Holiday Drink Contest and Party Planning Tips

Holiday Drink Contest

Holiday Drink Contest

This year’s chic party theme was “Le Holiday en Blanc” where guests were fabulously dressed in winter white, the decorations were white with sparkly gold and silver accents, and the signature drink, of course, was white.

The ingredient list was posted a week prior so everyone had the opportunity to secretly submit their festive ideas for the name of our workplace holiday party’s Signature Drink. The prize was dinner for two at our favorite Southbay restaurant, Baran’s 2239. The contest created quite a buzz leading up to the party…

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Brouwerij West: A Unique Venue for Our Holiday Party

Brouwerij West along with Jay's Catering Co. provided a Unique Venue for Our Fabulous Holiday Party

It was my pleasure, once again, to host our annual Rolling Hills Country Day School holiday party. Workplace events can be challenging to plan, given the wide range in age and interests of the guests. We are so fortunate to work with a wonderful group of gracious, talented, fun people. And with the help of fabulously creative colleagues, an extraordinary caterer, a cool venue, and attention to the party details below…this gala was another huge success.

Brouwerij West along with Jay's Catering Co. provided a Unique Venue for Our Fabulous Holiday Party

Guests were invited to begin the evening at Crafted, a marketplace where local artisans sell one-of-a-kind creations, then make their way next door to Brouwerij West, a restored 1940s-era warehouse where craft beer production has recently commenced. The massive industrial building came to life with sparkling lights, glittery Christmas trees, and pizazzy beer-centric decor. Brewmaster Brian Mercer gave personalized tours of the sprawling production brewery.

Waiters passed trays of delightful fig tarts and mini beef wellingtons. A bruschetta bar where guests helped themselves to an array of toppings helped kick off the cocktail-hour where various beer tastings and wines were offered while the DJs played a mix of Christmas and party music. Jay’s Catering Company custom-designed an informal dinner buffet of delicious foods that pair well with beer. Toasts of gratitude, fond memories, and good cheer led into the holiday gift giving. After a visit to the All-American dessert bar, guests took to the dance floor where DJs Chris and Christian rocked the house.

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SuShi HoLiDaY PaRtY!

Every year, it is my absolute pleasure to plan the Holiday Party for our workplace, Rolling Hills Country Day School. This year, we kicked off the holiday season with a celebration at Sushi Sen Nari in Gardena, California. If you are within driving distance of Gardena and you love sushi, put Sen Nari on your list. From the traditional to the exotic, Sen Nari delivers!

Voted the Best Sushi

Sonny is the owner. He and his wife and the entire staff could not be more hospitable. Sonny and Carol’s daughter graduated from Rolling Hills Country Day School in 2002 so it was especially neat to hold our party in their restaurant. Many photos were taken of Jennifer’s old teachers to email back to her while she studies in Japan.

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HoLiDaY PaRtY TiMe!

Happy Holidays!

It’s holiday party time!
Are you planning a gathering for your work or business?
Perhaps some of these ideas will be useful…

For the second year in a row, we held our party at The Depot Restaurant in Torrance, California. The banquet room is a warm space with red walls decorated with kimonos. Just the right size for 75 – 100 guests, the lighting is flattering and the acoustics generate good energy in the room yet allow for conversation.

Full bar, great wine by the glass, festive non-alcoholic drinks.

Live Music
Barry Anthony Jazz Band playing Christmas favorites as well as snappy jazz tunes.

Jalapeño Cheese Wontons
Reception with passed appetizers to encourage mingling among the guests.

Ahi Tuna Tartare
Neat little bucket to place used spoons.

Chicken Empanadas with Thai Chile BBQ Sauce
Global Flavors!
 And Fried Macaroni & Cheese (not shown)

Each place is set with party favors, Holiday Jam and Sugar Plum Jam by Stonewall Kitchen decorated with ribbons and bows and a recipe sheet for the Chef’s cooking demonstration.
Chef Shafer prepares the first course, Smashed Potato Corn Bisque, as a demonstration. Everyone gets a copy of the recipe to recreate at home. We had so much fun at the Depot last year, we came back again this year. Last year Chef Shafer demonstrated a Wilted Baby Spinach Salad with Dates and Bacon, excellent recipe, here.
If you are cooking for A LOT of people, this recipe scale is for you:
  • 25 Red Skin Potatoes
  • 1/2 c. Canola Oil
  • 2.T. Course Salt
  • 2.T. Course Black Pepper
  • 2 T. Chopped Garlic
  • 1 T. Basil Dried
Soup Preparation:
  • 2 c. Diced Onion
  • 2 c. Diced Carrots
  • 2 c. Corn, Fresh off the Cob
  • 1/4 c. Canola Oil
  • 1/2 gallon Cream
  • 1 gallon Chicken or Vegetable Stock

Toss the potatoes with the list of ingredients above, roast on a baking sheet at 350° F for 35-40 minutes. Let cool then smash the potatoes by hand.

To prepare the soup:
Sauté onions and carrots in oil until soft.
Add cream, heat through.

Add smashed potatoes.

Look at this kitchen equipment, would ya? Oh, I love that pot, and how about that immersion blender!!!

Blend briefly, then add stock and heat through.
Add fresh corn kernels, salt and pepper to taste, then…

First Course: Smashed Potato Corn Bisque
Wouldn’t it be neat to recreate this demonstration for guests in your home during your next dinner party?

Main Courses:
Curry Roasted Salmon, Cashew Veggies

Roast Sirloin with Mixed Mushrooms and Mashed Potatoes
And Buttermilk Chicken & Fries (not shown)
All Served Family Style

Banana Cream Pie

Berry Cobbler
Pumpkin Trifle

Pumpkin Pie with Strawberries
Some tips I have learned over the years from planning holiday parties for the workplace:
  • Save the Date. Let guests know the date well in advance of the party.
  • Plan business party date early in the holiday season so as not to conflict with personal holiday parties.
  • Choose a convenient location, not too far from place of business.
  • Have clear communication (in writing) with the Chef regarding food and with the Manager regarding expectations for set up and service.
  • Encourage employees to bring a guest whether it be a spouse, significant other, family member, or a friend.
  • A pretty and joyful invitation indicates your intention to throw a special party.
  • Have specific start and end times (not too late).
  • Insure safe transportation.
  • Accommodate special dietary needs.
  • Full bar, good wines, special seasonal non-alcoholic drinks.
  • Live music.
  • Entertainment (We love the cooking demonstration)!
  • Employer to make a brief speech, welcome guests, share good tidings.
  • Have unique party favors to take home. (Since we have a cooking demonstration, we give food related gifts).
  • Festive atmosphere and decorations.
  • Encourage guests to wear holiday attire.
  • Pay attention to detail.
If you have holiday party tips for the workplace to share, we’d love to hear them!