Whether clear or amber, maple syrup is one of Quebec’s most delicious resources. While most of the world only uses it on pancakes and waffles, here in Quebec, we know it can sweeten coffee and deliciously enhance pork and salmon.
Maple syrup is so precious in this province that we’ve decided to dedicate a whole “season” to it and build maple syrup its own castle ... the sugar shack. As you may have guessed, it’s sugaring season and in honour of one of Quebec’s greatest traditions, we’re proposing a plan for a maple sugar-filled weekend at home!
For starters, we suggest that you ask your guests to confirm their presence at least three weeks before the date of the reception. It’s not uncommon with restaurants, why not do it for this special occasion? Remember to include a confirmation of dietary restrictions in your invitation to avoid unpleasant surprises!
With your guest list in hand and their dietary restrictions in mind, think about the menu. What do you feel like cooking this year? Treat yourself! Maybe you want to revisit the classic turkey, or would you rather discover the taste of wild goose? Check out your favourite food blogs or check your favourite cookbooks for inspiration. Building your menu will allow you to organize the rest.
Also, find a partner to help you. It will be much more fun to do things together! Your accomplice could assist you with the shopping and act as the official photographer, for example. The point is to have someone you can rely on to help you with the preparations and throughout the evening.
Two weeks before the big night, take your decorations and fine China out to set the table according to your menu. This will help you get inspired and visualize the atmosphere of your evening - and identify if you’re missing anything. You can then go to the store or ask your friends and family if they can lend you the missing items.
Remember that at the heart of a great atmosphere are lively conversations. Dare to assign seats to your guests and separate couples at the table to promote conversation. A board game could also get the conversation going and spice up the evening.
With your seating plan in hand, consider your décor through your five senses. The sense of smell and taste are already fulfilled by your kitchen, but what music will you play? What lighting will you use? What would be the ideal temperature to keep your guests comfortable? Is your mom always cold? Set aside a blanket or warm slippers for her.
Finally, think about the traffic flow of your guests and designate spaces to keep people moving and avoid traffic jams in the kitchen. Have a corner where the little ones can play, and a room where they can go to sleep as the evening progresses. Decide in which room you will host the cocktail party and decide where to hang your guests’ coats and put their winter boots.
If you’re looking for an elegant touch, print your menu, and set placemats and a small gift on your guests’ napkins. Mini jars of honey, homemade hot sauce, or your favourite sweet treat will be the perfect touch.
One week before the reception, dedicate your energy to simplifying the big day. Determine which household chores you want to tackle, which menu items you can make ahead of time, and which errands still need to be done. Having the big picture will help you plan out your week. Don’t forget yourself in the process! Think about what the day of the reception will be like and schedule some time to relax before your guests arrive. It will make all the difference!
Once you have a game plan, delegate at least two tasks to someone else. Your designated partner can help, but you could also put your dad in charge of fresh bread! The holidays are a time for helping each other... don’t be afraid to ask for help!
On the morning of the big day, set the table as soon as possible. You’ll be in the mood right away! Finalize your menu as thoroughly as possible and get some fresh air a few minutes before your guests arrive. You’ll be ready to greet them with a cocktail and appetizers in your festive décor!
Gather your photos and share them with your loved ones who couldn’t attend the reception afterwards. With stepfamilies and growing children, getting everyone together for dinner can sometimes be a real headache. Sharing these festive moments and heartfelt wishes will bring a little Christmas magic into everyone’s heart.