1 Night, 2 Plans

How to welcome the New Year with the whole gang or with just the two of you

Focus On New Year's Eve

December 28, 2003|By Lori Sears | Lori Sears,SUN STAFF

You've decided. This New Year's Eve you're going to entertain. Play host. Create the meal, choose the music, decorate the table, put up the festive decorations, pick out the games, do it all.

You'd like to throw a jovial bash, invite about a dozen of your close pals, have fun all night and party into 2004.

Or perhaps you'd like to keep it simple. Make it an intimate evening for two, usher in the New Year with elegance, style and lots of romance.

You have four days. You can make it happen. So, what's it going to be?

A FESTIVE, ROLLICKING PARTY ...

Food: Go with one dish that's substantial, such as a ham or a smoked turkey, says Stevenson party planner Elizabeth Bailey. Pick up some rolls from your grocery store and let guests make mini-sandwiches. Or go with miniature crab cakes on Bremner wafers.

Complement that with cheeses, fresh fruits and fresh vegetables from the supermarket. But forget the celery sticks and carrots. Go for unusual vegetables like asparagus and snow peas.

Party planner Sherri Kronthal of Pikesville reminds hosts: "You don't want to spend your night in the kitchen. Be as much a guest with your guests."

Dessert: Get a tray of mini pastries or an array of flavored brownies from your favorite bakery. Or, you can't miss with chocolate truffles from Kirchmayr Chocolatier in Timonium.

Drinks: It's a must to serve champagne with the truffles. Bailey recommends picking up a nice Roederer Brut or a Chateau St. Michelle.

Stock the bar, but don't overdo it. Choose vodka, rum, whiskey and a good beer. Want to be hip? The hottest vodka on the market is Belvedere vodka, Bailey says.

And don't forget the coffee. You can get a silver samovar that will hold about 25 cups of coffee from a party rental store.

Music: "Start the music on a mellow key, then increase the energy," says Bailey. Put on an Andrea Bocelli CD at the start of the party. Then switch over to a bit of Michael Buble. Later, put on a rockin' Bruce Springsteen disc or a Rolling Stones album or even some Beatles. Bailey says that the changes in the music will subconsciously affect the guests for the better. But don't make it too loud or it will overpower the party, Kronthal says.

Entertainment: Try Identity Crisis, a game of honesty, or Blind Ignorance, a game of mystery identity, both by Lagoon Games and available at www.familyboardgames.com or the Hannah Elizabeth Collection at Green Spring Station in Lutherville.

For even more fun, consider getting a gaming table, says party planner Saundra Phillips of the Alan Agency in Owings Mills. She (or any party planner) can organize it for you with no trouble.

To make the evening complete, hire a fortuneteller to read palms and give guests their fortunes for the new year. "You want something other than eating and talking at the party. You want to have a happening," Phillips says.

Decorations: Put up a "Happy New Year" sign on the front door and banners around the living room and dining room. Pick out festive linens from a party store. And for fun, Bailey says, get some humorous cocktail napkins with cutesy / risque pictures and words.

Pick up unscented candles for decoration, since you don't want the smell of candles to overtake the aroma of the foods.

"People eat with their eyes first. So you want your environment as nice as possible," Kronthal says.

And don't resist -- you have to have party horns and the silly, sparkly hats. Set them down at each guest's seat at the table for them to use as much or as little as they like.

The final countdown: Yes, it is OK to flip on the TV and catch Dick Clark. But wait until the last moment. And, Bailey suggests, at the final countdown, put on those silly hats, grab your party horn, and then toss some confetti and blow some bubbles. You, as host, should pass around trays of champagne.

Remember: Everybody should enjoy the night. Pick foods, music and games you know will be a hit.

... OR A PRIVATE LITTLE AFFAIR

Food: Go fancy. Pick prepared favorites like salmon or lobster or crab cakes from an upscale grocery store or gourmet shop, or go to a caterer, Kronthal suggests. Most importantly, make it so that all you have to do is heat it up. "Your time and attention should be directed to your significant other," Kronthal says.

Dessert: It's time to be decadent, say all the party planners. Consider picking out two individual petit chocolate cakes for each of you. Or split something delectable. Patisserie Poupon has a scrumptious hazelnut cake. Or Dangerously Delicious Pies has a gooey chocolate caramel pecan pie.

Drinks: Champagne is a must. Kronthal says, try Veuve Cliquot Yellow Label. And toast each other all night.

Music: Put the romance to a higher level and hire a musician, Phillips suggests. Imagine being serenaded all night by a sweet violin. If you have a piano, consider getting a pianist. They'll play requests and play as long as you like. Find a musician from a club you frequent, or give a party planner a call.

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