A Stylish New Year’s Eve Dinner Party

Nothing brings us more pleasure than entertaining and sharing a special dinner in our home with friends. It provides a warm environment that promotes good conversation and laughter, shared with our favorite people over a thoughtfully prepared meal. 


For us, one evening in particular has been most special – New Year’s Eve. Throughout our marriage, we have ended the old year with gratitude and welcomed with anticipation the new with close friends. This is one night we pull out all the stops.


While the evening is distinctive, the game plan is not. Here are my tips for a successful evening.


Prepare your guest list.

This will help determine the type of party you will have. Choose people who are both good conversationalists and good listeners, interesting, open to meeting new people and on this evening in particular, ready to stay up a little later than usual. Keep the number of guests manageable so that everyone will have an opportunity to be with each of the other guests.


Pick a theme.  

For us, New Year’s Eve is a black-tie event. Our table is formal and opulent, with our best china, crystal, silver and candles – lots and lots of candles. It’s a perfect time to use those special pieces normally tucked away.


Caviar is a treat, and serving it beautifully in antique dinnerware makes it even

more special.


Since this is a sit-down, special dinner, I generally check with guests to ensure they will be available. If not, give thought to the next couple on your list. Then, send out invitations that reflect the type of evening it will be. It will give your guests a hint as to what to expect and certainly, how to dress. Plan their arrival a little later than usual as you’d like them to stay longer to welcome the new year.


Plan your menu. 

Check with guests to see if there are any food allergies, but be creative. This is a dinner party, not a charitable event for hundreds, and it allows you or whoever is preparing your dinner to present beautiful and unusual courses.


For a special evening like this, consider hors d’oeuvres with cocktails (one bite tidbits – approximately two per person), a first course of either soup or light pasta; a second course of fish or seafood (allergies permitting), meat such as veal, chicken or lamb; a palate cleanser such as a tiny salad of microgreens or arugula with accents of wonderful cheeses, and your finale – a dessert that is not only “pretty” but also delicious.


A small salad and cheese plate can be a perfect appetizer cleanser.


A party like this doesn’t call for comfort food, but rather something with a sense of excitement and a touch of extravagance. Your menu need not be pricey, but it should be unexpected and beautifully presented. And, because of the number of courses, each course should be small.


Concentrate on presentation. 

We use simple dishes so that the food may shine. Often, less is more. Don’t crowd the plate with unnecessary garniture or accompaniments that add nothing to the course. One would hope that every dish would come to the table and exact an audible “wow.”


Using simple plates allows the entree to star.


Unless you are among the rare individuals knowledgeable about wine, ask your chef or local wine merchant to suggest wines for each course. Share key ingredients as well as special seasonings as it will affect the wine you choose. If pairing wines with each course, plan on one glass per person, but allow for those who may want a second glass or choose to stay with one wine. If you prefer, keep it simple by offering one wonderful red and one wonderful white, appropriate to your menu.


An individual croquembouche makes a grand ending to a perfect meal.


Following dessert, offer coffee or tea in the living room, and be prepared with Champagne and glasses to toast the new year.


I have found that while I do my best to remember the details, dot each “i” and cross each “t,” once the door opens, the party takes on a life of its own. You may know the plan you’ve made, but your guests don’t. If something doesn’t happen exactly as you had hoped, you are the only one who will know. So, when the doorbell rings, take a deep breath, put on a smile to greet your guests, and enjoy your party as if you were a guest as well. And trust me, the evening will be magical.



Story by Ina Manaster, an active participant in the Valley’s community and philanthropic scene and a hostess par excellence. Photos are from previous dinner parties she and her husband, Murray, have hosted.

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