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By Tawny Clary

Ready or not, the holidays are here. Rather than finding our loved ones the perfect gift for the perfect price (which let’s face it, is sometimes more exciting than the gift itself), some of us have to worry about what we are going to feed our loved ones during the holidays.

Even more so, some of us feel inclined to host, but have no desire to cook – due to either lack of time or lack of successful preparation outcome (that’s right; those of us who are terrible cooks).

Thus, we enter the magical world of holiday catering.

Luckily, this area of metro Denver is filled with a variety of businesses that specialize in just that.

If you are not sure where to begin, let’s break it down into catering types.

There are locally owned restaurants where customers can have their favorite meals brought to their homes for parties.

Then there are local chain restaurants and grocery stores (i.e., Boston Market, King Soopers, Whole Foods, etc.) that have pre-designed packages to serve classic holiday meals.

Finally, there are the catering companies who are here to help custom design any type of holiday event you put forth.

Still not sure which direction to go? Well, maybe it would help to hear from the professionals.

We sat down with Marvin Williams, the General Manager of Abrusci’s Fire & Wine Restaurant. He gave us some insight on the catering styles of Abrusci’s as well as tips in general for anyone looking to cater a holiday event.

Abrusci’s is a local sit-down restaurant in the Applewood area that focuses on Italian style and wood-fired cuisine. They offer catering pick-up from the restaurant, drop-off at the home or in-home buffets with servers.

When it comes to planning a catered event in your home with servers, Williams points out a common oversight that people don’t always account for is the set-up time before the event and tear down afterward. He says customers may think they are only paying for three hours of the servers’ time when in actuality they pay for five – this includes the hour before event time and the hour after.

As for placing the order, Williams says to call two to three days in advance for pick up; at least a week in advance for drop-off and at least two weeks for in-home parties with staff. Allergies and dietary restrictions are generally not a problem. In fact, they are happy to make meals gluten-free for an additional charge.

If you are on a tight budget, they can work with you. Williams says the key is to “minimize stuff as best you can.”

Finally, remember it’s the holidays. Be flexible! Williams humbly reminds us that “holiday seasons can be hectic for everyone, including restaurants…. just have patience.”

Speaking of patience, Natalie Sears of Relish Catering & Events near West Colfax points out that dates fill up quickly in their business during the holidays.

Relish Catering is specifically a catering company that has the products from scratch. Sears says when their calendar fills up they recommend customers consider planning events on Sundays or even weekdays, as Fridays and Saturdays during the holiday season usually sell out well in advance. She also said if customers can plan closer to Christmas Day instead of the early part of December, there is usually more availability as well.   

Relish does have a minimum amount for catered events. However, they can work within budgets that meet that limit. Sears’ advice for keeping the catering budget-friendly is a more limited menu because it will require a more limited staff. She also says buffets tend to be more budget-friendly than hors d’oeuvres.

With so many holiday menu options, choosing what’s best for your party can be overwhelming. Sears says that customers can be involved “as much or as little as they want.” As it seems to be the trend among most restaurants and catering companies, they are happy to hold your hand through the whole process or let you take the reins.

So, if you are looking for a quick and easy catering solution, you can always go online and order from local grocers and restaurants, but if you are looking for something a little more your style, don’t feel intimidated. Just ask your favorite restaurants or your local catering companies. They are happy to accommodate and serve you at home for your next holiday get-together.