July 22, 2024
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For many people, Chanukah is party season, eight days of rushing from event to event. Whether it’s the entire extended family or a few friends, Chanukah is a time of connecting with our loved ones. When you find yourself hosting this holiday season, a little insider knowledge will turn your party from a flop to the talk of town.

A Twist on Tradition

Holiday parties come with certain expectations. It would be hard to host a Chanukah party without potato latkes and doughnuts. While you can’t go wrong with the classics, make an impression by trying variations on the traditional dishes. Try red-wine doughnuts or fruit latkes (for recipes see sidebar) or make up your own latke recipes by experimenting with new combinations of vegetables.

Embrace Old Friends

In the rush of party planning, it can be tempting to try out the latest gourmet menu. Avoid the temptation. Sticking to the things you know with only a few new additions will reduce the burden of catering. Those tried and true recipes will not let you down if you find yourself in a last minute rush to get everything ready. If possible, test out any new recipes beforehand to prevent any unwelcome “surprises.”

To make any dish look like a gourmet extravaganza, pay attention to presentation. A few strips of colorful pepper or a few endive leaves can transform a dish.. Use brightly colored vegetables as a garnish to add life to a savory plate, and place fruit around desserts to make any dish a work of art.

Give Wine Recommendations

Wine can make any event into a party. Encourage your guests to be adventurous with their wine choices. At a dinner party it’s easy to serve different wines with each course. A buffet party is harder to control. Try printing up a suggested wine list and posting it near the drinks table. Try to offer something unusual, like the Mount Hermon Indigo, which has a distinctive purple color, and is a fruity blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Start the evening with sparkling wine, ready for guests to take as they arrive. You could serve a classic like Gamla Brut or, for a low-alcohol option, the Mount Hermon Moscato is a popular choice. The oily traditional Chanukah foods need wines with a little acidity to balance out the heaviness. For red-wine lovers, Gamla’s Cabernet Merlot is a wonderful choice. Or try a Gamla Sangiovese, a classic Italian-style wine, with relatively high acidity that goes wonderfully with traditional Chanukah foods. For dessert, Yarden Muscat will make all your guests leave with a smile on their faces.

To keep wine at the correct temperature throughout the party, have a cooler filled with ice for the white wines. Red wines should be served at about 16-18 degrees Celsius, unless recommended otherwise on the label. For added decoration, wine bottles can be arranged on the table between dishes to add height and vary the arrangement.

Don’t Leave Them Waiting

We won’t all have waiters passing out hors d’oeuvres, but it is important to have something available for your guests as soon as they arrive. At a sit-down dinner, you could try bowls of nuts and unusual dried fruits, which can also become a talking piece as guests try to guess what they are eating. When making a buffet, if you can’t have all the food ready, have a salad bar with various cut up vegetables and dressings for guests to make their own salad as a starter.

Delicate Decorations

We eat first with our eyes before the food reaches our lips. With only a little expense and effort, you can easily create a tantalizing Chanukah-themed table. Stick to one color. Buy choosing one color as a base for your napkins, flower arrangement and dishes if you’re using disposables, you quickly create a theme for your party without using any expensive items. To create an instant Chanukah twist, scatter dreidels and chocolate coins between plates.

With careful planning and an arsenal of party-planning pointers, whatever the size of your event, this year’s Chanukah party promises to be an event to remember. Wishing everyone a happy Chanukah.

Rachel Gross is based in Jerusalem. She writes extensively about trends in the Israeli food and wine scene.

By Rachel Gross

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