I overdo it. Every time we host even a small get-together, I put out way too much food.
I wasn’t always like this, but it’s rubbed off on me through spousal osmosis. My husband’s mother is Irish, and like any good Irish mother (or Italian, or Polish, or…you get the picture), she’s always worried there isn’t enough food for everyone. So instead of making, say, a turkey for Christmas dinner, she adds a leg of lamb, a spiral ham and some steaks.
This year, I’m vowing to change it up. No more dinners. No more pressure.
This year, I’m doing the holiday mingle.
I was inspired by a recent visit to the PC Insiders Collection Boutique, which is this cool, experiential pop-up concept store at 363 King St. W. in Toronto (open most days from 12-6 p.m. to the public until Dec. 19). With a huge focus on foods perfect for mingling, it dawned on me — my guests are here to visit me and my family, not just scarf down a few hearty bites.
Doing the holiday mingle means less time in the kitchen without losing any of the foodie pizazz that my husband and I like to throw in for good measure.
Doing the holiday mingle means I get to be party of my own party.
Doing the holiday mingle means I can eat, too, instead of watching everyone else eat from afar while steam from the oven singes my eyelash extensions.
This holiday season, it’s going to be all about interesting charceuterie boards, texture and clever flavour options, like these…
I love charceuterie because it’s like a tiny buffet for your guests, and you can add to it as the party wears on without too much fuss. On this one, I used:
- PC Sea Salt Giant Corn Nuts and PC Sea Salt and Balsamic Vinegar Jumbo Cashews, both delicious — which I popped into little port glasses (I love using martini glasses for food presentation, too), and like more than fruit on this platter because I think it adds more interest
- PC Black Label Jamón Ibérico Thinly Sliced Dry-Cured Iberico Ham — similar to prosciutto, this Spanish cured meat isn’t too salty and offers an almost buttery flavour
- PC Red Fox Leicester Hard-Ripened Cheese, aged 18 months. This is the cheese of the year for me; it’s sharp but easy on the palate, and crumbly enough to make a beautiful presentation without making a ridiculous mess
- Boursin Garlic & Fine Herbs cheese, because you have to have a soft cheese on your platter and this one’s always a winner. No, it’s not PC, but no one’s telling you everything has to be!
- Smears of PC Black Label Sweet Chipotle Mustard and PC Black Label Black Cherry and Vanilla Fruit Spread (that’s Fancy Nancy for “jam”). The mustard’s got a really great kick but also a nicely rounded sweetness, while the spread isn’t too sweet and the addition of vanilla is a fun twist. Both pair very nicely with the Jamón Ibérico
Obviously, you can add a baguette and some nice crackers on the side, too.
To sweeten things up a bit, you can offer the new PC Black Label Ginger Pink Lemonade Sparkling Beverage, which is a fabulous marriage between the ginger-y and lemonade flavours. I used my citrus grater on a lemon to add a bit of colour and zing to this drink, which I poured into a stemless wine glass over heaps of ice. This is a beautiful mocktail on its own, but you could also mix in a shot of vodka for those who are imbibing. Big B mixed half a pint glass of a hoppy beer with the Ginger Pink Lemonade and, I’m telling you, I could become a beer drinker that way.
Off to the side, on a mantel or in another area of your party room, break up some PC Cranberry Pistachio Toffee White Chocolate Bark and PC Pecan, Mango and Chili Dark Chocolate Bark and toss them in a nice dish for people to sample. Alternatively, make little grownup loot bags by putting a couple of chunks into a clear plastic box; tie it up with a red ribbon and hand it to guests as they leave. You know, to thank them for actually, finally leaving.
Now go on. Go find your holiday mingle. And own it.