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Set the Table, Deck the Halls

Holiday entertaining with Valerie Rice

Written by Sofia Deeb


Valerie Rice

So, it's that time of year again. Gathering for the holidays this year will be all the more meaningful, which is why we’re doing so in style. Whether you’re hosting a gathering of two, or one hundred and two, we’ve got you covered. We sat down with self-proclaimed serial entertainer and master gardener Valerie Rice to get all the best hosting tips to make sure this year is filled with more gift wrap and bows and less holiday woes.

It’s no secret that Valerie, author of Lush Life: Food & Drinks from the Garden, is savvy in the kitchen (and garden). When it comes to seasonal food and drink recipes, she’s Santa Barbara’s go-to gal. She’s notorious for making the most of what her garden has to offer, and employs the same approach to the holidays. One of her top tips for hosting an elegant event is to make use of the seasonal produce found at your local farmer’s market, or in your garden. Not only will these fresh ingredients make all the difference in your dishes and hors d’oeuvres, they’ll also give your table a lovely holiday touch. Cranberries, persimmons, and citrus fruits like oranges and lemons are all seasonal favorites that make perfect additions to any pine branch centerpiece.

The host with the most doesn’t have to be the one with the most dishes to wash—and Valerie would agree. She shares the “not so big secret” that she hates doing dishes, and to that I beg the question, who does? Valerie insists that if you’re looking to make this holiday a breeze, you’ll need some extra hands. Whether that means enlisting the help of a party rental service to take care of linens, china, and flatware, or even just having a few family members around to help with dishes, the pressure of making the holidays bright shouldn’t rest on your shoulders alone.

Of course, the one thing on everybody’s mind when prepping for a holiday get together: how do I make a charcuterie board that will be the talk of the town? Valerie’s answer: You don’t (cue record scratch and freeze frame). You heard that right folks. As visually pleasing as a charcuterie board can be, experts like Valerie believe they’re one detail you can do without. Why? Making a Pinterest-worthy board can be pricey and can leave you with a lot of waste. Of course, you’ll want to have something for guests to snack on before the meal, Valerie suggests opting for a crudite board instead—you can get just as creative with these, and there’s rarely leftovers.

I’m sure you’re eager to know what’s on the menu for guests at Valerie’s house, and of course, that would depend on what her garden decides. She does have a few go-to recipes that are all the rave amongst her guests. For one, her cremini and shitake mushroom soup is a classic comfort dish that can’t be beat. As for cocktails, Valerie believes you should never sleep on batched cocktails. Negronis, Martinis, or Manhattans are all excellent choices that can be made in advance and stored until serving. Pro tip: don’t forget to garnish.

You can find these recipes, along with many other favorites for all year round in Valerie’s cookbook.


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