With jam-packed schedules (parties and get-togethers, anyone?), crowded malls, and non-stop heavy traffic, the term holiday rush can become all too real for many – plus the stress that comes with it. All the more if you are hosting a party or two at your home!
Celebrity chef, writer, host, and brand ambassador Stephanie Zubiri-Crespi, cherishes her love for traveling and her roles as loving wife to husband Jonathan and mom to her two boys – Sebastian, 5, and Maximilian, 1. This self-described wino and foodie is known for her prowess in the kitchen and her hosting skills. Her Instagram and website posts are beautifully curated to serve as lifestyle pegs for her followers, many of who are young mothers too.
Charming and gracious (not to mention, a great cook!), Stephanie is an effortless host. But being a busy working mom, for Stephanie, the keyword when entertaining guests in one’s home is “fuss-free.” “I think the most important thing is to be relaxed,” she says. There’s nothing worse than going into someone’s house and they’re panicked and harassed. You [as a guest] get stressed out also, and you actually feel like you’re imposing on them. My trick is to make at least one thing, whether it’s a really amazing dip, or a nice dessert, or a yummy canapé – one thing that’s your own. And then everything else you can order in if that’s going to keep you from being stressed out. And make sure that you have a good music playlist!”
One way to make guests feel at home is to ask them to help do simple tasks, like opening a bottle of wine, or helping bring a dish out to the dining table, or cutting the bread. “Because you’re not a hotel or a restaurant, and you’re welcoming someone into your home. Which means you want to make them feel like family,” she adds.
A perfect party is a combination of good food, ambiance, and company. For the past few years, Stephanie and Jonathan have hosted the Crespi Christmas Cocktail on the evening of December 25. “[That’s] one tradition that we’ve started having at our house because my husband is an expat, and we’ve had many friends who’ve found themselves alone on Christmas – like they can’t go home and they have no family here,” says Stephanie. “It’s open house; anyone who wants to come is welcome. We’ve had our family, friends, visiting relatives – they come over and have drinks, and it’s usually a really fun evening.”
For the Christmas Cocktail, Stephanie has a tried-and-tested menu that she usually does, doing most of the prepping on December 23 so she’s relaxed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day itself. “The key is to plan a menu that is fuss-free.”
When it comes to party drinks, Stephanie goes for value-for-money, “Especially when you’re hosting a lot of people, you need to be generous,” she says. “You need to serve one sparkling wine, like a Proseccos, and then a nice, easy-drinking red wine. I usually like Grenache-based wines for a party because it’s not too heavy or complicated and it goes with almost all the food. For white wine, Sauvignon Blanc works really well, or Pinot Grigio. There are some well-priced ones.” Her pro tip? “I ask my guests to bring a bottle. That’s their entrance fee! (Laughs) Some people bring in gin, some bring vodka, then we set up a bar and they just drink whatever they want. And don’t forget, beer is also a crowd-pleaser! I just serve them in nice beer glasses.”
This year, the Crespis are spending Christmas with Stephanie’s mom’s family. “I will do Christmas Brunch,” shares Stephanie. “I’ll do a Frittata, maybe a Croissant Bread Pudding, a bunch of pastries, and maybe a roast or stews. This would involve a little bit more cooking. But it’s still fuss-free because there are a lot of things you can prepare for ahead of time. Your pastries and desserts can be ordered ahead, and you can make the mix of the Frittata ahead and just pop it in the oven on the day of.”
When it comes to fuss-free cooking, Stephanie knows what a big difference a good stove and oven makes. Her Bertazzoni La Germania cooking range is not only beautiful to look at, but also very functional. “I’m happy because the fire is good and precise. Whether you’re doing slow-cooking or when you need to sear something, you need the pan to either get hot really fast or have a gentle, slow heat,” says Stephanie. “The oven is great as well. For me, the size is so important. Because when you’re feeding a lot of people, a big oven makes a big difference because you can do a lot of things at the same time. I can bake and cook and roast – or even just keep things warm.”
Armed with the right knowledge and tools, you’ll have all you need to make every party you host a success!
For more hosting tips, delicious recipes, and kitchen hacks, check out Stephanie’s book, Feast with Me. The book is designed to let you try flavors of the world from the comforts of your home with a lot of travel stories and table-setting inspirations.
Check out @stephaniezubiri on Instagram and www.stephaniezubiri.com for more cooking and styling inspirations, and tips on how to make the holiday entertaining a fun, memorable, and stress-free one. For more info on Bertazzoni La Germania, go to ph.lagermania.com.