522.1567, antoniocabrera.com

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