A Swell Noel
Chef, cookbook author, and master entertainer Alex Hitz hosts a Christmas Eve dinner for 40 in his Los Angeles home.
You could say Alex Hitz inherited his love for throwing a good party. His mother, Caroline, a consummate hostess, and his stepfather, the famed conductor Robert Shaw, “entertained constantly,” he says. Hitz continues the family tradition, and sets Christmas Eve aside to share a sparkling evening at home with friends. No surprise, food is paramount, but the atmosphere he creates is equally delicious.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: “For Christmas Eve dinner I always want the flowers to be super special. These were done by my talented friend David Jones,” says Hitz. Jones massed carnations in exquisite silver pieces, such as this Cartier silver tureen. A bird’s-eye view of one of the tables, set with Royal Crown Derby Kings Imari, Reed & Barton Francis I flatware, and a centerpiece of red apples. After a final check of the tables before guests arrive, Hitz pauses to make sure everything is in order sartorially, too “My entertaining philosophy: Serve dinner on time. Never let the wine flow like glue. Make sure the food is impeccable, simple, and indulgent. And never, ever run out of it.” – Alex Hitz
A PARTY IS THEATER.
It’s all about timing and the components that go into it—the props, if you will. If you have delicious food and it’s served hours late, it’s going to ruin the evening. If you have horrendous food that served on time, that will too.
And nothing kills a mood faster than a room lit for surgery. I always dim, dim, dim, and then use long tapers and votives everywhere.
BRING OUT THE REALLY GOOD STUFF.
I’ve been fortunate to inherit some fine tableware, and I’m a firm believer in using what I have as often as possible. As Joan Didion once said, “Every day is all there is.”
THE HOLIDAYS ARE NOT THE TIME TO BUCK TRADITION.
For Christmas I unapologetically go for red, and what’s on the table reflects my sense of tradition, style, and family history. Floral designer David Jones used carnations in three shades of red, pavéd them, and made them look fabulous. I piled apples in gorgeous silver bowels for other simple and pretty centerpieces. I like a high/low combination. The silver is first-rate, but I mixed in gold trees I purchased at an after-Christmas sale.YES, 45
MINUTES IS GRACIOUS PLENTY FOR COCKTAIL “HOUR.”
My party begins at 7:30. I’ll pass Champagne and sparkling water. If guests desire something even stronger, my homemade eggnog is decadent and lethal. I don’t serve hour d’oeuvres. Why ruin your appetite for the main event? We sit down at the table by 8:15.
PLAN EVERYTHING OUT, BUT STAY FLEXIBLE (AND CALM).
Go to town on the details, but know that things will happen. Children will run through the dinning room, and a Baccarat glass will surely get broken. What are you going to do? The more stressed you are, the more uncomfortable your guests are going to be. A party is like a watch—you just have to wind it up, and then let it go.
“If you choose the right things to go together, then the party soars,” says Hitz. Family silver, monogrammed linens, and festive flowers take his Christmas Eve dinner to elegant heights.
By KAREN CARROLL
Photography by SHYLA BARCELONA