Ina Garten's Top 5 Tips for Making the Holidays Special This Year

Lauren Wicks
·5-min read
Photo credit: NBC - Getty Images
Photo credit: NBC - Getty Images

From Veranda

Like most of us, celebrity chef and TV host Ina Garten is having to rethink the holidays this year. While she imagines the holiday season will look a whole lot like the previous seven months we've spent at home in 2020, the Barefoot Contessa says that's all the more reason to put the extra effort into creating special moments and traditions to share with your household this year.

"Everything is different right now, and I have no idea what Thanksgiving or Christmas is going to be like," Garten says. "Although it’s just the two of us, it’s important to mark those holidays—even if it’s just to know what day it is!"

Garten says she finally started to instill some work-life balance back into her life by giving herself weekends off, and she believes the same should be true for the holidays. Even though we may not be traveling to grandma's house or our favorite winter getaway, it's still worth taking the days—or weeks—off that you normally would to rest, relish in the festivities, and reset for the new year. And the best part about all this, according to Ina? You have the ultimate excuse for avoiding pesky relatives this year!

Whether you'll be spending the year's final holidays with a spouse, neighbors, your children, or a few extended family members, Garten's tips for socially distanced holiday gatherings will help you make special memories that you'll cherish for years, reminding you 2020 wasn't all bad after all.

Invest in Outdoor Heaters to Extend Alfresco Entertaining into Winter

"I got four outdoor heat lamps like they do in France, so we can sit outside and dine as long as possible," Garten says. We love classic stainless steel heaters that easily move from the backyard to the front patio.

We're also eyeing Tucci's genius parasols and cabanas with infrared heaters for ultrachic (and warm!) outdoor entertaining year-round. If you're looking for a smaller, permanent fixture, Garten says she also loves her fire bowl for cozy, intimate entertaining on crisp nights.

Photo credit: TUCCI
Photo credit: TUCCI

Set a Beautiful, Festive Table, No Matter How Small

Photo credit: William Abranowicz
Photo credit: William Abranowicz

"As soon as I realized we could start seeing people distantly outside, I set up one of my big, long tables out there, and, even if it’s just for cocktails, I make everyone their own buffet plate so we don’t have to pass things back and forth," Garten says. "I still set a gorgeous table so it feels special."

Like us, Garten has a penchant for artisanal table and serveware, and she shares some of her favorite sources at the end of her latest book, Modern Comfort Food. Some of her favorite domestic brands include Roman & Williams Guild, French Presse, Ted Muehling, Hudson Grace, David Mellor, and CB2. She also adores Caravane Saint Paul and Vis-A-Vis in Paris.

Don't Get Too Fussy with Your Holiday Menus


Photo credit: Quentin Bacon
Photo credit: Quentin Bacon

"I came through a different route to being a cookbook author than most people," Garten says. "Most chefs know what people want to eat in restaurants. I came from a specialty foods store where I had to be conscious of making food ahead that you can serve later. At restaurants you want morels, but at home you want roast chicken, carrots, and potatoes."

Garten says her 20 years of experience owning Barefoot Contessa taught her that she needed to sell items that could truly be enjoyed in a home setting. She has mastered foolproof, crowd-pleasing recipes, and her dozen cookbooks are always at the top of best-seller lists for this reason. We're sharing two of her favorites from Modern Comfort Food: Skillet-Roasted Lemon Chicken & Potatoes and Fig & Cheese Toasts, both of which are perfect for serving at small gatherings.

"I love figs this time of year and always do a toast with figs or fig jam and goat cheese," says Garten. "A lot of these recipes [in Modern Comfort Food] are updated versions of favorites, like the Spicy Pimento Cheese Spread and Crab Nachos. It’s basically cocktail party food, but it’s able to be served at a party outside."

Ina is known for her chicken recipes, and this one is sure to be an instant classic. Lemony, herby chicken and potatoes that do all the work while you prep and primp—what more could you want in a holiday meal?

Cocktails Served in Martini Glasses Instantly Elevate Any Occasion


Photo credit: Quentin Bacon
Photo credit: Quentin Bacon

Garten's oversize martini glasses went viral at the onset of the pandemic, but she's always had a penchant for the sleek style of glassware for entertaining. One of her favorite ways to utilize those glasses at the holidays is with a festive twist on a classic cocktail. Her Pomegranate Gimlet is vibrant in color and flavor and is sure to enliven your holiday guests, even if it's just you!

Don't Forget to Set the Mood with a Fabulous Playlist


Photo credit: Courtesy of Courtland & Co.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Courtland & Co.

No amount of candles can set the mood quite like music, and, thankfully, Ina has us covered with an array of playlists for any occasion. Check out her Spotify page to find playlists for romantic evenings, seaside picnics, cooking, and nights of wanderlust when you're craving being back in Paris!

You Might Also Like