Since Christmas and New Year are right around the corner I thought I would ask entertainer extraordinaire Steve Stolman some questions about Holiday entertaining and party throwing. How lucky are we that he took the time to share some of his entertaining secrets with us. If this whet your appetite, more tips are available in his amazing book Confessions of a Serial Entertainer.
SS: While no one loves a beautiful printed invitation more than I (my mom was actually a typesetter at a bespoke printery in Philadelphia when she and my dad were first married) the realities of modern communication cannot be ignored. I’ve used Paperless Post myself, and have found it to be a useful tool. But nothing will ever duplicate the real thing.
When making a guest list, typically how many people will end up attending?
SS: It depends on the event. I don’t love dinner parties larger than 6-8, at least in one of our homes, which are all small. But when it comes to a cocktail party, the more the merrier!
What time means drinks and what time means dinner for a party?
SS: Anything longer than a 2 hour cocktail party gets sloppy. I like cocktails from 6-8 with dinner following. But that’s a very personal preference. In Milwaukee, where we spend about a third of our time, drinks parties start at 7:30 and go all night. I learned the hard way when I planned a typical 2 hour New York style cocktail party- and the guests didn’t leave til midnight.
What does heavy appetizers really mean for a party menu?
SS: It means that there will be enough served to qualify as dinner. I’m not a huge fan.
How much alcohol and what type should you have on hand?
SS: That is too loaded a question, no pun intended. I say vodka, scotch, red and white wine and champagne if you’re feeling grand. Gin for Brits and bourbon for southerners. Maybe rum in the summer and tequila if you’re in the southwest. In Milwaukee, it’s not a party without brandy for old Fashioneds. Always sweet and dry vermouth, bitters and Campari if you want to be chic.
When you do splurge for servers and a bartender?
SS: Always. It allows me to be a guest at my own party.
Do you have any favorite passed hors d’oeuvres?
SS: I’m a traditionalist… Cheese puffs, pigs’n’blankets and smoked salmon tea sandwiches. Caviar for really special occasions.
Do you have any favorite stationary food items?
SS: A big silver Revere bowl filled with homemade egg salad topped with chopped bacon.
How can you get my home ready for a cocktail party?
SS: Vacuuming is a good way to start.
How can I make my space look festive with out spending a fortune?
SS: Clean it thoroughly, dim the lights and light a lot of candles.
Do you have any clean up suggestions?
SS: Find a husband like mine who won’t come to bed until the place is spic’n’span. No one does a better job.
Do you have any must haves for party planning?
SS: A sense of humor. Nothing ever happens exactly the way you think it will. There are always last minute glitches.
What makes a perfect cocktail party host/hostess?
SS: Again, a sense of humor. And an understanding of what constitutes gracious hospitality. Otherwise, why bother?
Do you have any Thanksgiving or Holiday Traditions you can share with us?
SS: None of us really love turkey. One year, on Cape Cod, we had a fabulous 10lb lobster. It was fantastic.
What do you recommend as a go to Holiday party outfit?
SS: Everyone looks good in a kilt.
Whats on your party playlist?
SS: Sergio Mendes, Motown, a little soul a lot of singers and standards.
Do you have a favorite party recipe you can share with us?
SS: Happy Nancy, named after my mother-in-law, who is rather picky but likes this… Put an entire block of cream cheese on a pretty plate. Top with jalapeño pepper jelly. Serve with crackers. Basta.
Do you have a special signature cocktail you can share with us?
SS: I hate signature cocktails. But I just learned a cute name for a vodka soda with a splash of cranberry juice: it’s called a Rose Kennedy.