Your guide to holiday party planning on three different budgets

The high rollers
Place your fête in these caterers’ hands and a holly jolly time will be had by all.—Megan Headley

The "Local" platter from Feast! wets your guests’ whistles with everything from cheese to chocolate. (Photo by Andrea Hubbell)

Beggar’s Banquet in Orange County offers customized menus and can do it up big or small. Favorites include bacon-wrapped smoked oysters and remoulade, zucchini sushi, and dark chocolate-salted caramel tarts. Their retail wine and beer shop means one-stop shopping and case discounts on your libations too. Visit beggarsbanquet for more info.

C&O Restaurant provides scrumptious eats for holiday get-togethers of any size. Signatures include Virginia ham on Irish cheddar scones, Asian crabcakes with pickled ginger-cilantro pesto, and crostini with local goat cheese topped with red onion marmalade and port-plumped currants. The croquembouche, which towers cream-filled profiteroles into a tree all drizzled with caramel, makes for a sweet and impressive centerpiece. Visit for more info.

Gloria Mayo and her Charlottesville-based company, Glorious Foods, caters for 30 to 150 people with delights like stuffed mushrooms, stilton-apple-leek tart, sweet potato ham biscuits, grilled beef tenderloin with horseradish sauce, and gingerbread with lemon icing. Visit gloriousfoods for more info.

The Rock Barn, Ben Thompson’s Nelson County catering outfit which also does custom pork butchery, will impress every palate with gourmet canapes like Caromont Farm chèvre with honey-poached cranberry; Hudson Valley foie gras en brioche with apricot butternut squash “risotto,” pistachio, and Parmigiano-Reggiano; and Piney River pork belly with celeriac and pumpernickel. A warm winter cocktail spikes cider with Tuaca liqueur and guilds it with gingerbread and a vanilla pirouette. Visit for more info.

The party platters
Time is short and lists are long. Impress your holiday guests with these pretty platters from around town and you’ll still have time to shake up a cocktail or two.—Tami Keaveny

Feast!’s “Local” is a combo of locally sourced fare including cheeses, country ham, peach chutney, Virginia peanuts, and chocolate. The tasty centerpiece? Sweet praline-mustard glaze over old-fashioned cream cheese topped with caramelized walnuts and served with English wheat crackers.

At Whole Foods, the shrimp platter is loaded with peeled shrimp and cocktail sauce. The “Wrapsody” is a playful spread of tortillas filled with chicken (buffalo-style, BBQ, or curried) turkey, smoked salmon and veggies. Or opt for the traditional London Broil, prepared medium-rare and served with grilled onions, portobello mushrooms, and saffron aioli.

Relay Foods connects you to local producers with a click of the computer. Their pre-populated list titled “Local Holiday Platter” carts together artisanal cheeses, salami, baguettes, and greens. Under “vendors,” Meryem’s Bakery offers trays of Mediterranean goodies like dolmas, red lentil-bulgur kofte, and baklava.

Sweethaus Candy and Cupcake Shop will inspire visions of sugarplums with a tiered stand of mini cupcakes in adventurous flavors (like Mexican hot chocolate), complete with your choice of tiny edible sugar decorations.

Order Harris Teeter’s “Just Desserts” —miniature tiramisu, cheesecake, macaroons, and pastries—then set yourself up for the morning after with their “Cinnamon Sunrise,” featuring fresh baked cinnamon rolls surrounded by fresh fruit.

Say cheese! Whip up a batch of these straws for your next soirée. (Photo by Andrea Hubbell)

The D.I.Y.-ers
Your guests won’t have a clue that the money you saved on these thrifty yet elegant nibbles is buying something other than socks for the kiddos this year.—Meredith Barnes

Pair amber slices of guava paste (available at La Guadalupana and other area Latino markets) with ricotta salata cheese for a cheaper alternative to Spanish quince paste and Manchego. Garnish the plate with a few pieces of candied whole fruit, like figs and hollowed-out oranges.

Make a chickpea spread that’s as satisfying as hummus without the pricey tahini. Blend one can of drained and rinsed chickpeas with a clove of garlic, 1/4 tsp. of fresh rosemary, and 2 tbs. of olive oil in a food processor or blender until smooth. Sprinkle with smoked Spanish paprika and serve with sliced, toasted baguette or pita chips.

Bake a batch (or several—they’ll go fast) of cheese straws: Roll out store-bought puff pastry using finely grated cheese (such as Parmigiano-Reggiano or aged cheddar) to dust the work surface and rolling pin. Cut into 1/2 inch strips using a pizza cutter, twist, and bake at 375 degrees until golden. Serve in tall glasses.


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