You’ve been invited to your first holiday party in your new neighborhood. Now what? We’ve got tips, tricks, recipes, and conversation starters to help you bring your A-game to your first gathering in a new town. You don’t need to be a chef to bring a lavish dish to a holiday party, but you should always inquire in advance about food allergies and dietary preferences—and be sure to accommodate any vegan/gluten-adverse/peanut-allergic hosts.
Simple + Savory
All you need is a rimmed, travel-friendly platter and a grocery shop with a decent cheese selection, and you can make an epic appetizer tray without a minute of cooking. This 10-minute cheese board primer on Damn Delicious will make you queen of the snack tray (and you’ll never have to mess with those tiny quiches ever again). If you’re hitting a more casual, kid-friendly party, take your inspiration from this Sweet and Salty Snack Board from Two Peas and Their Pod. Casually place your no-cook creation on the kitchen counter, and you’re instantly the party’s MVP.
But what if you’ve been asked to bring a salad? It’s hard to charm your neighbors with a bowl of out-of-season mixed greens, but this gorgeously composed Holiday Wild Rice Salad from The Pioneer Woman is an absolute showstopper. Tart, juicy pomegranate arils meet crisp apples and sweet grapes alongside crunchy pecans, smoky bacon, creamy cheese crumbles, and earthy wild rice. Best of all, it’s a make-ahead dish that travels really well. Party guests can dress the salad on-site with a drizzle of your homemade maple-Dijon vinaigrette.
Festive + Sweet
Bringing dessert is as simple as stopping by best neighborhood bakery and choosing the prettiest treat on display. However, if you’re excited to bake in your roomy new kitchen, get festive with these simple, fun, and very kid-friendly Santa’s Trash Cookies. Crushed pretzels and potato chips bring a salty crunch to these sweet chocolate chippers. Red and green sprinkles coat them in Christmas spirit, but you could also opt for some blue and white sprinkles for a Hanukah-themed treat.
If you’re looking to bring a little more elegance to the dessert table, try this decadent, delicious, and gluten-free Salted Dark Chocolate Tart from Gimme Some Oven. Sweetened with maple syrup, stirred with creamy coconut milk, and sprinkled with flaky sea salt crystals, this dessert is pure delight. No one will believe that it only took you 25 minutes to throw it together. (To make this tart even simpler and completely failsafe, skip the recipe’s slightly complicated almond-cocoa crust and use a store-bought graham cracker crust instead. The other guests won’t know what they’re missing.)
Everyone loves a glass of bubbly at a holiday party, but this year, ask your favorite local wine shop for a pétillant naturel or pét-nat, for short. These au courant natural wines are fizzy, but they’re less bubbly than traditional champagne. To find them, look for bottles topped with crown caps instead of corks. Any host would appreciate the Onward 2017 Pétillant Naturel, Malvasia Bianca, Capp Inn Ranch, Suisun Valley, a floral, fruity, and dry sparkler with notes of jasmine and citrus blossom.
Once you’re at the party, bring your curiosity to every conversation. Your new neighbors will love talking about their favorite spots around town, and you’ll have an opportunity to do some field research on your new locale. Where can you get the best take out? Where should you go for a night out? What would the perfect weekend in town look like? Stay positive, stay in the moment, and you may find yourself in the midst of some brand new lifelong friends.