If the formal dinner party has become old hat, and Sunday brunch isn't your style, here is some inspiration for holiday-party season. Three event planners offer fresh ideas for seasonal gatherings that guests will talk about for the next 12 months.
Using Jack Frost as his inspiration, Chris Arredondo of Eclipse Entertainment in Arlington, Texas, shows that Old Man Winter is the perfect muse for a fun and festive party.
Find this story and more recipes, tips and ideas for entertaining through the new year on our Holiday 101 page, www.mailtribune.com/holiday101.
The setting: As guests arrive, Arredondo suggests, welcome them into a winter wonderland with a snow machine at the entrance and trees strung with blue, silver and white light-emitting diodes. For the inside decor, use an assortment of LED-lit branches throughout the house.
The entertainment: No party is complete without music, so consider classic, holiday songs as guests arrive, and then during dessert, upbeat jazz tunes.
The menu: Pair creative cocktails with culinary classics. Jack Frost martinis, made from pineapple juice, coconut, vodka and blue curacao, could be tasty sippers.
For appetizers, try grilled jumbo shrimp or crab claws on ice — or displayed in ice carvings — and a mini martini salad bar. For the main course, try spice-rubbed pork tenderloin, cheese-stuffed chicken breasts and grilled rib-eye skewers with sides of grilled portobello mushrooms, roasted garden vegetables and Greek salad.
After indulging in such a lavish and filling feast, keep dessert simple and sweet by passing around white-chocolate truffles, maybe customized with your initials.
Shower guests with Southern hospitality, as envisioned by Keri Cook from A Sophisticated Affair in Arlington.
The setting: For the party invitations and decor, keep it simple with handmade invitations made from scrapbook paper lettered with a metallic pen. Mason jars tied with ribbons and name tags are great for doubling as glassware and place cards. Decorate tables using lace cloths or an antique overlay with metallic details and floral centerpieces of baby's breath.
The entertainment: An acoustic guitarist playing holiday tunes will give the party a country feel and also keep the atmosphere laid-back, so guests can enjoy themselves.
The menu: Nothing says Southern like bourbon, so make a festive cranberry-bourbon sour your party's signature cocktail. For the menu, celebrate Southern-inspired dishes, including shrimp and cheese grits (served in martini glasses).
For dessert, Cook likes a Southern twist on the French classic creme brulee with white-chocolate and cranberry-bourbon creme brulee, pumpkin creme brulee with pumpkin brittle and ginger creme brulee with candied ginger.
Spend an enchanting evening with the girls this holiday season, as envisioned by Ashley Paz of Vera Green Productions in Fort Worth.
The setting: Pair Nutcracker knickknacks with clean golds and whites. For greenery, use topiaries, garden roses and hydrangeas from local sources.
The entertainment: Start the party by attending a production of "The Nutcracker." Local performances are planned for Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 15-16, and Friday and Saturday, Dec. 21-22. (Check www.mailtribune.com/performances for more information.)
The menu: Create a meal that pays tribute to characters and dances from the ballet. For cocktails, serve drinks made from Russian vodka, such as Narodnaya (a nod to The Russian Dance in the ballet).
For the first course, serve ciabatta bread with Spanish olive tapenade. For the salad course, combine fresh garden greens, shallot-sherry vinaigrette, herbed goat cheese and spiced pecans. For the grand finale, serve a dessert duo of panna cotta with sugar-plum sauce and "Arabian" chocolate tiramisu.