Between now and the end of the year, I’m sure many of you will be going to Christmas parties with friends and family—or perhaps hosting a holiday gathering yourself. A couple of days ago, I gave you some tips on how to put together a fabulous cheese board for your fête, and today I bring to you six seasonal drinks for a flavorful Christmas party. What’s your preferred holiday beverage? Let us know in the comments!
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When planning my holiday party each year, I have some standard party dishes that are my go-to recipes, such as a variety of quinoa salads, edamame dip or hummus, stuffed mushrooms, crostini topped with veggies or fruit, and of course some type of dessert. Since folks are nibbling on food for several hours at my parties, I like to balance these lighter, mostly veggie-centric dishes with a lovely and hearty cheese board.
Not only is the cheese board always popular with my friends, but I just adore cheese! I enjoy trying new fromage, and a cheese board is a fun way for you and your guests to sample new cheeses without having to purchase a whole big piece or wheel for only yourself. Plus—and maybe I’m just a cheese nerd—it’s fun to experience and discuss new cheeses with loved ones.
To select the cheeses for my board, I usually stick to 3 or 4 farmstead or artisan cheeses, and I try to have a variety of flavours and textures. If you’re serving a few options, it’s a general rule of thumb to have one soft, one semi-hard, and one aged cheese. If your crowd enjoys the veined stuff, you can also include a blue cheese. When picking your fromage, you can also have diversity by selecting cheeses made from different milks [cow, goat, sheep]. And if making the cheese selection yourself seems overwhelming, talk to your local cheesemonger! They are very knowledgeable and would be more than happy to help you choose some delicious and interesting cheeses.
Here are a few cheeses I’ve been savouring recently to give you some ideas to get started:
Fresh Mozzarella [And it would be too messy for a cheese board, but I also highly recommend mozzarella's creamy sibling burrata—it's amazing!]
Photo: Whole Foods
If you aren’t used to purchasing farmstead or artisan cheeses, you might have a little bit of sticker shock at first since nicer cheeses are pricier than your regular ol’ supermarket brand cheese. But trust me, they’re worth the higher price! If you’re wanting to venture into the world of artisan cheese, head to Whole Foods between now and 24 December, as they are currently celebrating 12 Days of Cheese. [That's my kind of holiday!] During this event, a different artisan cheese will be half-off each day. Today’s fromage is Pheasant Ridge Reserve from Uplands Cheese Company, about which Whole Foods says: “The only three-time winner of the American Cheese Society Best of Show, this cheese has a sweet, broth-like flavor with notes of butterscotch and fruit.” Yum! Tomorrow’s cheese is Le Gruyère, and Monday’s is Cypress Grove Chevre’s Truffle Tremor, so Whole Foods is highlighting quite a range of delicious cheeses. To see the full list, read descriptions of the different cheeses, and find beer/wine pairing notes, see here.
There are loads of different options for the actual board itself, from a marble slab to a wooden ampersand to even a slice of acacia. However, my favourite platter for serving cheese is my slate board from Brooklyn Slate. A unique serving dish, the slab of slate is as striking as it is beautiful. Plus, you can write the cheese names or festive messages on the board with the included soapstone pencil.
Honeycomb [Try a small piece with spicy cheese and a slice of green apple—divine!]
Mixed olives, such as Kalamata, Castelvetrano, and Cerignola
Assorted crackers, crostini, or sliced baguette
You’ll want to base your accompaniments on what cheeses you’re featuring, so perhaps membrillo and Marcona almonds with manchego or cornichons and slices of baguette with Gruyère. And don’t get upset if a guest uses the “wrong” accompaniment with a cheese—they’re just experimenting and could come up with a delicious new flavour combination!
This wonderful cheese knife guide from Castello is an easy reference for which type of knife you should use with which cheese. For even more information, see here.
It’s rare, but if you have any cheese left over after your party, I recommended wrapping each cheese separately in cheese storage paper or placing each cheese in a cheese storage bag from Formaticum. The paper used for these items is specifically designed for storing fromage, and they allow cheese to breathe while at the same time retaining humidity to keep the cheese from drying out.
What is your favourite cheese? If you have a recommendation, please let me know in the comments, as I’m always looking for new cheeses to try!
Whether it’s 30°C or 0°C, I absolutely love eating ice cream. When Raymond and I travel, we have such a great time sampling local frozen treats, such as patbingsu in South Korea or Ghirardelli ice cream in San Francisco. When the seasons change, some ice cream purveyors release special edition flavours just for the holidays. Two of my favourite things—Christmas and ice cream—brought together? Yes, please!
For my fellow ice cream enthusiasts, I have compiled a list of some shops and restaurants that are featuring festive flavours this holiday season. While some of these icy indulgences might seem pricy compared to your typical supermarket offerings, trust me, they’re worth it, as nothing quite beats artisanal ice cream.
Columbus • Cleveland • Nashville • Chicago • Atlanta • Charleston • L.A. • St. Louis • Online
On any number of occasions, I have had ice cream from Jeni’s, and I can vouch that it is indeed splendid! Jeni’s Splendid Holiday Collection features complex, unique flavours, such as The Matterhorn [wildflower honey ice cream with white chocolate flakes and smoky almonds] and Spiced Sweet Cream: Holiday Notes [cardamom, Peru balsam, fenugreek, and vanilla]. The whole collection includes:
If you live in—or will be visiting—Columbus, Cleveland, Nashville, Chicago, Atlanta, Charleston, Los Angeles, or St. Louis, you can also visit a Jeni’s scoop shop to pick up a pint or try a trio on a handmade waffle cone. Find your nearest scoop shop here.
With 4 scrumptious vegetarian burgers on the menu, Gourmet Burger Kitchen is my favourite spot to grab a burger when I’m in the UK. What’s more, they have really tasty milkshakes, including a gingerbread cookie dough and clotted cream ice-cream milkshake [£4.75]. Find a GBK location near you and enjoy this seasonal shake.
From humble beginnings in Madison Square Park to now a global empire, Shake Shack has introduced a trio of holiday shakes that are available through 1 January. Choose between Chocolate Peppermint, Christmas Cookie, or Pumpkin Pie [$5.79]. On sale at all U.S. locations except stadiums and JFK airport, find your nearest Shack here.
Atlanta • Athens • Charleston • Charlotte • Greenville • Nashville • Richmond • Savannah • Online
The mission of Atlanta-based King of Pops is “to introduce the community to frozen happiness on a stick,” and they do just that with their artisan popsicles, which are quite tasty. This year you can grab their pack of exclusive holiday flavours: Gingerbread, White Chocolate Peppermint, Eggnog, and Apple Cider. This pop pack is available online for $15 or at their locations around the Southern U.S.
If you live near Atlanta, you can also stop by King of Pops Bar & Good Grub at Ponce City Market. Here you can get pop dipped in chocolate or a poptail, which is exactly what is sounds like—a cocktail with a pop in it. Yum!
Selling gelato that is 100% natural, GROM has locations all over Italy, and on my trips there, I have been known to visit GROM more than once, as gelato is most definitely a requirement during any holiday to Italy. This Christmas season, they are serving several festive flavours, such as Panettone, Marrons Glacés [candied chestnuts], and Caramello al Sale [caramel with Himalayan pink salt]. If you’re in Italy or will be visiting Italy this December, check out Il Natale di GROM for their fun advent calendar, and find a location to enjoy some gelato yourself.
What is your favourite ice cream treat during the holiday? Is there another creamery I should know about? Let me know in the comments!
Whether you say “Gleðileg Jól” to the Yule Lads while eating möndlugrautur [Christmas rice pudding] or “Fröhliche Weihnachten” to Christkind while snacking on vanillekipferl [cresent-shaped almond cookies], the holiday season is full of delicious food and fun times with family and friends. To learn more about how folks celebrate Christmas the world over, check out the infographic below!
Click on the image for a closer look! Infographic via Lemonly
Everyone knows that an elf’s four food groups are candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup. To some people that may sound like a sugar overdose, but to us elves, that sounds wonderful. This Cyber Monday, your sweet tooth is getting an upgrade because these fancy sweets are on sale today! Stock up and get some goodies to give as hostess gifts, family gifts, or stocking stuffers.
The top-notch sweets at Sugarfina are candies at their finest. This holiday bento box comes with 8 different candies, including candy cane caramels, mini gingerbread men, pumpkin pie caramels, and champagne bubbles. And when you spend $75 today, you’ll receive a Cheers 3pc Bento Box with code HOLIDAYCHEERS. Valid 11/28 only.
All of us elves up here at the North Pole really enjoy making things both at work and in our spare time. As such, it shouldn’t be a surprise that we really love learning about creative projects from folks all around the world—whether it’s yummy food, novel products, or unique holiday cards. So, it’s time once again this year to highlight some fabulous festive projects that are currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, a website whose mission is “to help bring creative projects to life.”
If you and your family cut your own Christmas tree each year, the Christmas TreeTransporter will help you easily and securely haul the tree on top of your car. This reusable carrier protects the roof of your car from scratches and sap, plus it makes the tree easy to carry.
Countdown to Christmas with a box of twelve gorgeous, artisanal chocolates from Salt Confectionery. Each box contains a dozen handmade chocolate pyramids made from premium Belgium white or dark chocolate and includes flavours such as strawberry, matcha, Oreo, and almond macadamia. Yum!
The ToyTree is a Christmas tree designed specifically for babies and toddlers. This expandable tree is a safe, fun, and educational toy that includes lights, music, and toys, so it would be perfect for the home, Sunday school classroom, or daycare.
Handmade using a variety of woods—such as zebrano, oak, ash, and alder—these holiday cards feature accents of beeswax, copper, and watercolour. With 3D and movable elements, these cards are small works of art.
Looking for a modern take on a Christmas tree? Then check out the One for One Christmas EcoTree from MIO, which has a fun and unique tool-free, hardware-free, modular design. Made from recycled, FSC-certified cardboard, the EcoTree is easy to assemble and store. What’s more, for every tree sold, MIO will donate a tree to a family in need via Toys for Tots.
The closer it gets to Christmas, the more I think about all the yummy foods I’ll be eating this holiday season. Surely I’m not the only one who is salivating over such thoughts, right? I’m particularly excited to try out a few new recipes, such as the yule log. Depending on how it turns out (and how my family responds to it), it might become a “must-have” Christmas dessert!
I also like to keep things lively at family gatherings, so I’m going to tuck away some facts from this infographic so I can pop a few trivia questions at Christmas dinner. Speaking of Christmas dinner, did you know that 50% of people have a gene that makes Brussels sprouts taste bitter? So, if half your family hates sprouts, now you know why!
To learn more fun facts and stats about some British Christmas foods, click on the infographic below.
Click on the image for a closer look! Infographic via The Fact Site
I’m sure someone somewhere has already said this, but I declare hot chocolate the official beverage of Christmas! Perhaps you like a good ol’ plain cup of hot cocoa… There’s nothing wrong with that, but I often want to snazz things up a bit and treat my taste buds to a sweet mouth-watering treat. This handy infographic is a quick-reference guide for custom cocoa creations. Enjoy!
Click on the image for a closer look! Infographic via SheKnows.com
Do you have a yummy recipe that’s not on the list? Let us know in the comments below or add your special recipe to Mrs. Claus’ Cookbook!
Since we elves enjoy making things at work and in our spare time, we love creative projects from other folks as well—be it new products, joyful music, or delicious food. So, it’s time once again this year to highlight some fabulous festive projects that are currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, a website whose mission is “to help bring creative projects to life.”
If you have an artificial Christmas tree, but can’t stand the green pole at the base, then the Christmas Tree Hugger is for you! The flexible hugger wraps around the pole and features a classic brown bark, white birch bark, or candy cane design.
Permanent and weather-resistant, you can easily install EverLights once and then enjoy them for years to come. Plus, you can customize the colours and sequence of the lights using the included smartphone app. After the Christmas season, you can change the lights’ colours to celebrate other holidays or even to match the colours of your favourite sports team!
Learn more about the EverLights Kickstarter campaign here.
These hand-printed tree posters are perfect if you live in a small space and don’t have room for a Christmas tree. Simply hang the poster on the wall and decorate with stickers, markers, or paper ornaments!
IKEA stores all over the world are hosting several events this holiday season that will put you in the Christmas spirit. As you may know, IKEA was founded in Sweden, and therefore, many of their events are inspired by Swedish traditions. The whole family can enjoy a variety of activities, such as julbord, breakfast with Santa, gingerbread house decorating, and more!
The julbord is an all-you-can-eat Swedish feast that includes traditional dishes like herring, smoked salmon, meatballs with lingonberries, and more. To finish off your delicious dinner, you’ll enjoy some sweets and glögg (mulled wine). In order to nosh at this spectacular smörgåsbord, you will need to purchase your ticket(s) in advance, so contact your local store.
Santa will be making public appearances at several IKEA stores this year! Children of all ages can meet Santa and even take a photo with him, so be sure to bring your camera. In some stores, Santa will be in the restaurant, so you and your children can even sit and eat breakfast with him.
Try your hand at piping icing and adorning a gingerbread house with candies at IKEA’s gingerbread decorating contest. If you win the prize for the best decorated house, you can brag to your family and friends!
One of the other events that you may be able to attend is the St. Lucia procession—a Swedish Christmas tradition where Lucia leads a procession of lights as Swedish Christmas carols are sung.
Please note that events vary from store to store, so you’ll want to check your local store for a list of events. Click here to find a store in the USA or here to find an international store.
St. Lucia Celebration
Saturday, 13 December: 9:30am
Again, this is not a complete list of events at IKEA stores. To find events and activities at the store nearest you, check online. Click here to find a store in the USA or here to find an international store.