“The entertaining is going to be very important to us. I want to make it warmer, more gracious, more distinguished.” — Jacqueline Kennedy to Letitia Baldrige, In the Kennedy Style

Once settled in the White House, Jacqueline Kennedy hosted intimate dinners for up to 20 guests at a time, sparking a trend across the United States for small black-tie dinners. You may not have access to a White House chef, but advance planning, attention to detail and a thoughtful seating plan will ensure a memorable evening for all involved — especially when your guests unwind and get cozy by candlelight.

The decor
“For a layered look, use white on white and lots of sparkly reflective surfaces,” suggests Timothy Mather, owner of TM Design. “Pull out your best china and silverware … your granny’s antique silver cutlery will tarnish less the more you use it! Add a dash of the unexpected — silver glitter dust, costume jewellery or crystal beads — to stop the dinner from becoming too stuffy.” Dim lighting is key for atmosphere, and candles are especially flattering.

The music
Key Word: Crooners

The Ten Tenors are international stars from Australia who have amazed audiences for years with their youthful and theatrical interpretations of opera and popular music. On Larger Than Life highlights include Por Una Cabeza, Sundance and Abba’s Dancing Queen.

• Pick a crooner, any crooner! Canadian Michael Buble‘s self-titled debut is still as popular today as it was a few years ago. Piano man Peter Cincotti‘s second release, On the Moon, is a delightful romp through popular jazz standards and hand-penned originals.

The Cool Jazz Collection is an eclectic offering of old and new jazzers. From Canadians Bet.e Stef, Diana Krall and Matt Dusk to legends like Tony Bennett, Holly Cole and Ella Fitzgerald — this two-part CD will entertain until night’s end.
— Renee GoldTips
On seating plans: “just be sure to deploy diplomacy, caution, sensitivity and mischief in equal measure.” — Rena Kirdar Sindi, Be My Guest

•Place the flatware on the table in the order of its use, starting from the outside in. The knife blades should face the plate.

•Serve food from the left and drinks from the right.

•Cake or pie should be served with the point facing your guest.
— Tips courtesy of retired English butler Arthur Inch from Dinner is Served.

The menu

“Sometimes the best part of winter starts, dare I say it, after the guests have stomped off into the blizzard.” — James Chatto, A Matter of Taste

Havana ginger
• 3/4 oz. lime juice
• 1 oz. Simple Syrup
• 6-8 sprigs of mint
• 1 1/2 oz. gin
• 1 oz. ginger beer
Combine lime juice, syrup and mint in a mixing glass and muddle well. Add gin, ginger beer and ice. Shake well and strain into an ice-filled glass.
Created by Bill Dye for Wunderbar, W Hotel, Montréal.

There’s nothing like creating the perfect ensemble and a wonderful meal to get the heart rate up. Impress the Gucci off your guests with offerings from Nigella Lawson’s Feast and Waverman & Chatto’s A Matter of Taste.

Main dishes
•Crab Cocktails (Feast). Asian-inspired crab salad served in martini glasses.

•Duck Breasts with Dried Cherries (A Matter of Taste). Roasted duck in a luscious red sauce.

•Rosemary and Garlic Roast Potatoes (Feast).

•Roasted Pears with Pomegranate Sabayon (A Matter of Taste). Buttery pears served with a frothy, sweet wine-spiked custard.

After dinner, retire to the fireplace and treat your guests to a sampling of cheese. Pristine recommends Le Délice de Bourgogne, a rich triple-cream cheese that hits the back of the throat. Epoisses Berthaut, also from Burgundy, is aromatic and earthy and the flavour goes right to the nose. Finally, an aged Dutch Gouda with a caramelized character and flaky texture.

For the crab salad, Martin suggests a Canadian late harvest Riesling, such as Cave Springs. With the duck, try a New World Pinot Noir like Beringer’s Carneros 2002 from California. And with dessert, Noble One from the De Bortoli vineyard, Australia.

Check out our other holiday entertaining guides:
Holiday brunch
Holiday cocktails