Dos and don’ts for hosting a swingin’ soiree.
Planning an open house? In charge of the holiday office party? Need some ideas? Times have changed and so have options for food and entertaining. We’ve asked two of Salt Lake’s most popular, in-demand and very busy caterers and event planners to share tips on how to make any gathering a success. Whether it’s a small, intimate gathering or the Governor’s Ball, they have seen it all and have kept up on all the trends in cuisine, decor and themes.
Culinary Crafts: “Start by Thinking Big”
Culinary Crafts has a gorgeous website with videos showcasing the catering company’s “exciting and sometimes dangerous adventures in food.” Marketing manager Meagan Crafts Price offers the following tips for your next hospitality event:
Use food as entertainment: Create action stations where chefs can demonstrate flaming, sautéing, carving, baking or making sushi. Arrange a cooking class for hands-on fun and give aprons as a party favor guests can use on the spot.
Local products are a draw: Culinary Crafts sources as much locally as possible to introduce new foods to guests. Local favorites include Beehive Cheese, Heber Valley Cheese, Amano Chocolate, Slide Ridge Honey, Vertical Farms, Red Rock Pistachios, Real Salt and Creminelli salami (all available at Harmons).
Tastings are big! Choose from many possibilities of individual products such as chocolate, cheese, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, salt, whiskey, wines and salamis.
Drinks deserve as much attention as food: Have a mixologist or sommelier demonstrate how to make a craft cocktail. Create your own single batch cocktail/mocktail or eggnog ahead of time.
Coffee stations that feature a variety of beans, grinding and brewing methods: Create the same for hot chocolate, and besides whipped cream and marshmallows, consider pots of peanut butter, Nutella, chili powder, cinnamon, homemade ganache, orange zest, pumpkin pie spice, maple syrup, caramel, or lavender as add-ins.
Design with rich colors: Crafts Price says decor has moved away from the rustic and soft to insanely rich colors. To keep your party hip this season, replace the white, red and green with black or slate grey as your base. Then add pops of deep colors like wine and army green.
Keepsakes: It is nice to send your guests away with an item for remembrance of the occasion. “The photo booth has been done to death,” Crafts Price says. Nevertheless, if you still like the idea of photos, consider the “Silver Still,” which is printed on metal and one your guests can keep forever. A videographer can film your event and edit it down to a 3- to 5-minute video that you can share on social media. The screen-printing company The Hex Press (instagram.com/thehexpressprinting) will come to your event and print custom shirts for guests. Many shops offer a custom brand party favor such as a cedar plank or wooden spoon.
Don’t over-DIY. Crafts Price’s rule is to prepare as much as you want to on your own, but if you need to do it the week of your party, get some help. She says there is a whole industry out there at the ready to do just that.
Start by thinking big. “Sometimes your budget gets in the way of your creativity,” Crafts Price says. “Often you start small and then keep adding things to your event until you reach your budget.” This actually doesn’t let you stretch your budget as far as you could, she says.
Better to start big, she says. “Think of everything you could possibly want to do as extravagantly as you want,” she says. “Then, find where you can trim. Use upscale disposables instead of china, do a buffet instead of a plated meal, do tapas instead of a full meal, cut from a full bar to a beer and wine bar. Get more quotes from other vendors. Each cut will let you feel like you are saving money and only making compromises you can live with and love!”
357 W. 200 South, Ste. 100, SLC
LUX Catering and Events:
“People Expect Entertainment”
“First impressions matter,” says Chris Sanchez, director of catering and events at LUX Catering and Events, and the customer-reception area at LUX makes it clear that the company attends to all the details. Visitors sit comfortably while watching a flat screen scrolling through vibrant photos of previous catered events, highlighting food, place settings, venues and unique flower arrangements created in-house. A small dining area is set up where clients can sample foods along with place settings. A floor-to-ceiling display case shows an array of dish sets, glass- and stemware and utensils.
Invitations: According to Sanchez, written invitations are rare these days. Better to start off with a funny, mysterious, beautiful or animated one that will define the intent of the occasion using sites like Evite.com, or create a website for your event at sites such as Minted.com.
Theme parties help to organize your event and guide all aspects from food service to décor. The theme also alerts guests to the expected style of dress.
Set the mood: When guests arrive, set the mood and purpose with a sensory experience that involves decor, color, lighting, fragrance, sound and a taste of what can be expected. Sanchez likes to have a progression of movement from the entry point to where beverages are served, then on to seating with light refreshments, then to the dinner setting and, later, a place to relax and visit. Guests appreciate the ease with which the event flows.
Seasonal/local cuisine. LUX sources as much locally produced and sustainably grown food and beverage as possible. This lends itself well to the simplicity of preparation, so guests can savor the product. It also encourages seasonal foods for the menu and, because some growers, such as Utah-based StrongVerticalGardens.com, are using indoor methods, local microgreens are now available during winter months. In winter, LUX makes use of pickled and brined selections mixed strategically in small shot-glass size tastings with other complementary veggies. When asked how he accommodates gluten free and vegetarian needs, Sanchez shared that the chefs at LUX have converted recipes to use cornstarch instead of flour and vegetable proteins instead of animal proteins, respectively.
Office tunes and games. For an office gathering, Sanchez thinks food stations and tasting tables are ideal. In addition, he said, “People expect entertainment,” such as a band, casino party tables, a photographer with a green screen so guests can pick their background and/or short games where the accounting department can try to best the marketing department. A lounge area is nice, too.
Open houses are passé. Instead, Sanchez suggests a reception-style atmosphere where people arrive at a certain time to enjoy refreshments along with entertainment and activities. LUX does a lot of these events with nonprofits during the holidays.
1578 S. 300 West, SLC