Presentation matters! Photo courtesy Milo & Olive

Resy At Home

Four Ways to Entertain Better This Holiday Season, Per Restaurant People


Reserve a table

We all miss restaurants, and with the winter months upon us, we’re hoping to bring a little bit of restaurants home for the holidays. So, we turned to the pros to get their tips on how to spruce up your special occasions, whether you’re solo or in a small, safe pod. 

Set the scene.

Want to bring some restaurant flair into your holiday meal? There are a ton of little things you can do, often lifted straight from restaurants. Many restaurant folks suggested printing out menus for the place settings. Putting together a custom, thoughtful playlist is also a great way to set a festive mood. San Francisco’s Flour + Water duo of chef-partner Ryan Pollnow and events manager Mac Malone take it one step further: “Make printed playlists for your guests to take home like we do at Flour + Water. That way they can reference what they listened to and savor the day a bit longer.”

Laurel Almerinda, pastry chef and director of bakery operations at Huckleberry in Los Angeles, has a brilliant way to maximize time and alcohol consumption: “I typically have zero time to decorate the house, so I make that a fun part of cocktail hour, and we all love doing it together.”

Make things easy on yourself. Consider a potluck. 

She continues: “As a baker I work myself to the bone during the holidays, and, as much as I would like to, I’m just not able to pull a feast together for friends or family, but I still want to gather everyone I love in my home,” says Alemerinda.

So, she holds what she calls a curated potluck: “I let everyone know what I might be making, say, duck confit and a pie. Then I ask folks to let me know what they hope to contribute. That way if one person replies with mom’s twice-baked potatoes and the next replies with sweet potato mash, I can say, ‘Nope, carbs are covered, try again!’ But nicely.”

Food presentation can make a difference.

“It’s all about the presentation! Whether you cook or order carryout, plate your food with style,” says Blake George, owner of Zao Jun and Adachi in Detroit.

Erin Eastland, co-owner and executive chef of Milo & Olive, likes to braise whole turkey legs (or as she puts it, “Flintstone-style”) with lots of mushrooms and thyme, but if you go the full turkey route, here’s her breakdown of how to maximize the presentation: “Let it rest for at least 30 minutes minimum, ideally 45. Remove the whole breast on each side and slice into medallions. Remove the leg and separate the thigh and drum. Assemble this on a platter for presentation with fresh herbs and a little jus drizzled on top. Your guests will be impressed and you will get the most meat off the bird.”

Get your timing dialed in. So you can actually, you know, enjoy the holiday.

“The hardest part about restaurant cooking for the holiday home is always timing,” says Pollnow. “Plan a menu that utilizes the oven for a maximum of two dishes, the stove top for another two and make everything else a do-ahead, room temperature, or a chilled dish.”

“Nothing is worse that cold food that you’ve worked all day on,” adds Eastland. That means make foods that can hold at a low temp in the oven. Make ahead anything you can. Assemble your salad early and just toss before you sit. And so on. The only thing you should have to do is last-minute assembly, reheating and roasting your turkey (and) making gravy day of. If you play your cards right, you can serve beautiful food and still enjoy the time with your family.”