Guide to An Easy, Enjoyable Thanksgiving

Tired of Thanksgiving preparations that last longer than the actual event? Here are some quick tips for fun and fabulous celebration that will leave you thankful, and then some!

1) Intimate Gatherings…Rule number one for Thanksgiving is to have a party on a small scale for easy enjoyment. (You’ll see your relatives next month at Christmas and Hanukkah!)

The perfect way to entertain for a small group is to focus on and prepare a delicious main course entree, like the turkey, and let a gourmet grocery do the rest.  My favorite stop for any occasion is Winston’s Market, on Southport in Lakeview.

Try some warm, autumnal appetizers like butternut squash bruschetta, stuffed mushroom caps, and duck with wild rice soup.

Get creative with sides like roasted beet salad with goat cheese, maple syrup mashed sweet potatoes, roasted autumn vegetables, and cranberry-apple stuffing.

And of course dessert…pumpkin pie, grateful-cakes and much more!

2) Thanksgiving Day Table Setting

A bountiful centerpiece of dried wheat is easy to design and reuse year after year.  We create three different sized bouquets, tied with elegant silk ribbons in unique color combinations. Gorgeous and festive.

To add a lush, fresh detail, create a trio of petite floral centerpieces to tuck around the wheat, along with votive candles for the finishing detail. Simply choose your blooms and trim stems so the base of the blooms is flush with your vases, which don’t need to match.

Then, create monogrammed linen napkins with a paint pen for a one-of-a-kind placesetting—customizing each one with the guest’s first initial. (Napkins are available at A Perfect Event or home goods stores.)

3) Hostess Gift

Leaving behind the Thanksgiving meal preparations all together? Show up with a memorable hostess gift to thank that poor woman! Hot trends this season are:

CD Collections – This is the time of year for entertaining, and everyone loves new music to share and enjoy with friends.

Soy Candles – The hottest green hostess gift. Soy candles burn longer and cleaner than other candles, and they’re available everywhere.

Ornament – A thoughtful and unique gift that also makes a great accent on gifts and packages.

Martini Kit – The ultimate gift for the male host…everything you need to whip up holiday cocktails!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Go Euro

You’ve been dreaming of an overseas getaway, but can’t take off the time. No worries, because you can bring a little of Europe to your celebrations here in the States. Put some wow into your next party, with these easy tips for some British- or Italian-inspired revelry, motivated by an opulent party we recently threw, The Bentley and Lamborghini Gold Coast Grand Re-Opening Event, Cocktails and Couture, with proceeds benefiting the Joffrey Ballet.

Two of the world’s finest cars provided the backdrop, but the food (provided by Jewell Catering and Events), drink and decor were what made the celebration delicioso, easy-peasy…and doable for your next party. So, what will it be—London or Rome?

A JUMP ACROSS THE POND

An English affair doesn’t start with afternoon tea and end with meat pies. No, an elegant, enjoyable menu is within reach and surprisingly light. And it all starts with the perfect English cocktail. Get your knickers on right with a sprightly Pimm’s Cup. This gin-based beverage is made with one part Pimm’s No. 1, two parts ginger ale, and garnished with a refreshing slice of lime and cucumber. Blinding! (That means fabulously successful for those of you not privy to British slang.)

Next, serve up a round of English hors d’oeuvres. Break out your vintage lace tablecloths and napkins, or buy some inexpensive doilies and place them on antique silver trays with nibbles on top. Create perfect English ambience with boxwood topiaries tabletop and at your bar, and linens and napkins in a palette of camel, white and forest green. Prim and elegant.

Wonderful English edibles include:

•    The classic Stilton and fresh, crisp apple slices (cut and serve)
•    Mini-tarts with smoked salmon and a dollop of crème fraiche (buy the shells in your grocer’s freezer section, the rest in the refrigerated section and assemble—voila!—you’re done)
•    Sweet bacon-wrapped breadsticks (buy boxed breadsticks, roll each one in a slice of bacon, sprinkle with brown sugar and bake for 30 minutes at 350˚)

Serve a main course of traditional fish and chips, with malt vinegar, tartar sauce and ketchup. Or authentic yellow curry, with chicken, cauliflower and baby peas, served over basmati rice and accompanied with dried currants, golden raisins, toasted coconut, chopped cashews and mango chutney. Do finish the evening off with individual English Trifles, made with layers of pound cake, lemon cream and fresh strawberries and served in clear plastic glasses, and your British invasion is complete.

BELLA ITALIA

If Italy is occupying your travel daydreams, do like the Italians and celebrate with a feast of delicious goodness. Say Ciao, bella with a Prosecco Bellini. Italy’s answer to champagne is bubbly and more affordable than its French counterpart. Combine one part peach nectar with five parts of prosecco, and garnish with a fresh peach slice.

Next, top your best and brightest metallic serving pieces with Italian hors d’oeuvres. Create a modern, Italian look with lush yellow florals, and crisp black and white napkins tabletop and bar-side:

•    Grilled portobello mushroom fingers, wrapped in fresh basil leaf and drizzled with vinaigrette and a little Pecorino Romano (slice mushrooms, wrap in basil leaf, drizzle, sprinkle, done)
•    Fontina cheese and fresh pear slices (cut and serve)
•    Prosciutto-wrapped melon slices, with fresh mint (cut, wrap and serve)

And dinner? Serve up a festive Italian buffet, with more black and white linens, and modern plates and servingware. Take the irresistible pizza and pasta to the next level, because really, what is better? Authentic, thin-crust pizzas made on pizza stones are easy and limitless in their possibilities. Top with lemon-pesto shrimp, olive oil and Parmesan. Or prosciutto and arugula. Or the classic Margherita, with fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce and basil leaves.

Pasta dishes sing, like baby penne with Italian sausage, leeks and roasted orange peppers and as risotto martini, with shrimp, yellow tomatoes, asparagus, fresh basil, and a white wine, herb and shallot sauce. End the evening with cappuccino gelato, served with fresh whipped cream and dark chocolate sauce in petite glasses.

Bellissimo!

Chicago Scene Magazine, November 2007