No matter what you’re celebrating, toasting etiquette always applies. Here, some tips to help you raise your glass with style.

Tips on Toasting Special Occasions

The beverages. Champagne is, of course, the drink of choice – but it takes some planning. (Tip: Try a champagne cocktail, like these.) If the toast is spur-of-the-moment (or attended by non-drinkers), it’s perfectly acceptable to toast with wine, beer, soda, punch, or water. Just don’t use a glass that’s empty, or even less than 2/3 full.

The speeches. Keep most toasts to three minutes max. A birthday party or promotion toast can be a bit longer, as the speech should reflect upon the person’s accomplishments. Weddings, of course, have their own set of rules, as do retirements.

The glasses. This depends on the beverage used. If the event is formal, though, always use an actual glass – crystal champagne flutes, gold-rimmed wineglasses, and Pilsner glasses are all good choices – rather than a beer bottle or plastic cup. 

The first toast. This belongs to the host. (And it’s polite for a guest to respond in kind, with a toast to thank the host.) The primary exception? A wedding reception, where the honor traditionally goes to the best man. And there’s no need to tap with a utensil – just stand and raise your glass until the room falls silent.

The clink. It’s not necessary to clink glasses with everyone nearby. This is fine for small groups, but in a larger party, just raise your glass and drink.

By Jess Huckins, Staff Writer

What’s your favorite beverage to toast with? Share in the comments below, or tweet us at @ruelala

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January 30, 2013

Throwing a dinner party? Don’t underestimate the power of a perfectly set table. Here’s how to do it right:

Table Settings

Image courtesy of Eddie Ross.

Additional tips:

  • Wineglasses. These should be arranged in the order they will be used.
  • Silverware. Work from the outside in – appetizer, entrée, then dessert (thank you, Titanic). Some believe that dessert utensils should always be above the dinner plate – this is fine, as is presenting them with the dessert course.
  • Courses. You can vary the silverware based on the courses you’re serving. If you have soup rather than a fish appetizer, for example, you would lose the leftmost fork entirely and replace the knife on the far right with a soup spoon.
  • Napkin. The napkin should be at the far left. It’s also acceptable to place it on the dinner plate (especially if you’re using napkin rings), or to style it neatly in one of the glasses.

All you really need is this advice from our Home Editorial Director, Eddie Ross – “forks are on the left, spoons and knives on the right, [with] blades facing in” – and you can modify from there to suit your tastes.

Bon appétit!

By Jess Huckins, Staff Writer

Do you prefer a different table-setting style? Share in the comments below, or tweet us at @ruelala

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January 23, 2013


The perfect cheese plate. Knowing how to assemble it – and match it with wine – is a hosting essential. So before you throw together a hodgepodge of grocery store cheeses for your next dinner party, peep these tips from David Seaton, former cheesemonger at Formaggio Kitchen and now the wine, cheese, and charcuterie director at Spoke Wine Bar, opening in February in Somerville, MA:

Cheese Plate

Choose Your Cheeses

  • Start with a simple, balanced mix of cheeses, such as a mild goat cheese, a buttery Brie, and an earthy, hard cheese like Gruyère.
  • “A ‘tasting portion’ of cheese should be in the realm of 3/4 of an ounce per person,” Seaton says, “but if you do have some left over, there are worse problems!”
  • Buy your cheese the day of or the day before your gathering and leave it out at room temperature (65 – 70 degrees). Serving cheese cold will “mute or mask the flavors,” but if you do have to refrigerate it, “make sure it is wrapped in butcher paper or cheese paper and keep it in the crisper section” to prevent it from drying out.

Add Your Extras 

  • Accoutrements should be “a backdrop to the cheese.” Seaton suggests offering a jam or marmalade, roasted mixed nuts, and fresh or dried fruit for texture and flavor. As for the vehicle? Bread and crackers “are both pretty neutral, so you won’t do much harm even choosing a seeded bread.”
  • When it comes to cured meats, the occasion is king: “If you’re having a formal gathering, charcuterie should be on a separate platter. If you have guests coming over to watch the hockey game or Golden Globes, do what you want.”
  • Serve your cheese on a wooden cheese board for a rustic appearance, or make your own cheese plate.

Continue reading “Assemble a Party-Ready Cheese Plate” »

January 16, 2013

One of the (many) perks of life at Rue: coworkers who love to bake, and then share their stellar confectionary creations. Yesterday, the Creative Team gathered for our annual cookie swap – and you’re invited to check out the to-die-for spread, straight from our kitchens to yours. Feel free to click on the titles below for printable recipe cards to add to your collection.

Candy Cane Oreo Balls
“The crushed candy canes added a minty flavor and crunchy texture that’s seriously amazing, and they look so festive!” —Melissa M., Copywriter

Joyce’s Molasses Cookies
“These are our favorite molasses cookies. The recipe is special in the sense that it’s from my fiancé’s grandmother, who unfortunately passed away some years ago.” —Shaina M., Copyeditor

Six-Layer Bars
“My aunt used to make these bars when I was little, so I snagged the recipe to bake them myself in college. They’re always a hit and perfect for the holidays (or any time of year).” —Brianna L., Junior Copywriter

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies
“These are for lovers of all things peanut butter.” —Julia I., Junior Copywriter

Rum Balls
“My father called these ‘decadent’ the first time he tasted them. They’re now the most requested treat not only during the holiday season, but throughout the year.” —Jess H., Copyeditor

Keep reading for more delicious recipes.

December 19, 2012

Image courtesy of Camilla Lichti.

Fall had us whipping up delicious pumpkin martinis and butterscotch apple cider floats. Now that we’re well into December, though, it’s time to move on to eggnog, peppermint, and all the other festive flavors of the season. Here are four winter-themed cocktails (plus one mocktail) sure to help you feel all warm and cheery from the inside out.

For Any Day: Classic Eggnog
This holiday treat is a favorite in my house. We tend to just pour two or three (usually three) fingers of rum into a glass, then fill with store-bought nog and top with a pinch each of nutmeg and cinnamon. But you can also make your own in the blender if you have heavy cream, sugar, brandy, eggs, and nutmeg on hand.

For Bitterly Cold Nights: Hot Buttered Rum
I tried several variations before figuring out the hot buttered rum secret ingredient: vanilla ice cream. Mixed with butter and both white and brown sugars, the ice cream gives this steamy drink a smooth finish that most other recipes are lacking.

For After Work: Peppermint Martini
The peppermint martini is another classic holiday cocktail, and one of my winter happy-hour favorites. Just pour 5 ounces vanilla vodka, 2 ounces white crème de menthe, and 1/2 ounce peppermint schnapps into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake, then strain into a martini glass. I love to garnish the rim with crushed peppermint first, but adding a candy cane to the glass works just as well.

For Parties: Jingle Juice
If you’re hosting a holiday party, a signature cocktail is a must – and Jingle Juice readily meets that need. For 1 1/2 quarts of tasty, holiday goodness, just mix 5 cups orange juice, 1 cup vodka, 1/3 cup orange liqueur (I use triple sec), 1/4 cup lemon juice, and 1/2 cup maraschino-cherry juice (or grenadine), then pour over ice and garnish with cherries, orange slices, and fruit-flavored candy canes.

For the Kids (and Non-Drinkers): Merry Berry Christmas, Sugar!
Help non-drinkers and merrymakers under the legal drinking age feel included in every aspect of the holidays with this fun, fruity mocktail. Just muddle raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and mint leaves in a shaker with some agave nectar, lime juice, ice, and water. Shake, then pour into a 16-ounce highball glass and top with ginger ale (and even more berries).

By Jess Huckins, Staff Writer

Do your holiday traditions include cocktails? Share a favorite recipe in the comments below, or tweet us at @ruelala.

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December 12, 2012

Even if you feel prepped and ready for the most wonderful time of the year, there’s always room for a little extra holiday merriment. As the weeks of winter progress, here are some creative decorating ideas to add some cheer to your home (before the relatives arrive).

Tree-mium Seating
Working with less-than-ideal square footage? (Or just have lots of gifts to give?) Host a smaller tree on a sideboard, coffee table, or – if it’s a tiny tree – mantel. Feel free to choose an unexpected color palette, like Eddie Ross’s blues and greens (or golds), then coordinate your wrapping paper and ornaments for pleasing décor the whole season through.

Card Collection
For years, my family hung holiday cards from friends and family around the kitchen door – with tape. Now that my mother has a mantel, she decided to rescue the paint on the walls by creating a mitten-themed cardholder with string and colorful clothespins – kind of like this one. Or, welcome guests in style with a wrought-iron or modern metal trellis decked in ribbon-tied cards and displayed with a wreath hanger.

Sweet Tooth
There are oldies-but-goodies – loading one coffee-table dish with edibles and a corresponding bowl with bright, round ornaments, for example – but for a change of (decorative) pace, try filling attractive glassware with white sugar, mini marshmallows, and old-fashioned candy sticks, or crafting candy topiaries with mints, gummies, foam, and quick-dry glue (substitute double-sided tape to make future snacking easier).

Festive Lighting
You can’t go wrong with candles. Create some ice vases, fill them with tea lights or votives, and pair them with a burning yule log – be it in your fireplace, or on your TV or computer screen.

By Jess Huckins, Staff Writer

What are some of your favorite, tried-and-true decorating ideas? Share them in the comments below or tweet us at @ruelala.

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December 5, 2012

With each generation, things change – holiday dinners are hosted at a different person’s house, or a meal that was traditionally a sit-down affair evolves into a buffet-style free-for-all. And as tradition shifts, so does hosting etiquette. What still applies to the modern-day gathering? Here, find four classic etiquette myths – and the modern truths behind them:

Myth #1: Traditional holiday menus are a necessity.
Who says the holiday potatoes have to be mashed rather than roasted, baked, or scalloped? You’re the host – so feel free to change up your dishes and recipes. Just be sure to share your menu plans with any traditionalists (or vegetarians, or guests with food allergies) who might protest. If it won’t be a real holiday dinner to your mother-in-law when she can’t have her favorite fig-preserve appetizer, let her bring it.

Myth #2: The bar must be stocked with every kind of alcohol and mixer.
It’s not always feasible to keep a bottle of every liquor known to man. Relieve the pressure by mixing up a signature sangria or cocktail for the event, just like at a wedding reception. Stock the ingredients for that one drink, plus a couple of different beers and both red and white wines. Add a few essentials – vodka, rum, tequila – for guests who like it straight or on the rocks, and you’ll have something to please everyone.

Myth #3: Paper and plasticware should always be shunned.
It is true that linen napkins, matching plates, and attractive silverware are the norm for a fancy dinner. But if you’re hosting family and friends in a more casual setting – especially if children are involved – it’s not uncouth to go disposable and lay down some colorful paper napkins, high-quality paper plates, and those metallic-hued plastic forks. Just stick to your décor’s color palette and give thanks for having fewer dishes to wash.

Myth #4: The more elaborate the better.
Rather than setting the table with every fork and spoon in the set – widely considered an outdated (and confusing) practice – it’s more than okay to start with only enough to get guests through the main course. Cutlery for later courses, like a dessert spoon, can be offered along with the dish. Also, a simple yet thoughtfully designed table can be more functional and just as beautiful as an elaborate setup.

Remember that entertaining has one primary goal: pleasure, for your guests and yourself. Do what is comfortable, fun, and thoughtful – regardless of any supposed “rules” – and you can’t go wrong.

By Jess Huckins, Staff Writer

Have any other classic hosting wisdom you love to ignore? Sound off in the comments below or tweet us at @ruelala.

Not a Member and like The (Style) Guide? You’ll love Rue La La. Join now.

November 28, 2012

Turning Thanksgiving dinner into a buffet-style extravaganza is a surefire way to ease tension when you’re home (and hosting) for the holidays, especially when the meal itself takes days to prepare. Spend less time cleaning and more time eating – and let guests fill up on as many waistband-stretching helpings as they please – with these self-serve tips.

Location, location, location.
Be creative with your table placement. If you have both a kitchen and dining room, it’s easy to create separate zones for serving and eating. If not, you can host the buffet on a wooden sideboard, a dresser, a desk – or even a door propped up on sawhorses and covered with a floor-length tablecloth. Just try to keep the table away from the wall so guests can access it from all sides, and set up the décor and serving dishes the night before.

Define your color palette and style it seasonally.
Floral arrangements need not apply. Instead, take cues from seasonal bounty and style the table with gourds, grapevines, or crab apple branches. You can also place clustered vignettes (try any combination of rose hips, artichokes, beets, eggplants, mini pumpkins, and sweet peppers) between your serving dishes for a dazzling, colorful spread. If you’re craving candles, choose the flameless variety – no one wants a side of smoking sleeves with their sweet potatoes.

To create additional serving space, stack vintage wooden cheese boxes or bricks wrapped in cloth napkins, then place your platters and décor on different heights to spur visual interest and increase functionality. Just keep it classy, not cluttered, and make sure everything is stable. You can even move décor to baskets on the floor, mantel, or side tables to make more room for the all-important food.

Continue reading “Holiday Entertaining: Thanksgiving Buffet Tips” »

November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Turkey, cranberry sauce, basic stuffing, mashed potatoes. If eating the same thing every year (no matter how tantalizing the tastes) sometimes gets you down, try adding a new dish to your Thanksgiving spread. One or more of these scrumptious sides – straight from our tables to yours – could be the answer. Just click on the titles below for printable cards to add to your recipe box.

Serve in contrasting-colored dishes – orange-hued stuffing in a turquoise bowl, for example, or nice, dark green beans on a bright red platter – for a table that’s as attractive as it is delicious.

Chorizo Corn Bread Stuffing
Makes 4 – 6 servings
“This sweet, savory, and spicy take on stuffing is a hit year after year. Use organic or all-natural sausage to boost the health factor – and the flavor.”

1 pound hard chorizo, diced
1 white onion, diced
1 large carrot, chopped
½ cup celery, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
2 cups corn bread, crumbled
½ cup chicken stock
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1. Cook chorizo in a skillet over medium heat, about 5 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 350°F.
3. Add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic to the chorizo and cook until the vegetables have caramelized, about 10 minutes.
4. Add the corn bread, chicken stock, and cilantro. Mix until the bread is just coated – not too dry, not too wet.
5. Transfer to a buttered casserole dish and bake until heated through and lightly browned, about 20 minutes.

Continue reading for Firemen’s Potatoes (Potatoes au Gratin), Classic Baked Acorn Squash, Tarragon-Almond Green Beans, and Apple Cake recipes.

November 14, 2012

Planning ahead is the key to breezing your way through the holiday season. Once you’ve decided on your plates, serveware, and menu, it’s time to set the table – and crafting your own napkin rings is a simple and fun way to add personality and style.

Prep Your Holiday Table: DIY Napkin Rings

Photos courtesy of Miki Duisterhof via Eddie Ross (left, right) and Heather Rowley via The Creative Patch (middle).

Bold Texture
You can create a variation on these ribbon napkin rings to spruce up white or cream linens. Coordinate with your holiday table’s colors when you select your ribbon, trim, and burlap, and add buttons, lace, or vintage jewelry. If you love the idea of crafting with jewelry as much as I do, Eddie Ross’s vintage brooch napkin rings will help you outfit your tablescape in luxurious, textured style.

Thanksgiving Harvest
Bring a harvest feel to your Thanksgiving dinner table with acorn napkin rings. All you need is a drill with a tiny bit, some thin craft wire, and about ten acorns per place setting. Pair the rings with red or orange cloth napkins, then add acorns to your centerpiece to complete the rustic feel. You can also use some ribbon and a pearl for a different take on the same idea.

Holiday Hosting
As the go-to host, head into dinner-party season armed with festive wreath napkin rings. The small grapevine wreaths and holiday-hued ribbon should be available at any craft store. If your color scheme is more winter-themed – white, blue, or silver – try these jingle bell napkin rings to combine whimsy and class.

For the kids’ table, you can’t go wrong with Santa belt napkin rings – and they come with the added benefit of enticing youngsters with an arts and crafts project at the kitchen table while you baste the turkey or carve the holiday ham.

By Jess Huckins, Staff Writer 

What’s your favorite holiday-table DIY project? Tell us in the comments below or tweet us @ruelala. 

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November 7, 2012