Dining out can be great but with the active snowy weather and the crowded restos, hosting your own chic gourmet dinner party is far more intimate and just as indulgent.
What to Eat: Wow your guests by serving dessert with dinner through cooking with decadent chocolate. I kicked the holiday season off with an incredible meal prepared by Chef Lora Kirk of Ruby Watchco Restaurant featuring chocolate from Green & Black's Organic and was blown away by how lovely and easily chocolate married with unexpected ingredients to create gorgeous appetizers including a velvety Roasted Chestnut and Milk Chocolate soup to my favourite, a Lobster with White Chocolate Hazelnut Brûlé. These sound super complex to recreate but in fact aren't that difficult. Plan your meal using Chef Lora's own recipes which were featured in the Toronto Sun.
What to Drink: A signature cocktail is always a ton of fun at the holidays but if you're attempting some kitchen sorcery it's much easier to pull together a few great wines to serve instead of trying to play mixologist and chef de cuisine. If I were serving the aforementioned lobster brûlé I might opt for a wine I was recently introduced to by Fine Wine Ambassador and Sommelier, Courtney Henderson of E.&J. Gallo Winery Canada. Their Whitehaven Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is bright, citrusy and has a crisp finish that makes it excellent to serve as an aperitif when guests arrive but also works well with a seafood first course plus it's priced under $20 at the LCBO. If you need a little more wine direction, tweet Courtney for some suggestions.
How to Decorate: Oh heyyy Pinterest! This is where our favourite guilty pleasure becomes most useful as you can plug search terms like "holiday table scapes" or "holiday dinner party" and find hundreds of ideas to create a beautiful setting. My own personal recommendations include using tons of candles and incorporating plenty of sparkle, shine and lustre in all decor elements plus fresh florals, boughs or branches. If you're aiming to pull your party together in a short time and with minimal effort, I loved this segment on Steven & Chris that showed how to leverage the power of the web to create a cocktail party without even leaving your house.
What to Wear: When it's your party, you can dress how you want to but I love the idea of playing over the top dress up even when I'm at home. Why not?! Decide what you want to wear and communicate that to your guests in advance encouraging ladies to wear their boots but bring their heels so you don't have to feel awkward being the only one in yours. If you're lacking in the fabulous dress department but don't want a one wear wonder, consider a convertible dress that you can transform for New Years Eve or special occasions in 2014 like the gorgeous versions offered by TwoBirds. To ensure your guests follow suit I recommend offering dress codes hints like "sequins & sparkle" or "festive chic" or you can ask guests to arrive wearing attire to match your colour scheme of choice. Think outside of the the red and green if it feels too boring. I love aubergine and silver, champagne and gold or hot pink and green for example. Playing hostess is truly your opportunity to shine so do just that.
Cheers to your stylish holidays!
-- Tamika Auwai is our resident Style Editor, Shopping Enthusiast and Wardrobe Expert.