Holiday Host's Diary #1: Be Prepared

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In just eight days, my partner and I will host forty guests in our 650 square foot Brooklyn apartment. I'll blog my party prep here and I hope you'll chime in with your advice and suggestions.

The tree, fresh from New York's Finger Lakes region via the farmer's market, is already up and decorated. That was last weekend's project, but there's still so much more to be done.

Yesterday, over lunch, I scrawled my menu plan on the back of an old take out menu. I hope to serve a dinner that's ambitious and festive, but also straight-forward enough that I can shop and prepare the meal myself in about 20 hours or so. My menu draft is after the jump ... I'm eager to hear what you think.Guests from last year's party gave rave reviews, but I'm haunted by this memory: Fifteen minutes before go time, I realized I didn't have a suitable vegetable side and I was expecting at least five vegetarian guests. I ran to the only Key Foods that was still open, grabbed three bunches of iffy imported asparagus and raced home just as the first guests were gathering on my stoop. Kitchen nightmare!

I made some bad choices last year. I got too confident and picked recipes that didn't scale for the size for the crowd I was serving. I didn't do enough work ahead of time. That's not happening this year.

This weekend, I'll practice making All About Braising. Don't you love this recipe's majestic headnote: "A grad dish for a grand occasion, the king of all pot roasts." I'm off to Western Beef to buy pig's feet ...

Holiday Buffet Menu
Truffled Popcorn
Port-Glazed Walnuts with Stilton
Roasted Red Pepper and White Bean Crostini
Mulled Cider

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Christmas Estouffade of Beef
Celery Root Remoulade
Baked Pumpkin with Parmesan and 25 Year Balsamic
Green Salad with Figs

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Chocolate Bread Pudding
Clementine Almond Cake

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