By Lauren Levine
The holidays are a joyful, bustling and sometimes stressful time of the year made for catching up with family and friends over delicious meals, thoughtful gifts and festive decor. Whether your idea of the perfect holiday gathering includes the tackiest sweater your loved ones can scrounge up, a fancy menorah set atop an elegantly adorned table with all of the trimmings, a sprawling tree draped in flickering lights or the world’s biggest supply of distilled spirits, here are our best tips for ensuring your soiree goes exactly as you imagined.
Sugar, Spice & Everything Nice: Food & Drink
Because sugar and spice are seemingly synonymous with the season, be sure to ward off bland meals with the array of spices available at Savory Spice Shop in Atherton Market. Pick up the perfect complement for your barbecue buffet, Moroccan feast or Greek spread. The Olive Tap in Ballantyne’s selection of gourmet oils, balsamic vinegars, apple butter and more will elevate your meal and add an unexpected depth to its flavors.
Few things whet the pre-dinner appetite quite like perfectly paired cheese and crackers (and wine to go with them). Orrman’s Cheese Shop housed inside 7th Street Public Market in Uptown, features fromage platters that satisfy munchies for parties of all sizes. Each platter comes carefully prepared with a selection of cheeses, dried fruits, nuts and crackers. Earl’s Grocery is another stop that promises to up the ante on your appetizer spread. Welcome your guests to the South with deviled eggs or pimento cheese.
When you need the perfect cut of beef or piece of fish to anchor your meal, Dilworth’s quintessential neighborhood butcher, Meat & Fish Co., should be your supplier. Cases include traditional deli selections and seafood, plus more exotic choices, like Cornish hens, caviar, lamb and even boar. If you’re wavering on what to pick based on the size or style of your party, the knowledgeable team can help you make the right choice.
Pasta & Provisions’ two locations—one in Myers Park and one on Park Road—are ideal when you need to snag a side dish that won’t slide in as an afterthought. From fresh, ready-to-boil pastas, like ravioli and gnocchi, to delectable sauces, freshly baked breads and assorted wines, the spot is your go-to for Italian noshes and prepared meals.
Toast to health and happiness with savory wine selections from Vin Master or local vineyards, like Raffaldini Vineyards and Winery. Vin Master makes it exceptionally easy to pick the perfect pairing, reducing one element of party planning stress. A selection of bottles is sorted according to the kind of meal you’re serving, so whether you’ve got seafood or beef on the stove, you’ll have an idea where to start. If you’re slammed and can’t make it in for a pickup, opt for the ultra-convenient delivery service.
Catering to a crew of beer connoisseurs? Please everyone’s palates when you choose from a selection of local craft beers at Rhino Market & Deli. If you’re in the market for something a little stronger, local liquor mainstays, like Doc Porter’s Distillery, Great Wagon Road Distilling Company and Muddy River Distillery, offer craft spiced rum, bourbon, whiskey and more using locally sourced ingredients. You can pick up a bottle of any at your local ABC store.
End your meal on a sweet note with treats from Amélie’s French Bakery. Order a beautifully decorated cake, creatively flavored macarons or the famous salted caramel brownies. For a sweet start in the morning, try muffins and sweet breads from Nova’s Bakery or to-die-for almond croissants from Sunflour Baking Company. And you can’t forget the coffee. Grab local joe, like Pure Intentions, at these bakeries or try new blends from Coco and the Director to brew your guests.
All the Trimmings: Decor
From the kitschiest to the most sophisticated, Charlotte-area shops are filled with accessories and accents that will transform your home into a holiday winter wonderland. Macy’s and Neiman Marcus at SouthPark Mall carry the china, cutlery and dishes to outfit your table for a delicious holiday meal, plus an assorted selection of stockings and menorahs to brighten your home. Lark & Key Gallery and Boutique in South End features one-of-a-kind serving ware crafted by local artisans, which enables you to dish up your potatoes and green bean casserole with a charming side of Queen City pride. For elegant table linens, drinkware, ice buckets, decanters and more, visit B.D. Jeffries, which also boasts an assortment of gorgeous wraps and shawls, handbags and jewelry. This stop will come in handy when also browsing around town for the best items to gift your guests.
Beyond the essentials, you’ll want to create an ambiance that brings your guests comfort and cheer. Create a welcoming aroma with the intoxicating scent of fresh blooms in fall hues from The Blossom Shop or Flowers Plus, placing them on your mantle, table or in any nook that could use a dose of cheer. Want to make a grand impression from the moment your guests hit your doorstep? If your taste is slightly more formal, commission a custom floral wreath from The Beehive in Uptown’s Overstreet Mall to hang on your door in lieu of mistletoe. The shop’s floral expert works magic with wire and flowers.
Whether or not you’re the type who swaps out everyday sheets in favor of festive flannel sets, add warmth and flair to your home by picking up luxurious blankets and throw pillows in rich fabrics and saturated jewel tones from City Supply Co. The Plaza Midwood shop also stocks cards you can use to invite and thank your loved ones and accessories that will make even the smallest of spaces feel inviting and cozy. To give your guests pause and make them wonder if you’ve converted your bungalow to a bed-and-breakfast, focus on little details that make a big difference. We’re talking handcrafted chocolates from the Carolina Chocolate Company tucked under the pillows and luscious lotions and soaps from Cottage Chic in the powder rooms.
Hostesses with a sense of humor will want to make a pit stop at Green with Envy in Plaza Midwood. The shop itself incorporates an old commode as a shelving unit for candles and other items, so you can imagine its goods pack a bit of whimsy. Add pillows or beautifully hand-stitched towels adorned with sassy phrases to your arsenal. And find kitschy cocktail napkins or nab local artwork that tips a hat to your hometown joy. If you’d trade perfectly coordinated gold and white bulbs for funky jalapeño pepper lights and comedic manger scenes that feature wacky animals instead of the Three Wise Men, you can’t miss Paper Skyscraper in Dilworth. But for every ounce of quirk the place packs, there are also rows of fancy tapers and gorgeous votive candles, elegant cocktail glasses, and more.
Sweet Little Things: Gifts
It’s not just a haven for eclectic decor; cheeky hostesses will love the gift selection at Paper Skyscraper. The shop snagged the number one spot on mashable.com’s list of “50 Great Local Shops in the U.S. for Finding the Perfect Holiday Gift.” And rightfully so. It carries everything from makeup bags emblazoned with killer one-liners to interesting coffee table books, pocket card games and hilarious items made for white elephant exchanges. Bonus: The shelves are filled with pretty and patterned gift bags, wrapping paper, cards and ribbon, so you can put together your present entirely while en route to the main event.
Shopping for someone with more classic Southern taste? Wrap up art books, monogrammed napkins, stationery sets and hand-carved figurines from The Buttercup or John Dobbs Ltd., both longtime gift mainstays in Myers Park.
Lovers of all things Charlotte or visiting friends and guests will adore Queen City-themed knick-knacks from Green with Envy. The goods range from cutting boards carved in the shape of the state of North Carolina to coasters paying homage to Crown Town and deliciously scented Ella B. soy candles that are named for each of Charlotte’s neighborhoods. Plus, what’s more Charlotte than a locally made brew? For the perfect token of sentiment to make the beer lovers in your life beam with joy, pick up a six-pack of hard-to-find suds at Salud Beer Shop or a growler of your favorite brew at Lenny Boy Brewing Co. If NoDa and South End prove to be a haul, avail yourself of the numerous areas breweries that bottle and sell their own products.
Gifting another host or hostess? He or she will adore the creativity and scrumptious scents of handmade beer soaps from SmallKeys in 7th Street Public Market. Some of the properties in beer that are left over in the soap are great for the skin. Who knew? Present the party planner with wearable, one-of-a-kind art from Ruby’s Gift on North Davidson Street. The accessories there are handmade by local artisans, plus you can choose from home goods, pottery and more. The Beehive in Overstreet Mall also stocks plenty of locally made goodies, including pieces from Charlotte artist David French, assorted flavors and bottles of locally made Cloister Honey—which swept the Food & Drink category in Our State magazine’s 2016 Made in NC Awards—and delicate, adorable holiday ornaments.
For the foodie, a gift basket from Reid’s Fine Foods is the tastiest way to say, “Thanks for the hospitality!” Those with a sweet tooth will drool over small-batch truffles and more from The Secret Chocolatier. The shop presents packages in all price ranges. Choose from the themed gift baskets, which include the Celebration Box, the Chocolate Bark Collection and Baked Delights. For the perfect blend of sweet and savory, Tastebuds Popcorn doesn’t disappoint. The brand offers more than 200 flavors of popcorn, including unexpected finds, like Taste the Rainbow, Vanilla Cola, Strawberry Shortcake, and of course, the standards—cheddar cheese and caramel.