LIVING LARGE: Holiday Entertaining for a Crowd


By Mark DeWolf

There are a few unavoidable truths to holiday entertaining for a crowd. The first guest always arrives way before you anticipated anyone actually showing up. And despite your best efforts to show off your living and dining spaces, there will invariably be a crowd in your kitchen. Why fight the truth? It’s better to be prepared for the eventualities of entertaining a crowd.

Keep the Early Grazers Nourished

Don’t let the first guests disturb your final preparations. Have a charcuterie and cheese board set out for those early arrivals — it’s better for the cheese and meat as well, as both should be served at room, not fridge, temperature.

Be Prepared

The most important part of being ready is the prep. Don’t wait until the last hour to start the cooking. Focus on appetizers that don’t require a lot of cooking time and have as much made ahead of time as possible. Some hors d’oeuvres can even be pre-plated. Just take out platters from the fridge and set out for guests to enjoy.

Bigger is Better

If there is a crowd, you often don’t have time to mix individual drinks. Have boxes — or large format bottles — of wine out for guests to serve themselves, a selection of unique tasting packs set in an ice-filled tub or sink and pre-made punches that just require you to fill with ice and top with sparkling wine and soda before serving. Don’t forget to have non-alcoholic versions available as well.


Entertaining for a crowd during the holidays is all about ease of preparation and making the most impact in flavour and presentation. Put a fork in these fun appetizers and you’re finished.

As for the accompanying drinks, when entertaining for a crowd, often there is no need for traditional 750 ml bottles of wine. The 1.5 litre bottles and boxes of wine are convenient format sizes as the can serve large groups of people, often without requiring pulling a cork. They are also economical, efficient and environmentally sensitive.

The Three Es of Entertaining with Boxed Wine

Economics – A four-litre box wine holds the equivalent of more than fi ve standard bottles of wine. A box of Wallaroo Red or Vivo Blanco equates to $8.06 per 750 ml bottle equivalent.

Efficiency – The box of wine is actually a collapsible bag surrounded by a cardboard container. The wine-fi lled bag collapses after the wine is dispensed, protecting the remaining wine from being oxidized. This allows a box of wine to last up to six weeks after being opened.

Environment – The packaging of a boxed wine amounts to less than fi ve per cent of its total weight. Boxes of wine are also more effi cient to transport, compared to standard 750 ml bottles, as they are easily stacked which means little wasted space. It all adds up to a lower carbon footprint for boxed wines. Conveniently, a box of white wine also takes up less fridge space than you might think and a box of red wine can often be tucked away in a kitchen cupboard until you are ready for another glass.

Occasions Recommends

  • Wallaroo Trail Red, Australia, 4000 ml, $42.99
  • Vivo Blanco White, Chile, 4000 ml, $42.99
  • Jost Leon Millot Marechal Foch, Nova Scotia, 3000 ml, $40.99
  • Mezzacorona Pinot Grigio, Italy, 1500 ml, $29.79
  • Two Oceans Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, South Africa, 1500 ml, $23.99


Smoked Salmon on a Fork

  • Serve with: Mezzacorona Pinot Grigio, Italy, 1500 ml, $29.79
  • Makes 30 pieces
  • Prep time: Less than 30 minutes
  • Total time: Less than 30 minutes


  • 1 English cucumber, peeled, sliced into
  • 30 1/4-inch rounds
  • 250 g herb and garlic cream cheese
  • 1 lb cold smoked salmon
  • Fresh dill, for garnish

Directions: Layout cucumber slices on a platter. Top each with a teaspoon of cream cheese. Wrap a piece of smoked salmon around the cream cheese. Stick cocktail forks down the centre. Garnish with dill (optional).

Mediterranean Fried Cheese Forks

  • Serve with: Vivo Blanco White, Chile, 4000 ml, $42.99
  • Makes 24 pieces
  • Prep time: Less than 30 minutes
  • Total time: Less than 1 hour


  • 2 250 g pieces Halloumi, cubed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 to 2 cups flour
  • 1 to 2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 cups vegetable oil
  • 24 sundried tomato packed in oil
  • 24 pitted black olives

Directions: Make an egg wash by whisking together eggs with two teaspoons of water. Set out bowls of flour and breadcrumbs. Dust halloumi with flour. Shake off excess. Place in egg wash.

Shake off excess. Dip in breadcrumbs. Place oil in a deep sided pot set over medium-high heat. When the oil reaches 350°F,carefully lower halloumi in batches in hot oil. When golden brown

remove and set aside on paper towel to drain excess oil. Place pitted olive on a cocktail fork, followed by sundried tomato and finally halloumi. Place on platter and serve immediately.


While shot glasses make a fantastic measuring tool for cocktails, they also provide a convenient and impressive way to present hors d’oeuvres at a social occasion. These recipes are so easy, we’ve termed them snap shots. As for the pairings, be sure to celebrate the season with a selection of fl avourful brews. The holiday season is a time when brewers offer speciality brews they have been planning all year, and unique tasting packs featuring a selection of their best.

  • Rickard’s Red Taster Series, 12 x 341 ml, $25.79
  • Mill Street Winter Sampler, 6 x 360 ml, $14.99
  • PEI Brewing Gold Medal Pack, 4 x 473 ml $15.45
  • Samuel Adams Winter Lager, 6 x 355 ml, $15.49


Caprese Skewers

  • Makes 25-30 skewers
  • Prep time: Less than 30 minutes
  • Total time: Less than 30 minutes


  • 1 pint red cherry tomatoes
  • 1 pint yellow cherry
  • tomatoes
  • 2 00 ml container mini
  • Bocconcini* balls
  • 30 basil leaves
  • Small skewers
  • Buttermilk dressing

Directions: Alternate red tomato, mini Bocconcini, yellow tomato and basil leaf on a small skewer. Repeat until fi nished. Place a tablespoon of buttermilk dressing in the bottom of a shot glass. Top with Caprese Skewer. * Mini Bocconcini balls are found at most grocery stores. May be substituted with pieces of fresh Mozzarella.

Buttermilk Dressing: Combine 1 cup buttermilk, 2/3 cup mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon each finely chopped chives and parsley, 1 teaspoon fresh dill, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 1/8 teaspoon each of paprika and ground mustard. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


Scallop Skewers

  • Makes 30 skewers
  • Prep Time: Less than 30 minutes
  • Total Time: Less than 30 minutes
  • 30 scallops
  • Sea salt
  • Cracked pepper
  • Tooth picks
  • 1 to 2 tbsp olive oil or
  • coconut cooking oil*
  • Dab butter
  • Smoky Coconut Milk Sauce
  • Sprig cilantro for garnish

Directions: Place scallops on paper towel to remove excess water. Remove adductor muscle from scallops. Season scallops with sea salt and cracked pepper. Place olive oil in heavy skillet set over medium-high heat. Sear scallops on one side until browned (2 to 3 minutes). Flip, add butter and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Cook in batches to avoid overcrowding. Skewer scallops with toothpicks. To serve place a tablespoon of Smoky Coconut Milk Sauce in shot glasses. Top each with skewered scallop with a sprig of cilantro. * Coconut cooking oil is available at many grocery stores and at Walmart Supercentres.

Smoky Coconut Milk Sauce: In a bowl combine 1 can (13.5 oz) coconut milk, zest and juice of 1 lime, 1/4 cup corn kernels, 1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro and 1/4 cup roughly chopped hot smoked salmon. Season with salt and pepper.


Spiced Pork Meatballs

  • Makes 24 meatballs
  • Prep time: Less than 30 minutes
  • Total time: Less than 30 minutes


  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
  • 2 tsp cumin, ground
  • 1 tsp dried chilies
  • 3 tbsp cilantro,
  • finely chopped
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • Pinch salt and pepper
  • 1 cup flour
  • Vegetable oil
  • Curry Yogurt Sauce

Curry Yogurt Sauce: Combine 2 cups plain yogurt, 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh mint, the juice and zest of 1 lime, 2 teaspoons each of turmeric and cumin and 1 teaspoon cayenne. Season sauce with salt, to taste.

Directions: Place pork, 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, cumin, dried chilies, cilantro, 1 egg, salt and pepper in a bowl. Mix pork with your hands until well combined. Check seasoning by frying a small piece of the pork meatball. Taste and readjust seasoning, as desired. Roll into mini-meatballs. Beat remaining eggs with 2 tablespoons water to make an egg wash. Set up individual bowls of the egg wash, remaining breadcrumbs and fl our. Dredge meatballs in fl our. Shake off excess. Dip in egg wash. Shake off excess. Finally, dip in breadcrumbs. Fry meatballs in oil, over medium-low heat, until brown on all sides. Remove and set on paper towels to remove excess oil. Skewer the meatballs with toothpicks. Place a tablespoon of Curry Yogurt Sauce in a shot glass. Top shot glass with skewered meatball.



  • Pumpkin Pie and
  • Spiced Rum Shots
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/ 2 cup + 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 fl oz Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/ 2 cup finely crumbled
  • ginger snaps

Directions: Place pumpkin, 1/2 cups cream, 1/2 cup sugar, rum, vanilla, and cinnamon in a bowl. Mix thoroughly. Place a bowl and whisk in freezer for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from freezer. Add remaining cream and sugar. Whisk until stiff peaks form. Fold whipped cream into pumpkin mixture. Place in piping bag. Fill shot glasses with pumpkin mousse. Top with crumbled ginger snaps. Serve with mini cocktail spoons.

Zesty Lemon Mousse Shots

  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1/ 3 cup + 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Candied lemon slices

Directions: Beat egg yolks over in a double broiler. Whisk in lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and sugar until thickened. Transfer mixture to a bowl. Cool in refrigerator. Place a whisk and metal mixing bowl in freezer for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove bowl from freezer. Add the heavy cream and sugar. Whisk until stiff peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into lemon mixture. Place in mousse in a piping bag with wide tip. Pipe into shot glasses. Top with candied lemon slices. Serve with mini cocktail spoons.



Berry Rosemary Punch

6 to 8 Servings

1 1/2 l cranberry juice, chilled

1/4 cup rosemary syrup*

1 cup Grey Goose VX Vodka

1/2 cup cranberries

1/2 cup cape gooseberries, leaves removed

Directions: Fill punch bowl with ice. Add cranberry juice, rosemary syrup

and vodka. Stir to mix. Add cranberries and gooseberries.

* Place 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water and 3 sprigs of rosemary in a pot.

Place over medium-high heat. When the sugar has dissolved, remove

from heat and let cool. After 20 minutes, strain to remove rosemary.

Make it a Mocktail: Simply omit the vodka from this recipe to make a non-alcoholic version.


Citrus & Ginger Punch

Serves 6 to 8


  • 1 l orange juice, chilled
  • 1/4 ginger syrup*
  • Seeds from 1 large pomegranate
  • 2 oranges, sliced
  • 2 clementines, sliced
  • Ro semary skewered candied
  • clementine slices**
  • 1 bottle sparkling wine, chilled

Directions: Place orange juice and ginger syrup in a punch bowl. Stir to combine. Add pomegranate seeds, orange slices, clementine slices. Top with sparkling wine just before serving. Garnish coupe glasses with candied clementine slices.

* Make ginger syrup by combining 2 1-inch slices ginger, 1/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. When the sugar has dissolved, remove from heat. Let cool and strain to remove ginger. The syrup can be kept for up to two weeks refrigerated.

** See opposite page for candied clementine recipe.

Make it a Mocktail: For those wishing to provide a non-alcoholic option, combine all the liquid ingredients in ice-fi lled carafes. Set out the clementine slices in a bowl alongside a chilled bottle of sparkling wine and a chilled bottle of club soda. Let guests decide if they prefer their punch with sparkling wine or soda.

Aperol Gin Punch

  • 10 to 12 Servings


  • 3/4 cup Willing to Learn Gin
  • 1 1/2 cups Aperol
  • 1 cup grapefruit juice
  • 1 1/2 cups orange juice
  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 1 cup club soda, chilled

Directions: Fill a punch bowl with ice. Add gin, Aperol and fruit juices. Stir to mix. Top with club soda.

Spiced Rum Punch

  • 10 Servings


  • 1 1/2 cups Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum
  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 4 cups pineapple juice
  • 3 limes, sliced
  • Club soda, chilled
  • Cinnamon sticks (optional)
  • Star anise pods (optional)

Directions: Fill a punch bowl with ice. Add spiced rum, fruit juices and lime slices. Stir to mix. Top with club soda. Float cinnamon sticks and star anise pods.

Candied Clementine and Lemon Slices

Finely slice 3 clementines and 2 lemons. Place fruit slices in individual sauce pans each with 2 cups sugar and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil. When sugar has dissolved reduce heat to a low simmer. Simmer for 2 hours. Remove slices of fruit and place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Place second piece of parchment over slices and cover with another baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour in an oven set to 250°F. Turn off the heat and let cool overnight in the oven. Gently remove clementine slices. Slice lemon slices in half and use to garnish our Zesty Lemon Mousse Shots recipe and skewer clementine slices with rosemary spears. Use to garnish drinks such as our Citrus & Ginger Punch.

Occasions Recommends

  • Grey Goose VX, 750 ml, $99.99
  • Willing to Learn Gin, 750 ml, $29.99
  • Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum, 750 ml, $30.79
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