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'Tis the Season...to Outsource Dinner

You haven't even finished digesting your Thanksgiving meal, and your December to-do list already makes you want to time travel to January. Throw in a party to plan, and even the most seasoned host comes up gasping for air. And on the big night, try figuring out how to be a "guest" at your own party... December mission impossible? Possibly, but whether you're hosting an intimate dinner or a New Year's Eve bash, hiring a good caterer might be the call that brings your stress levels from holiday functional to holiday fun. 

Luckily for Westport area partiers, Paola Garelick is on the scene. Twenty-five years ago, she co-founded Garelick & Herbs with her business partner, Jason Garelick. As Celebration Director for the Southport-based food stores and caterer, Paola is the best in the business when it comes to party planning, soup to nuts.  They can cater your entire meal, provide a bartender, book your florist and music, and clean up afterward. Or, if you are someone who loves to cook and is just short on hands and hours, they can recommend a few simple sides to complement your meal. You can even borrow from Paola's own carefully curated selection of platters and servers; just bring them back in on Monday.  

While Paola runs the front of the house, Jason is the back. As the company's chief purveyor, he scours the market for the freshest ingredients from local, organic farms.  

"We cook the rainbow every day," Paola says.

All sauces are fresh, and they strive to use ingredients that are all natural and "clean." Everything from the breadsticks and bagel chips to the holiday cookies are baked in-house.

We asked Paola and the catering team at Garelick & Herbs to whip up some fresh ideas for this season's main events. Here are their recommendations.

The Christmas Cocktail Party

For a big wow, Paola suggests the Italian caponata platter loaded with fresh cheeses and meats. The tomato shooters with grilled cheese pinwheels are a crowd-pleaser. So are the pancetta-wrapped shrimp skewers with cilantro chili sauce. 

The Hanukkah Latke Lunch

"For Hanukkah, we've tried to do all of the traditional foods but lighter to evolve with how people eat," she says.  

Paola recommends the potato and sweet potato pancake platter (also available in gluten-free), served with homemade cinnamon applesauce and sour cream. The chicken soup starts with a whole chicken in the pot, "just like grandma did." The fillet of beef with homemade horseradish doesn't disappoint. For an "action station," here's a fun twist on doughnuts: Choose your doughnut flavor and someone is there to fill it right in front of you. 

The New Year's Eve Bash

For a big event like this, start with a seafood salad and some Brie with honey ham and Dijon with butter biscuits. Anchor your meal with signature poached salmon with onion dill sauce.

"People love the sticky rice bar. We provide brown rice, lo mein noodles, shaved carrots and mushrooms, and the chef cooks it up for you."

And for late-night New Year's, a mini-taco bar heaped with ingredients and homemade guacamole and salsa.  

Signature Garelick & Herb holiday cookies can be done to go with any theme. Paola likes to serve them on a bed of freshly shredded coconut "snow." Garelick & Herbs can cater to any allergy or adapt recipes to diet plans like paleo and Whole 30. So this year, try being a guest at your own party.  

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