The holiday season is upon us, and it’s never been easier to get swept away in dreams of hosting a bigger, better party than last year’s, but it’s true what they say. Sometimes less is more.
With this in mind, we invited Eric Prum and Josh Williams—authors of the new book Host: A Modern Guide to Eating, Drinking and Feeding Your Friends—to share their best advice for simple, seasonal entertaining. Prum and Williams (the duo behind the Mason Shaker) are passionate about bringing friends together around the table, and they created Host as a guide to stoke the same passion in others.
In the following Q&A, Prum and Williams offer up their best dinner party tips and advice for feeding a crowd, plus three recipes that are perfect for fall and winter entertaining.
Relish: What first steps would you suggest for someone intimidated by hosting their very first dinner party?
Prum & Williams: Hosting, especially in the modern urban environment, can be difficult to navigate. Small apartments present their own cooking challenges: two-burner stoves, mini refrigerators, and little counter space. To counterbalance all that, we recommend keeping things simple. Stick to unfussy, elegant dishes and drinks that are worth your precious time and a place on your table.
Relish: What are your essential dinner party principles?
P&W: 1) Keep it simple. 2) Use fewer, better ingredients. 3) Make people happy.
Relish: Any hard-and-fast dinner party don’ts?
P&W: Don’t forget to be present! We recommend preparing what you can beforehand, so you can get out of the kitchen and enjoy the evening with your friends. Start with selecting dishes you can prepare in advance and cocktails you can batch in large amounts, freeing you up to be part of the party.
Relish: You both live in New York City, with what you call “shoe box” kitchens. Any pearls of wisdom you’ve gleaned from working in such close quarters?
P&W: It may seem daunting to put out a full-scale dinner party when you have a small kitchen in a walk up building, but don’t let that deter you from hosting your friends. A dinner party is about the conversations had, the food eaten and the coming together of friends and that can happen just about anywhere!
Relish: What types of menu items have you found translate best for feeding a crowd?
P&W: We’re big fans of large-format drinks dedicated to serving a crowd, such as a great punch. A far cry from the Jungle Juice, trash-can concoctions of our college days, these cocktails are flavorful drinks featuring fresh ingredients and high-quality spirits. They are incredibly easy to make, which means they’re perfect for big get-togethers. Just stock up on a handful of basic ingredients and, whenever drinks run low, you can quickly throw together another batch.
Relish: Let’s talk seasonality! What’s the best way to approach tailoring your event to the season—from finalizing the menu, all the way to setting the table?
P&W: Seasonality is incredibly important to us, because in-season produce is both abundant and incredibly delicious. We start our day at the farmers’ market to see what’s in season and plan our menu based off of those options. The market is also a great spot to pick up items for the table to pull the menu and décor together. We’ve used everything from budding tree branches from the back of farmers’ trucks to a fully edible crudité centerpiece (recipe in Host!) on our tables.
Relish: Finally, what pro tips can you share for juggling food prep and engaging with guests?
P&W: Prepare as much as you can ahead of time; buy quality ingredients that are in season, and keep your menu simple and elegant. This is a surefire way ensure the meal rolls out smoothly, and allows you to enjoy it!
Check out these three cocktail hour recipes from Williams and Prum’s latest cookbook, perfect for fall and winter entertaining.