One night I found myself at a fancy pants soiree on the Upper East Side (Park Avenue, even) where there were candles everywhere, waiters in tails and FRIED CHICKEN. No one, no one says “no, thank you” to fried chicken, and it made for one of the most memorable parties I ever attended. Hosting your own affair doesn’t have to be all makeup running down your face in the kitchen and no fun. For a splurgy night like New Year’s Eve, try catering (so grown up!), and keep it affordable by bringing in a few great dishes and making the rest, or letting friends pitch in alongside you in the kitchen. Here are four not-astronomical ways to get the party started:
We totally get the Pies-n-Thighs hype, but something about waiting in an hour-long line makes comfort food pretty uncomfortable. Skip the queue with “The Whole Shebang”: A takeout bucket loaded with 16 pieces of chicken, two large sides, drinks and a pie (we’re partial to the bourbon pecan). Heaven help any guests who arrive late and miss the grits. ($100)
Brooklyn Fare is a standby for gourmet diddies (like every kind of olive oil you could ever want), but even the most culinary-challenged should hop over to Schermerhorn Street for trays of their signature chicken meatballs ($85) to feed crowds from eight to 30.
Cobble Hill’s Ted and Honey is a must-try (fancy Pop Tarts, we’re looking at you). But if you’re looking to feed more than can fit in the shoebox shop, check out owner Chris “Ted” Jackson’s catering venture, Parker Red, to serve dark chocolate bread pudding brioche bars ($4 per person) in the comfort of your own home.
The folks at Radish have cooked for the best of ‘em (Amazon, Vogue and the Guggenheim, thankyouverymuch), but average Janes fear not: all of their catering options are available a la carte. May all your friends and family gather round ye cranberry creme fraiche coffee cake with streusel (and then place their plates directly into the dishwasher). ($45 per pan)
Mary Kate McGrath is the editor of PureWow, which offers daily email blasts on elevating the everyday.