New Year’s Eve is an overrated night. Restaurants offer expensive menus and, despite the mask of glitz and glamour, the hype doesn’t always deliver. My favorite way to plan a New Year’s Eve dinner is to invite up to ten guests, and ask them to get dressed fabulously and show up for dinner at 9pm. Always consider timing. If you start the dinner at 7:30 or 8pm, you’re done at 10:30pm and still have 90 minutes to kill before the stroke of midnight.
Plan an easy menu that allows you to be a guest at your own dinner. You should be glued to the dining room chair, not chained to the stove. The key is to be resourceful. Some people like to set the table, some like to cook and some delegate really well. Figure out what you like to do and plan accordingly. Whether you cook the meal yourself, have it catered or have your favorite restaurant make an entrée for you, you can do it rather stress-free. Start with a soup or salad that can be prepared or bought the day before. Heat the soup plates, bring them to the table and pour the soup from a coffee pourer; sprinkle it with something fabulous, and your first course is done. For the main course, you need to serve a one-shot (or one-pot) wonder—something that comes directly from the oven to the table and allows you to serve tableside. It could be a chicken potpie with black truffles, lasagna with white truffles or a beef bourguignon. These are all dishes that can be made a day ahead or easily resourced. Finally, you’ll want to treat your guests with a super chic and decadent dessert that’s store-bought. Dribble some chocolate sauce on a dessert plate, place a scoop of chocolate ice cream on top and place a champagne chocolate truffle on top of the ice cream. Just like that, you now have chocolate three ways!
Of course, this could turn into a costly night. Here are a few things I’ve done to cut costs in the past that have worked really well: You can ask your guests to bring two bottles of champagne each. Perhaps one couple brings red wine, one white wine, one dessert and a bottle of champagne. And if you really want to splurge and take charge on behalf of your friends, add an ounce of caviar each, total all the expenses and divide it between your guests.
You should plan on ending dinner around 11:30pm, so you have time to go around the table and ask some fun questions. What was the best thing that happened to you this year? What’s the one thing you want to leave behind this year? And most importantly, what’s your New Year’s resolution? Find interesting ways to interact and bring your guests together before filling those glasses with bubbly and toasting to the New Year!