How To

Adam Rapoport's Five Rules of Holiday Hosting

The 'Bon Appétit' editor weighs in on wardrobe, lighting, and the importance of a big, tasty ham.
Photos: Andy Ryan

Or, if you don't feel like making a ham, just book a table at Aska in Brooklyn...

As editor-in-chief of Bon Appétit, Adam Rapoport knows a thing or two about entertaining. And, having spent ten years as style editor of GQ, the man knows a thing or two about looking sharp, too. We asked him to combine his areas of expertise and offer up five rules for entertaining in style this season.

You have to buy a ham. Period.
“A holiday ham on a great big wooden cutting board, on a credenza or a kitchen island, is essential. You can never go wrong with a classic, bone-in smoked ham. We love the ones by Dartagnan. What I love about ham is that A) it’s ridiculously delicious, and B) it’s ridiculously easy to make. For the amount of effort to the amount of impact, you couldn’t ask for anything more. It comes out looking gorgeous, the house smells delicious, so when people walk into your house or apartment, they’re immediately like ‘Oh, my God.’ They see it, they smell it, they’re sold.”

You gotta have punch.
“It’s the liquor equivalent of the porky awesomeness of ham. You need a nice punch bowl—you do not want to be putting this in your salad or mixing bowl. I mean, you can if you live in Brooklyn and you’re 25, and you just want to do punch in your stainless steel mixing bowl, but if you’re grown up, buy a nice punch bowl. And ice is the key—it’s the great amplifier. There are two choices, you can fill a large bowl with ice, and set the punch inside it, or you can make a decorative ice ring. To do that you fill a bundt pan with water, fill it with herbs, some pomegranate seeds, freeze it overnight, and float it in the punch bowl. It’ll look beautiful, it’s both form and function.”

I’m obsessed with good lighting.
“You don’t need to call in a set director from Broadway to have your apartment or house look good. Just go to the drug store and buy extension cords with dimmers on them — your life should be on a dimmer. Then I like to scatter cheap votive candles around the apartment for some contrast. You don’t need high end lighting fixtures, you just need some dimmers and some cheap votive candles. One thing you do not want: Scented candles! You want to walk in that house and you want to smell ham or other food — you do not want to smell scented candles from the mall. Never, ever, ever. You should not theoretically be able to eat your scented candle — your scented candle should not smell like Cinnabon.”

Mr. Rapoport, with a holiday bow.

As a host, you need to put some effort into your wardrobe.
“There’s that fine line between overdressing and intimidating. You don’t want to overdress, and intimidate your guests, and make them feel bad for underdressing. I think “festive” is the key word. Wear something you would not wear to work, or on a Saturday afternoon. Break out that velvet jacket, or the plaid pants, or the Belgian loafers. Throw in that pocket square. It should say, ‘This is the one day of the year I’m going to wear this outfit.’ And you know what, everyone’s drunk and happy, and they’re going to like it.”

Finally, if you can afford it, there’s no shame in hiring a little help.
“I can be somewhat of a cheapskate by nature, but my wife taught me this. A party is both hard work and a hell of a lot of fun, but you need someone to do that work. And you can’t play host and get done everything that needs to get done. Get a little help, whether it’s one serving person, or a bartender, or someone to help with the dishes. Most men think they can do everything by themselves, but they can’t.”

Click here for Bon App‘s guide to ham nirvana in four easy steps, and here for how to accessorize your punch with the perfect ice ring. Aska is located inside Kinfolk Studios, at 90 Wythe Ave., Brooklyn, NY.

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