The challenge: You actually have some gratis days off from work to do some actual entertaining between now and New Year's Day (thanks, boss!), but between the gift shopping, the corporate events, the family drama and the travel, cooking is just not going to happen, and asking your friends to do the work for you (i.e., potluck) just seems wrong. The solution: Thanks to a slew of local artisans, storefronts and restaurants, the odds of your holiday party being the toast of 2015 will be ever in your favor. Here, three menus with a focus on the trendiest cuisines of the moment, complete with source lists to make your party shopping as painless as possible.
Get yourself a pile of buttery biscuits from The Coop (we named these wonders Best Biscuit in our 2015 Best of Orlando issue) and set them atop a wooden cutting board. Provide jams and jellies from Swine & Sons – we love their Hot Honey – plus thick slices of smoked and cured Tennessee-style ham from The Meat House. Add a cute grandma's-house dish of relish to put on top and you've brought the party to the kitchen, which is where everyone wants to be anyway. On the side, serve a spread of pimiento cheese from Highball & Harvest at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes or Se7en Bites alongside some Ritz crackers (true Southerners know this is the most authentic choice) and some bread-and-butter pickles from Clemons Produce. While you're at Clemons, buy a couple of pounds of green peanuts and throw them in the slow cooker the night before with some jalapeños, garlic powder, salt and Cajun seasoning. Easy peasy. For something sweet as pie but easier to eat standing and chatting, pick up cobblers in a jar or apple pie pops from P Is for Pie Bakeshop.
Sources: Highball & Harvest at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes 4012 Central Florida Parkway 407-393-4422, ritzcarlton.com
The Coop 610 W. Morse Blvd., Winter Park 407-843-2667, asouthernaffair.com
Swine & Sons Provisions 595 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park 407-636-7601, swineandsons.com
The Meat House 699 Orange Ave., Winter Park 407-629-6320, themeathouse.com
Se7en Bites 207 N. Primrose Drive 407-203-0727, facebook.com/se7enbites
Clemons Produce 3325 Curry Ford Road 407-897-1413
P Is for Pie Bake Shop 2806 Corrine Drive 407-745-4743, crazyforpies.com
Stuff on a stick is always a hit, so play to your guests' more primitive side with anticuchos, classic Peruvian street food that consists of marinated meat on a stick. Offer several options – chicken tenders and thinly sliced flank steak will please pickier palates, while adventurous types will rave over the more traditional offal cuts like beef or chicken hearts (both are super affordable and available at Publix Sabor). Keep the meat in the fridge for at least eight hours in a marinade of cumin, parsley, cilantro, salt, pepper, garlic and red wine vinegar. Skewer before guests arrive and set up a fire pit for guests to gather and grill if you've got outdoor space (if not: broiler pan). Head to Whole Foods for ceviche, and pick up the traditional accompaniments – corn on the cob and sweet potatoes – at Boston Market. Sedano's is a good source for canchita, a puffed corn snack served warm, so toast the kernels carefully over medium heat right before the party pops off. Camila Sweets sells alfajores by the dozen at the Winter Park Farmers Market and at a kiosk in the Altamonte Mall. The butter cookies sandwiched with dulce de leche are liberally dusted with powdered sugar, so it's best to eat them like you would a beignet – with a dropcloth. Throw on some classic salsa like Willie Colon, Oscar de Leon or Hector Lavoe and you have yourself a fiesta.
Sources: Publix Sabor 1980 E. Osceola Parkway, Kissimmee 407-348-8422, publix.com
Whole Foods Market 8003 Turkey Lake Road, 407-355-7100
1989 Aloma Ave., Winter Park, 407-673-8788
Boston Market multiple locations, bostonmarket.com
Sedano's 5660 Curry Ford Road 407-480-2070, sedanos.com
Camila Sweets 407-218-2858, camilasweets.com
Just for a night, consider bringing the gastropub home. Lay out the white tablecloths and brown butcher paper, serve everything on wood planks and cutting boards, and crank up the Alabama Shakes. Start things off with a spread of local charcuterie from Hinckley's Fancy Meats at East End Market, where all the cured meats are made in-house, and cheeses from Winter Park Dairy, which you can find at Homegrown Local Food Cooperative. Round things out with rich honey from Goldenrod Apiaries, crackers and toast points from Olde Hearth Bread Co. (also available at East End) and pickled vegetables from Cask & Larder. Pick up a dozen Lake Meadow Naturals eggs and give them a 13-minute boil, then devil them any way you like and prepare to watch your friends hoover them like spilled glitter. For dessert, order frozen delights from the Pop Parlour to keep in the freezer until everyone needs an icy refresher. With pop flavors made from local ingredients like Cigar City beer, they're well in keeping with the theme.
Sources: Hinckley's Fancy Meats,
Local Roots Farm Store at East End Market 3201 Corrine Drive 321-236-3316, hinckleymeats.com
Winter Park Dairy 4501 Howell Branch Road, Winter Park 407-671-5888, winterparkdairy.com
Homegrown Local Food Cooperative 2310 N. Orange Ave. 407-895-5559, homegrowncoop.org
Goldenrod Apiaries 7012 Machett Road, Belle Isle 407-852-0712
Olde Hearth Bread Co. 207 Reece Way, Casselberry 407-834-8881, oldehearthbreadcompany.com
Cask & Larder 565 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park 321-280-4200, caskandlarder.com
Lake Meadow Naturals 10000 Mark Adam Road, Ocoee 321-206-6262, lakemeadownaturals.com
The Pop Parlour 431 E. Central Blvd. 321-348-7677, thepopparlour.com