With everyone staying in their own households this season, people are looking for unique ways to celebrate Christmas without having to cook yet another meal or order takeout. The brainchild of renowned event designers and creators of bespoke culinary experiences Jennifer Zabinski and Olivier Cheng, Destinationhome is the first-ever luxury dinner party delivery program to come to market. Cheng, founder of Olivier Cheng Catering and Events, has catered everything from royal weddings to major fashion events for clients like Ralph Lauren, Chanel and Cartier. Zabinski was a founder of The Wedding Library, a bridal design and retail shop, before going on to launch JZ Events which has planned events in locales from from Necker Island and St. Barths to Aspen and Paris.
Unlike traditional catered dinner parties, this duo has curated several dining experiences so hosts can choose customizable menus—serving 4-10 guests—and everything arrives exquisitely packaged for serving. The company also gives back 5 percent of its profits to the Food Bank for New York City helping food insecure families during this incredibly difficult time.
We talked to the power couple behind Destinationhome to get their tips on how to safely and festively celebrate Christmas at home this week.
Zabinski: Know your audience and make a playlist of the group’s favorites music.
Cheng: Set the tone for hospitality: always offer your guests something to drink when they arrive and a few simple nibbles placed out. Nothing makes them feel more welcome than greeting them with either a special drink you made for the evening or their favorite. One of my favorite crowd pleasers are our mini truffled grilled cheeses.
Zabinski: Keep traditions alive despite the smaller gathering or start a new tradition—whether a toast, a required dress code for the evening or a nod to nostalgia, it’s always nice to keep it fresh
Cheng: I love a dark sexy table with lots of candles and dim overhead lighting, but the balancing act is to achieve the right balance so that the food shines and that the table isn’t overpowered by décor.
Zabinski: Infuse color and textures to your table with colored taper candles. A textured runner with a patterned napkin always makes a great choice and it’s easy to do.
Cheng: Don’t be afraid to mix and match your flatware and serving ware etc. But do look at what you’re serving and look for contrast with plating—black plates, dark food aren’t as inviting as putting the darker food on lighter plates and vice versa.
Zabinski: Mix up your seating; place your guests via name cards no matter how small the gathering. Add a note to the place card that your guests will appreciate. It will yield for a more festive evening full of great conversations that create memories.
Cheng: Food and scented candles/flowers are a pet peeve of mine—let the aroma of the food be the star at the dinner table.
Zabinski: Splurge on one item and mix high with low, it makes everything look better—and creates a balance.
Cheng: Do make your guests feel special and, if you know they have food allergies or drink preferences, please make sure to take them into account. Guests don’t expect for hosts to have an entirely different menu to accommodate every single allergy/dietary restriction. However, please make sure you have enough to serve them a full meal and an appetizer they can nibble on.
Caviar. No need to splurge: there are some delicious paddlefish roe caviars out there that are competitively priced and delicious when paired with a blini and crème fraiche. It sets the tone for the evening and immediately changes the game.
It doesn’t matter if it’s served plated, family style or a combination of the two but I love giving my guests a sense of pacing and that there is something else to look forward to. The meal has a chance to be savored a bit longer–and of course, ending with something sweet.
Cheng: When making drinks, think about the glass you serve it in, the type of ice cube you use and the garnish you dress it with. I love having a vocabulary of drink tools at my disposal—from fresh fruit, gold flakes, herbs, large or interesting ice cubes, an assortment of glassware.
Nothing reads more celebratory than champagne or sparkling wine. There are some delicious sparkling varietals from Italy that are very perfect—for example Ferrari or Ca’ del Bosco. Why not add a little prosecco to a cocktail and add sparkle that way? It automatically makes people shine!