December 6, 2018

How to Throw the Perfect Holiday Party

There’s no question about it, food is the centerpiece of a great holiday dinner party. But it’s difficult to put on a great show if you haven’t taken time to set the stage. That’s why, when planning a fantastic night of wining and dining, it’s equally important to set the mood so your culinary masterpiece gets the appreciation it deserves. Read on for ideas on how to be the host with the most this season (and try out the included recipes for a twist on traditional that will undoubtedly add an extra wow factor to your feasting festivities.)

Paint Your Canvas

First, you’ll need a great table that has festive flair. Go with a traditional feel or check out this gallery for some beautifully inspiring tablescapes to showcase the culinary creations you agonized over all day. Add accents throughout the room or house to unify a singular decorative theme.

Get Your Tunes Ready

Music is essential — create a playlist before your first guests arrive. You’ll have enough on your hands throughout the evening without having to scroll through your entire library every 5 minutes. Either go digital or have a stack of records ready for you or your guests to choose from.

Enable Enjoyment

Have a pre-dinner beverage ready when you welcome your guests. This will help to get the conversation flowing and ease everyone into social harmony.

Pair With Confidence

Choose an appropriate wine list. It does you no good to cook up a storm only to have it acidified or fall flat due to a poor wine choice. It doesn’t need to be expensive, just paired well with your menu. If you’re not sure, ask one of your winey friends (you know they’re always MORE than happy to share their expansive knowledge on the subject). Bring your dinner roster and ask for specific recommendations.

Present The Feast

And for the pièce de résistance: the food. Our chef for the evening chose these dishes because they were at the same time undeniably festive and totally unexpected. Colour palette and diversity of flavors are important elements to consider.

Butternut Squash Agnolotti with Pan Roased Brussel Sprouts + Smoked Sausage

Sometimes, when you’re not feeding an entire army, a whole turkey doesn’t make sense. Instead, take a twist on the traditional and try a roast squash filled pasta, like agnolotti, with pan roasted brussel sprouts and smoked turkey sausage.

Simply heat a spoonful of oil in a heavy bottom skillet and place your halved brussel sprouts face down. When the sides of the sprouts begin to brown, add the sliced rounds of sausage and a healthy knob of butter.

Blanch your pasta (boil quickly and plunge into ice water) and then add to the skillet. Some of the water from the pasta will help deglaze the pan (that’s cooking nerd speak for “get all the good stuff that’s stuck to the bottom of the pan”). Toss with fresh herbs like parsley, sage and chives and grate a metric tonne of parmesan on top.

Smoky Roast Pork with Fennel and Tomato

If you want to try this smoky roast pork at home, get yourself a butt roast and brine it overnight (5% brine – that means if you have 1L of water you will need 50g of salt). Remove it from the brine and pop it in your smoker for 3 hours. You could smoke it on low heat in your BBQ with a wood chip smoker box too.

Once you’ve started developing that smoky flavour, move it to the oven to finish off.

Add some vegetables like fennel, tomato and onion to the roasting pan. They will soak up all the juice and add a little complexity to the finished dish.

Cook at 300°F for about 2 hours or so—you want the internal temperature to reach 145°F.

Carve and serve with the roasted veggies. Fresh arugula dressed with sherry vinegar and olive oil makes a great last touch of brightness.

Apple Galette

Ingredients For Dough

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 155g butter
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3 tbsp whole milk

Ingredients For Filling

  • 4 cups apples (peeled, sliced)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp ap flour
  • inch salt

Ingredients For Rosemary Créme Fraîche

  • 1 cup creme fraiche
  • 1 lemon worth of zest
  • 1 tbsp chopped rosemary
  • 1 tsp salt

Finishing Steps

  • 1 beaten egg
  • 2 tbsp raw sugar

Method For Dough

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment.
  3. Cut the butter into cubes and add them to the flour. Mix until it holds together when you clump it with your hands.
  4. Mix the egg yolk and milk in a separate bowl and add to the flour mixture. It will look a little crumbly and dry, but it’s gonna be ok.
  5. Turn the mixture out on a clean counter and begin to work it together using the heel of your hand.
  6. Once it comes together press the dough into a flat disc and wrap.
  7. Refrigerate for at least 20 min or up to 4 days before rolling out.


  1. Pull the dough out and allow to temper at room temperature for 10-15 min or until it is pliable. On a floured surface roll the dough out to a 13 inch circle. Transfer the dough to a bake sheet.
  2. Toss apples in sugar. Add the flour, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt and toss until evenly mixed.
  3. Heap the apples in the centre of the dough and fold the sides up and over the mix.
  4. Using a pastry brush, apply the beaten egg mixture to the pleated dough. Sprinkle sugar over the egg washed dough and apples.
  5. Bake for 55 minutes until ALL the dough is golden brown. Allow to cool slightly, transfer to a cutting board or platter, and serve warm.
  6. Garnish with rosemary creme fraiche

Dean shoots based on what inspires him, foregoing trends. He has a thing for shooting lifestyle with natural light and has a deep love for all things oceanic. Dean currently lives on Vancouver Island on the West Coast of Canada with his pup, Salish. See more of Dean’s images >>

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