Categories: Social Life

Thanksgiving Entertaining: Hosting Styles to Celebrate the Thanksgiving Holiday

When it’s your turn to host the holiday, the choice is yours for how you’d like to feed and entertain your guests. For Thanksgiving, you can host a holiday brunch or an all-out dinner or anything in-between. As you plan your Thanksgiving holiday, consider the number of guests, the age of your guests, any dietary of health issues, the time of day for your event, the amount of food, whether alcoholic beverages are involved, and so on. You may even find that some of your guests’ schedules play into your plans.

As you prepare for your Thanksgiving entertaining, consider these diverse hosting options. Whether you’re inviting your entire extended family, your side and your in-laws, or your friends, neighbors, or anyone else, you may find the perfect Thanksgiving holiday hosting style right here. And, don’t forget your Thanksgiving Party Invitations!

Thanksgiving Holiday Entertaining Options
Once you’ve decided on the guest list, now is the time to begin thinking about the hosting and serving style for your Thanksgiving holiday get-together. To best suit your own entertaining style and the needs of your family and guests, consider these options:

–    Sit-down Thanksgiving dinner

–    Buffet style Thanksgiving dinner

–    Thanksgiving brunch

–    Thanksgiving hors d’oeuvres party

–    Thanksgiving cocktail party

–    Etc.

You may be able to rule out some of these hosting and entertaining styles simply by imagining your guests at your home in one of these situations. Even if you can’t completely figure out the perfect scenario for your event, keep an open mind, for a change in pace can often become an exceptional memory.

Host a Festive Thanksgiving Brunch
Sometimes the time of day that you host your Thanksgiving holiday get-together may be dictated by your guests or your own family obligations. Perhaps a Thanksgiving brunch is the perfect way to accommodate everyone’s needs – especially those who need to visit two or more homes in the course of Thanksgiving Day.

As you prepare to host your Thanksgiving brunch, consider your menu from a broad perspective. Make sure you select entrees as well as side dishes, and items from the breakfast category, the lunch category, and the dessert category. Don’t forget about hot beverages as well as cold beverages.

Joan Hanson, test kitchen director of Hormel Foods, suggests the following tips for a mid-morning Thanksgiving holiday brunch:

•   Save cook time. Use fully cooked Oven Ready® CURE 81® ham for more time to spend with family and friends.
•    Sweet & savory waffles. Top waffles with ham strips, sliced strawberries, and maple syrup.
•    Ham scramble. Add cubed ham and Swiss cheese to scrambled eggs for a surefire hit

Host an Elegant Family Style Sit-Down Dinner Party
Perhaps the most traditional Thanksgiving holiday hosting style for smaller groups, an elegant sit-down dinner party works nicely when well planned. The difficult part is getting everything cooked on time and arranged on platters that can be passed around the table for all guests to enjoy.

A family style sit-down dinner for the Thanksgiving holiday puts a lot of strain on the hostess, some of which can be alleviated if her spouse and children are willing to assist with small tasks like carving the meat, placing all the accompaniments in bowls, placing the bread in the basket, and so forth.

Thanksgiving Dinner Alternative Place Card Tip: Eva Ingvarson, party planning expert at Evite.com suggests creating “Photo Shoot Table Settings”.

“Ask each guest to email you a family or childhood photo of themselves,” she says. “Print out photos and put in small, inexpensive frames as a place card. This reminder of family is a nice touch for people missing loved ones on this holiday, and it provides a fun ice-breaker.”

Host a Buffet Style Dinner Party
While families are growing larger and hostesses are inviting more and more guests to the special holiday meals, a buffet style dinner party may be the perfect entertaining style for Thanksgiving. As long as you have a number of crock pots, hot plates, chafing dishes, and other small appliances to keep the food warm (as well as places to plug in these devices!), you should be all set for a fantastic buffet style meal.

As you prepare for your buffet style Thanksgiving dinner get-together, make sure you cover all the bases – main course, side dishes, bread, condiments, beverages, etc. The nice thing about a buffet style dinner party is that your guests can attend to their own tastes and appetites, leaving you to enjoy your own meal once everything is cooked and set out.

Host an Hors D’oeuvres Party
Sometimes a gourmet full-course meal just doesn’t fit the ticket. If you find that a sit-down meal or even a holiday buffet isn’t the right fit for your guest lists, why not consider an hors d’oeuvres party? You can even spice things up with special holiday cocktails or an assortment of wine, if you like. An hors d’oeuvres party gives you the flexibility to mix and mingle with your guests rather than being a slave to the kitchen for much of the event’s duration.

For your menu selection at the Thanksgiving hors d’oeuvres party, don’t be afraid to get a little creative with your food. When possible, incorporate Thanksgiving favorites like turkey, ham, and mashed potatoes into the hors d’oeuvres recipes. You might consider pierogies, turkey and cheese in a puff pastry, etc.

Here are some additional tips on throwing a Thanksgiving hors d’oeuvres party, as well as two recipes from Chef Brad Thompson of Lever House in New York City.

RECIPE: Artichoke and Bacon Spread

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Time to Table: 55 minutes
Yield: 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons artichoke mixture; 10 servings


5 slices bacon
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup finely chopped carrot
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 can (14 oz.) quartered artichoke hearts, drained
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
30 Carr’s® Table Water Roasted Garlic and Herb Crackers


1.    Crosswise cut bacon into 1/8- to 1/4-inch slivers. In large nonstick skillet cook bacon until brown and crisp. Drain off fat, reserving 1 tablespoon. Remove bacon from skillet and drain on paper towels.
2.    Return reserved bacon fat to skillet. Stir in onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in carrot. Continue cooking for 3 minutes more. Remove from heat. Stir in vinegar and rosemary.
3.    Set aside four pieces of artichoke. Stir remaining artichoke pieces into mixture in skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat until liquid evaporates. Remove from heat. Stir in salt and pepper. Cool slightly.
4.    Transfer artichoke mixture to food processor bowl. Cover and process until smooth. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Stir in half of the cooked bacon.
5.     Cut reserved artichoke pieces into thin slivers. Spoon about 2 teaspoons artichoke mixture on each cracker. Garnish with artichoke slivers and remaining cooked bacon pieces.

Wine Note: This recipe pairs well with Robert Mondavi Private Selection Pinot Noir.

RECIPE: Eggplant and Tomato Ratatouille

Prep Time: 2 hours
Time to Table: 3 hours, 15 minutes
Yield: 1 3/4 cups eggplant mixture; 14 servings


3 cloves garlic, divided
1 medium eggplant (about 1 1/4 lb.)
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon pepper, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium fennel bulb
3 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (about 2 cups total)
4 sprigs fresh basil leaves
42 small fresh basil leaves or fennel leaves (optional)
21 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (optional)
42 Carr’s® Rosemary Crackers


1.    Cut one of the garlic cloves into quarters. Very thinly slice remaining two garlic cloves. Set aside.
2.    Lengthwise cut eggplant into halves. Use sharp knife to cut 1-inch-deep diagonal cuts on flat sides of eggplant halves. Insert quartered garlic clove into cuts. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. In 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking pan place eggplant halves, cut sides up. Bake at 300°F for 30 minutes. Turn eggplant. Bake at 300°F about 1 hour or until eggplant is soft.
3.    Meanwhile, core and very thinly slice fennel bulb (you should have about 2 1/2 cups). In medium saucepan cook fennel in remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat about 10 minutes or until softened. Stir in sliced garlic. Cook and stir over medium heat about 3 minutes or until garlic is fragrant. Stir in tomato. Remove from heat.
4.    When eggplant is cool enough to handle. Scoop out and coarsely chop pulp of eggplant. Stir into mixture in saucepan. Add 4 sprigs basil. Cook, covered, over low heat for 50 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove lid. Continue cooking, uncovered, over low heat about 10 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated.
5.    Let stand at room temperature about 20 minutes. Remove basil sprigs. Stir in remaining salt and remaining pepper. To serve, spoon about 2 teaspoons of the eggplant mixture on each cracker. Garnish with fresh basil leaves and tomato halves, if desired.

Wine Note: This recipe pairs well with Robert Mondavi Private Selection Merlot.

Host a Thanksgiving Potluck….

Host a Thanksgiving Potluck
A Thanksgiving potluck dinner offers a truly integrated and interactive dining experience for your own household and all your guests. Whether you are teaming up with friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, or anyone else at all, a Thanksgiving potluck dinner can be a big hit for all involved, and you might just find some new favorite recipes. Additionally, inviting you guests to bring a covered dish, side dish, dessert, beverages, or condiment takes some of the pressure off of you as the host or hostess and even saves you some of the financial expense.

“A variation on potluck… As the host, I would roast a turkey, make mashed potatoes and dressing,” says Nancy Kirk, of PRM Associates. “Everyone else brought whatever side dish made it Thanksgiving for them — we often had five or more types of cranberries, ethnic dishes such as sweet and sour cabbage and a wide variety of pies, pickles, olives and onions. We did this when I was single and early in our marriage when we still had lots of single friends. Now that I’m widowed, I’m considering restarting the tradition.”

If you plan to host a Thanksgiving potluck dinner, you may consider coordinating your dishes or you may just leave the menu up to chance. Whatever you decide, this special holiday potluck event is sure to be one that lives on in your memory years after it transpires.

Thanksgiving Potluck Dinner Tip: Eva Ingvarson, party planning expert from Evite.com suggests, “Ask guests to email you their recipe beforehand, and create a recipe book that each guest can take home as a memento.”

Host a Thanksgiving Cocktail Party or a Thanksgiving Wine & Cheese Party
Sometimes guests gather at a special place even after the heavy eating portion of the day. Perhaps it’s your turn to be the relaxing conclusion of the Thanksgiving holiday. (Of course, you can always feature this type of event earlier in the day as well.) You may prepare a few snacks or desserts for your guests who still like to nibble, but the main focus of this type of Thanksgiving entertaining will be your beverages.

By hosting a wine and cheese party for Thanksgiving, you may be able to offer your guests an open house type environment where they can stop by for a drink or two and leave when they need to get to their next destination.

Libby Langdon, interior designer and TV personality, suggests fairly easy ways to host an outstanding wine and cheese party.

“This is a classic for a reason, during the holidays we all get pulled in a million directions and what’s easier than setting out some cheese, opening some wine and having friends over?” she says. “Choose five or six different cheeses (brie, blue, goat, Parmesan…) and choose several different accompaniments (crackers, crusty bread and crostini). Then all you have to do is style them on platters and cutting boards with bunches of grapes, bowls of olives, and sliced pears; it’s as easy as can be but all your guests will be sure to rave about the presentation.

Wine and Cheese Party Tip: “A local wine store can help you choose suitable wine pairings based on the cheese to select… light some candles, put on some music, and have fun!”

For a classy and sophisticated Thanksgiving cocktail party, consider serving your guests a fine bottle or two of port. You can look into W. & J. Graham’s Vintage Porto or Dow’s Vintage Porto in a variety of blends. Your guests will be impressed, and surely will remember your Thanksgiving cocktail party for years to come.

For more suggestions on hosting a holiday cocktail party, see: How to Host a Thanksgiving Cocktail Party.

Additional Info:
To send free e-mail invitations, visit www.evite.com.

To learn more about interior designer Libby Langdon, visit www.libbylangdon.com.

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Kathryn D'Imperio: