Mary Giuliani
Mary always has pigs in a blanket in her freezer.

In the month of December, Mary Giuliani Catering and MARIO by Mary caters more than 50 parties in New York City and now—lucky for us—Westchester and Connecticut. Yes, that’s a lot of mistletoe martinis! How do they do it? By using as many shortcuts as possible, but still finding ways to infuse warmth into each gathering. Here are some of Mary’s best tips to help hosts keep their calm over the next few months:

Giuliani Grilled Cheese
Mini fontina grilled cheese sandwiches

Include A Start and End Time On The Invite
Put yourself in a good position to limit lingerers before the party even starts. Popular
partygoers will appreciate it, too. “With so much running around, his is also helpful for
your guests who may have to hop to other soirées on the same night,” says Giuliani.

Stock Up On Key Party Essentials for Hosting Last–Minute Guests
Avoid running to the store every timeunexpected gatherings crop up by having nonperishable snacks and refreshments on hand. Giuliani says she keeps a case each of white, red and sparkling wines, as well as a case of sparkling water. She also keeps her freezer stocked with frozen pigs in a blanket and her pantry filled with nuts, olives and crackers for easy hors d’oeuvres.

Try a Dessert and Bubbles Only Party
It’s completely acceptable to invite guests for a 9 p.m. dessert and bubbles fête, says Giuliani. “With so many parties, less is more and this is a great way to share the holiday spirit with pals without going nuts,” she adds. Display store-bought or homemade desserts buffet style and a delicious chilled prosecco or champagne. Want to save the opened Champagne or prosecco from New Year’s? Giuliani suggests making Sparkly Jello. (recipe below)

Make Accidents Disappear with these Cleaning Tips
For candle wax, Giuliani fills a plastic bag with ice and rubs it over the area. Once the wax hardens, remove it with a dull knife (a butter knife works well). If chocolate cake stains the tablecloth, Giuliani soaks a kitchen towel with hot water, adds one squirt of liquid dishwasher soap to the towel and rubs carefully to lift the stain. And for confetti, a simple pass with the Dustbuster will take pesky sparkles away instantly.

Giuliani Mozzarella Bar
A mozzarella bar with three varieties (buffalo, smoked, burrata)

As An Alternative to the Cheese Platter: Try a Mozzarella Bar
“One of the most popular food displays we serve is our Mario by Mary Mozzarella Bar. If you’re bored serving the same old cheese platter, try this yummy mozzarella bar that not only looks great, it eats like a meal,” says Giuliani. These are her simple steps:

1. Purchase burrata, mozzarella and ricotta.Slice the cheese before serving to make it easier for guests to help themselves.

2. Make the cheese the star: Display above the rest of the toppings, so your guest will know to take the cheese first and then add toppings.

3. Add some meat: Prosciutto, pepperoni and dried Italian sausage are easy to find in any
grocery store. Include items (either store bought or homemade) like eggplant caponata, roasted red peppers, sun dried tomatoes, olive tapenade, sliced bread and crackers.

4. Display balsamic vinegar, olive oil, sea salt and black pepper.

5. Put small plates, forks and cocktail napkins out for guests. This display only requires one small plate, one fork and cocktail napkins.

Clean Up Before Bedtime
Before the party starts, make sure the dishwasher is empty, so you can do a quick clean up post-soirée. “Cleaning up with a buzz is much better than cleaning up with a hangover,” notes Giuliani. “So kick off your shoes, turn up the music and get that last dirty glass or dish into the dishwasher before you retire for the evening.”

Mary’s Sparkly Jello
Mary’s Sparkly Jello puts leftover Champagne to good use.

SPARKLY JELLO
Serves 8 to 10

2 cups raspberry seltzer
1 3-ounce box unflavored gelatin
1 ½ cups Champagne or prosecco
½ cup Chambord or Raspberry Vodka
Colored sugars or edible gold

1. In a saucepan, bring the seltzer to a boil. Remove from the heat and sprinkle
the gelatin over the hot liquid and stir
until it dissolves.
2. In a mixing bowl, combine the gelatin, Champagne and Chambord (or vodka). Let chill at least 3 hours.
3. When set, scoop into small bowls and dust with edible gold (Michael’s Craft Stores) or colored sugars to give it a little New Year’s sparkle.

Text by Holly Parmelee
Photos by Adrien Broom