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Entertaining Tips With Deborah Williamson of James

Entertaining Tips With Deborah Williamson of James


Continuing our Holiday Hosting Tips series, today Deborah Williamson  offers up her entertaining tips. Along with her husband, chef Bryan Calvert, Williamson co-owns the Prospect Heights restaurant James and runs the catering and event company, Williamson Calvert. Her suggestions for simple, chic holiday gatherings after the jump.


-"The minute your guests walk in, you want them to be comfortable and you want them to get a drink in their hands," she says. To accomplish that, create a stylish self-serve bar with a specialty cocktail or two mixed and ready to pour. One of her and Bryan's favorite ideas is a make-your-own Bellini station with Prosecco and an assortment of seasonal fresh fruit purees. "It's a great, stylish and fairly economical way to add a little something to your bar."

-"Give people what they want." Yes, specialty cocktails and make-your-own Bellinis are lovely, but you should also have a basic bar set-up. "If they want to walk in and have a vodka tonic, they need to be able to walk in and make a vodka tonic." Amen.

-Keep your menu fairly simple.  Three to five different hors d'oeuvres is enough of a nibble selection. Don't try out new dishes.

-A party should seem fairly effortless. "This may mean having someone cater it or having food delivered," Williamson says, "there's nothing wrong with having something brought in."

-For decorating, keep styling simple and choose a palette that works with what you already have.

-"Lighting can truly cure a whole world of sins, it goes so far to making an event great."  Bring the lights down, kill the overheads, and use candles.

-"If you're going to spend money, spend it on great food and great drink." Decorating can be simple and inexpensive. People care far more about eating and drinking.

-Don't lose your sense of individuality. A party should be "an expression of who you are and what you love. Just make it beautiful and make it delicious."


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