New Year’s Eve Afternoon Celebration Buffet
New Year’s Eve can be a big party night for you, a time for quiet reflection, or a time to gather with family and friends for traditional events (First Run, Last Night, New Year’s at the family cabin, or some other traditional event). I like to invite friends and family over in the late afternoon, from 3:00-6:00 for an informal, drop in, Open House. The tradition started many years ago when my college roommate and I hosted our first New Year’s Eve Open House. This year I decided it was time to invite my family and new friends from Astoria to my home. The idea for me is to share some good food, conversation, music, and good cheer. It’s a great way to have some fun with old and young alike. Everyone can come and go at will, and I’ve planned a nice buffet to fortify my guests before their New Year’s Eve plans.
Buffets are great ideas for informal gatherings when people will be coming and going at different times. The menu for an open house buffet might include any of the following:
A pot of homemade soup
A large green salad
An assortment of baked goods
Coffee, tea, water
Sparkling water and champagne to toast (just enough for one glass and a well-timed toast).
I have picked several recipes that I think would be easy, appetizing, and satisfying for a cold winter’s afternoon.
Lentil Soup with Spinach and Potatoes
Pureed Brocolli Soup (no cream recipe)
Chili Con Carne
Homemade Vegetable and Beef Soup
White Chile and Chicken Soup
One of my favorite hostesses, Linda Houts of Carmel, has dinner parties in the winter, and always fixes a large pot of homemade soup. She provides bread, drinks, and a couple of side dishes, but much of the food is brought by her guests. Already people have
told me they are bringing food and drink. It’s my experience that when someone opens their home and heart to guests, there is always enough to go around.
Since I’m usually away staying with my family at Christmas each year, I seldom decorate for the holidays. The New Year’s Afternoon Open House provides the perfect occasion to hang some Christmas lights, light some candles, and pull out my best linens, china, and glassware. It also gives me an opportunity to dress up. For those of us with children and grandchildren, it is fun to have activities that everyone can attend, and it somewhat guarantees that the children will be fed with the least of amount of hassle before Mom and Dad go out for the evening. My granddaughter loves it when we set a beautiful table, and cooking a meal for each other or company is a family tradition that we love to do in ways that may not necessarily be as traditional, but then our traditions can become part of a new tradition.
If inviting children, you might want to have a couple of children-friendly dishes (consult with little ones ahead of time to see what they would like). That might mean Mac and Cheese, a favorite soup, or mini pizzas (English Muffins covered with marinara sauce, a little cheese, and favorite toppings). Provide a sparking drink or pink lemonade with a little parasol or fun straw. I always have a bowl of fresh fruit including apples, oranges cut in wedges, pears, and grapes (or whatever is in season).
When I really have my act together, I make jam. I can raspberry jam in small jars, and present the jam as a little present to each guest. It’s not necessary, and I don’t always do it, but it is a little joy that I take pleasure in doing.
If you feel your guests might need entertainment, you might pull out the board games, scrabble, or some cards. Children especially enjoy having something to do while everyone else talks. I’ve asked my guests to bring a musical instrument if they wish, and we plan on making a little music together.
You might be planning a buffet for New Year’s Day when guests gather to watch the bowl games. All the ideas for a New Year’s Afternoon Open House buffet will work for both occasions.