‘Tis the season to welcome in the era of holiday festivities. December is a month of celebration, with parties and dinners setting the scene for warm memories of time spent with relatives and friends alike. But if you’re looking for a way to put a creative spin on your seasonal fetes, the concept of a progressive dinner — or “safari supper” — might be your go-to to put some new zest in your traditional Christmas feast. Hospitality expert and owner of Water to Wine Hospitality Dempsey Warren gives some insight into the ways you can execute an enjoyable progressive dinner this holiday season.
Warren had an unconventional path to becoming an event-planning connoisseur. In fact, it began in a completely different setting. Warren recalled sitting in her calculus class in high school, wondering what she would do after she graduated. At the time, Warren said she wanted to be a teacher or a coach, although it wasn’t until after working weddings in college that she realized that she wanted to be an event planner so she could host people well. Warren has a degree in sports management, a field in which she still works part-time.
Fast forward to the present day: Warren is undoubtedly in the business of serving and celebrating others well. But she’s also in the business of enabling those around her to execute their own celebrations. “Celebrating well and equipping others to do the same” is her mission statement, so Warren has her sights set on leaving her clients not only with joyful celebrations to remember but also with the tools needed to plan their own events in the future. Warren’s hospitality operation does just about everything from specialized ranch weddings to detailed non-profit galas. And without a doubt, Christmas parties and dinners are no exception.
As defined by Warren, a “progressive dinner” or “safari supper” is “a way to capitalize on an evening out” with the main idea being that you trek from place to place with each change of course. However, this leaves some room for interpretation by the artists creating the dinner — Warren explained the many ways that this can be done. Progressive dinners are popular during the holidays, but Dempsey said it’s most commonly centered around going from home to home in your own neighborhood. One idea is to begin at your own home with some cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, then advance to a friend’s home for an appetizer, then another for the main course, and so on. This in turn can be a great way to get to know your neighbors who are in similar seasons of life, said Warren.
Perhaps the most literal way to translate this idea would be moving from room to room throughout your home, say if you’re planning to host for the whole evening. For example, starting the evening with your cocktail hour on the patio or foyer, and then progressing through different locations in the home. Warren said she has even seen this done with an “elemental” theme, where each course was one of the four elements: earth, wind, water, and fire. Or, for Christmas, this can be done with each course themed after different aspects of the holiday: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer cocktail, anyone?
In case you’re out of town for the holidays, don’t worry: you can take the progressive dinner to go. Warren said restaurant hopping is another way to execute the progressive dinner concept, even if you’re away from your home or neighborhood. Whether you choose to do this locally with a group of friends, or away while visiting a new place with family, you’re sure to enjoy a variety of cuisines at a variety of restaurants. Dempsey said this is also a great way to maximize a new place when you won’t be visiting for long. So it may be safe to say that no matter your location this Christmas, a progressive dinner might be closer to home than thought.
Ways to host your own progressive dinner this season:
Main Street Restaurant Hop
Progress down Main Street in downtown Boerne while being able to experience a little bit of everything; maybe begin with some charcuterie and wine, and finish out your courses with some frozen yogurt.
Homestyle Progressive Dinner
Have your courses themed after different facets of Christmas, for example enjoying “Santa’s favorite dessert” with a deluxe batch of cookies. Or perhaps, consider creating a few themed cocktails to carry throughout the evening.
Neighborhood Holiday Safari
Move throughout the neighborhood with friends from your neighborhood community, enjoying each course at a different home. Or, for an easier commitment, consider a dessert edition, where you enjoy a different holiday treat or appetizer at each home.
Water to Wine Hospitality
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If you’re looking for a way to put a creative spin on your seasonal fetes, the concept of a progressive dinner — or “safari supper” — might be your go-to to put some new zest in your traditional Christmas feast.