Here we are again. Just a few weeks ahead the holiday season (although in theory, that has started in Thanksgiving). So, while everybody is complaining about the economy, squeezes in the crowds to grab the amazing Armani or CK piece at the sample sale and can't stop thinking about the climate change meeting in Copenhagen - you still have to invite your friends on New Year's eve. Ah! Your bank account has been on a diet for a while but your friends would like some comfort food (if not fancy) and some refreshing and colorful cocktails! So, this is the challenge. How can you make it?
I want to help you so here are my tips after serious thinking ....here I am:
1. Avoid fancy, high-end supermarkets and gourmet delis for your grocery shopping, including Whole Foods (otherwise known as Whole Paycheck). You know it that they are overpriced but as they are on your way, you just go there. Well, don't. Stick with your local markets and ethnic stores for quality food that won't break the bank. Trade Fair in Queens (NY residents) is an economical solution for international cuisine foods (some are gourmet but not fancy). In Trade Fair you will easily find: Greek Honey from Greece, Fig Marmalade from Syria, Coffee from Colombia, Spices from India, kosher meats and many food items at v. affordable prices.
2. I will repeat myself but avoid fancy patisseries for desserts. Instead of buying the must-have of the season -macarons- at the French bakery, just get them frozen at Trader Joe's (Macarons a la parisienne, $5.99). You will get 12 macarons that only need 30 minute defrosting. And they are super tasty!
3. Avoid buying anything plastic (plates, forks etc). Use your glassware and silverware. It is better for the environment, and an elegant touch that guests will notice. It's also an inexpensive way to host because you use your existing kitchen utensils (reminder: you will have to do the washing-up afterwards).
4. Make it a potluck. So, ask your friends to bring something each: a bottle of wine, a cake or a big, green salad. Every little helps!
5. Use small portions of tasty foods for appetizers: mix nuts with spices, make a simple salsa dip with tomatoes and peppers, grill a few slices of a baguette or bake chickpeas with lemon for an alternative snack.
6. Replace Champagne with a fresh, sparkling wine from Italy (Prosecco). It costs less and is a better solution for limited budgets. And if you add a bit of Fragoli liqueur (with the tiny, red berries floating), you have a fancy cocktail asap.
7. Finally, don't worry! Everything will be fine. Your friends will appreciate your company and your genuine effort to entertain them. You don't need a $50 bottle of Veuve Clicquot to impress nor a pot of luxurious caviar (who knows, they may bring you some). What is important is the act of sharing. This will stay for ever.