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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