Year in and year out, the pressure increases. You know your guests have sipped your eggnog and sampled your stuffing so many times they have the flavors memorized. You know that the crush of invitations has people double- and triple-booked. It’s not just that holiday entertaining is a proposition that demands time in a season when there isn’t any. There’s not a note of tradition that hasn’t been sounded repeatedly in Christmases past. And while tradition inspires nostalgia, it can also inspire boredom. The season calls for simple solutions–unexpected menus with a personal touch.

Three Texas caterers–Food Company of Dallas, Byron Franklin of Houston, and Zan Millner of Galveston–come to the rescue of yuletide hosts with dazzling settings and festive food, minus the mundane turkey and yams. Whether staging a casually Texan holiday buffet, a genteel Christmas Day coffee, or a spirited New Year’s Eve cocktail gathering, they tailor the event to match the tastes of the host. It’s the ideal client-caterer relationship: They do the work, and you still feel that it’s your party.

Southwestern Holiday Buffet from The Food Company, Dallas.

Formal Christmas Coffee from Byron Franklin, Houston.

New Year’s Eve Cocktail Party from Zan Millner, Galveston.


The phrase “throw a party” is deceptively nonchalant. The rare hostess who has the time and talent to pull all the necessary skills together often ends up too exhausted to enjoy her own party. Still, many people are reluctant to call a caterer to help with entertainment. Here’s how to get started:

1. Listen to the grapevine. The best caterers rely on word of mouth; when you go to other parties, notice the details––is the food presented attractively, does it taste good, are the tables bused promptly?

2. Shop around. Briefly interview several caterers on the phone. Do they provide food only, or are they a full-service operation, arranging for decorations, music, valet parking, rental, help, and cleanup? What kind of food do they serve? Ask for references and sample menus.

3. Know your budget. It is impossible to plan a party without some idea of price range. Ask for bids from two caterers or get two proposals from one, and request an itemized list of costs. Find out who will be responsible for damages.

4. Trust your instincts. A caterer is someone you need to communicate with easily––he or she will be coming into your home and representing you. Remember: it’s your party. M.M.