Crafting a memorable dining experience is about more than just the food—something Clare de Boer knows well.
Take a seat at the chef-owner’s acclaimed Hudson Valley restaurant Stissing House and you’re instantly enveloped in warmth—from the candlelight to the weathered wood to the mountain of soft butter beneath a glass cloche that seems originally intended for a large layer cake. (That’s not to say the food isn’t incredible, because it is.)
When she’s not busy running three thriving businesses (she’s also the force behind New York City’s King and Jupiter), de Boer writes “The Best Bit”—a Substack filled with recipes and helpful advice for her thousands of eager subscribers. She’s also a seasoned party host, filling her home each holiday with as many loved ones as she can squeeze in, keeping everyone full and happy.
As longtime fans of de Boer’s eateries, newsletter, and hosting style, we reached out to see if she’d be willing to give us a taste of how she gets it all done during the holiday season, and share some tips for hosting a Christmas party, Stissing House-style. Reader, she was. See our conversation in full, below.
How would you describe your style of decorating for a holiday party?
Bountiful, easy, and not too precious.
Who has influenced your holiday hosting style the most?
My kids. They remind me every day that the point of it all is joy, not elegance.
How has your decorating style evolved over the years?
I’m in the minimal input, maximum impact phase of decorating.
Tell us about the best holiday party you’ve ever hosted, and what made it so special.
Last December we hosted a Christmas party at Stissing House, my tavern upstate, and pulled off so many wild fantasies: serving mugs of broth straight from the fireplace, filling baskets with homemade salt and vinegar chips to dip in creme fraiche, and a goodbye pick-and-mix table where friends could make themselves a bag of sweets as they left (quince delight, candied peel, fudge).
What’s the best thing a guest can bring with them to your holiday party?
A really nice bar of chocolate for me to have with a cup of tea as I scroll through photos of the party the next day.
When it comes to the size of your guest list, is it an intimate affair, or the more, the merrier?
More is more when it comes to people. Everyone loves a sweaty party.
Give us a taste of your holiday party—what’s on the menu?
Broth to warm cold hands on arrival, Stissing ham glazed with spiced quince preserve, a celeriac gratin blistered in the wood oven, and persimmon pudding with cream, ice cream, and whipped cream.
What drinks are you serving?
Beer, Champagne, and hot apple and ginger shrub.
What’s on your playlist?
“Dublin Blues” by Guy Clark, “Jesse James” by Pete Seeger, and “Steady Rain” by Warren Zevon.
Do you have any traditions you bring out at every holiday party?
A dinner bell! It cuts through fireside conversations and herds everyone to the table when I’m ready to carve. Also, it’s not a celebration without a toast.
How do you let your guests know it’s time to head out?
Blame the kids!
What’s one way a host can make their Christmas party feel instantly cozier?
Turn the lights down very low and light too many candles.
How do you manage to stay engaged with your guests and enjoy your own party when you’re busy cooking for everyone?
I try to do any cooking that requires my attention before throngs of people descend on my kitchen. But things never go quite to plan: my close friends know when to take the party out of the kitchen or help finish things up and carry plates to the table.
What’s one kitchen gadget that’s really worth investing in for home chefs?
My mouli légumes (food mill) takes up a tremendous amount of space, but I love it anyway. There’s no substitute for finely milled mash.
How do you host differently when you’re in the country vs. the city?
The stage sets the style. If I’m throwing a party in the country, I cook food and play music that enhances that experience. And I’ll do the same in the city, which naturally creates a different vibe. But no matter where, the food is always simple, generous, and nostalgic.
Thanks, Clare! Ready to host your own holiday party like Clare de Boer? Find your perfect holiday party invitation and customize it—and your home—to your heart’s content. (And if you’re looking for holiday party supplies and decorations, we’ve got some unforgettable options.)
For more of the “How I Holiday” series, read our interview with interior stylist Colin King.