NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Take a second and imagine the stress that comes with throwing a holiday dinner gathering for friends and family.
Now imagine having celebrities like Courtney Cox, Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington as guests.
Celebrity restaurateur Liza Utter, the force behind Los Angeles hot spots La Cachette and The Beach House, has firsthand experience playing hostess to high end clientele.
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Now the nationally acclaimed host is sharing her party planning tips and tricks with New Yorkers. She’ll host holiday party food and menu planning classes at the Financial District’s New York Vintners and Flatiron’s swanky Wined Up lounge.
Her goal? To put the spirit back into the holiday season.
“My whole movement and my whole mission is to get people to start having fun again,” the award winning host told CBSNewYork.com.
“With the holidays, it’s seems such a shame that many times afterwards people say ‘ugh, I’m glad they’re over,” Utter said. “I really would like to start changing that tone, and have people really, truly enjoy it, even if they’re hosting it, and bring out the spirit of getting together with your family and friends, entertaining really means.”
The classes, the first of which takes place on Friday, Nov. 11, aren’t just aimed at beginners.
“Between cooking and wine education, people are really savvy and sophisticated now,” Utter said. “This is a great way to take the love for that and move it to the next level.”
Utter offered some of her favorite tips and tricks to CBSNewYork.com readers.
The trick isn’t to focus on the fare – but on the person whipping it all up.
“Just being able to throw a great party, as far as being a great chef and having the wine paired perfectly, there still is a lot of stress and anxiety and questions and overall fear of pulling it all together. The classes are really about trying to combine that.”
Acknowledging that with the holiday season there are typically larger crowds of people to entertain – and often, emotional overload – the celebrity restaurateur wants to bring about a paradigm shift and put those at the helm in the right frame of mind.
“I can show you all these really great tips, tricks and fast ways to get things done, but if you aren’t in a good place, your party is still going to be stressful,” she said.
Her mantra: It’s not about perfection, it’s about connection.
“The best hosts are not the ones who have the perfect party, and oftentimes, those are the ones you want to get out of quickly, because they’re so perfect or so formal and structured. There’s not a whole lot of life to it.”
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Serve three types of alcohol to infuse the most life into your party: A signature cocktail, wine and beer.
For cocktails, her go-to spirit is champagne. When mixing it for cocktail purposes, there’s no need for Dom Pérignon. You can get away with using an inexpensive bottle.
“It’s the symbol for celebration,” she said, noting that it’s a safer bet than hard alcohol. “When you start mixing hard alcohol into it, people get bombed. You want them to appreciate the dinner and stay with you, and really be present.”
For Thanksgiving, she suggests a hard cider champagne cocktail.
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“Hard cider is tart, it really lends itself well with the champagne,” Utter said.
Her tip: Add a slice of apple to the concoction for a festive feel – or try a pear for a bellini-type feel.
After Thanksgiving, transition to Christmas with a pomegranate champagne drink. At parties, serve a round or two of your signature drink before transitioning to wine.
For more holiday party planning tips, you can sign up for tickets (ranging from $75 to $115) at Lizaslifeoftheparty.com.
Friday, Nov. 11, 3:30 p.m.
New York Vintners
21 Warren Street (between Broadway and Church Street)
Sunday, Nov. 13th, 12:00 p.m.
913 Broadway (between 22nd and 23rd Streets)