Forget about getting a reservation this late in the game. Here’s your solution: Call the neighbors who decided to “keep it low-key this year,” drag them out of bed, and throw together an impromptu soiree. Author and entertaining expert Matthew Mead gives us the foodie 411 on rocking it until the ball drops.

“It is important to keep key ingredients stocked for spontaneous get-togethers,” Mead writes. “Keep the following items on hand, and you will always be prepared to entertain drop-in guests.”

Last-Minute New Year's Eve Entertaining

  • In the cupboard: Several types of crackers and crisp breads to accompany spreads and cheeses, canned Mandarin oranges (to top cake or add to trifles), and jam, coffee, and tea.
  • In the refrigerator: Semisoft cheese, hard cheese, dip, and salsa. Two bottles of white wine, ginger ale, cranberry juice, seltzer, lemons and limes, and whipping cream. At holiday time, consider a spiral-sliced ham or smoked turkey breast.
  • In the freezer: Fruit bread, biscuits, cheesecake, pound cake, frozen cookie dough.
  • In the entertaining pantry: Red wine, taper, pilar, and votive candles.

Excerpted from Entertaining Simple by Matthew Mead (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.). Copyright 2008.

By Julia Ivins, Staff Writer

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December 30, 2013