By Christine Mouser
For most, the holiday season is by far the best time of the year. Preparing for the holidays is more than half the fun—the holiday spirit, buying presents, baking Christmas cookies and listening to Christmas music. But when the holidays finally arrive, instead of enjoying the day, many mothers, grandmothers and the occasional fathers are stuck, slaving away in the kitchen preparing a family feast. This year, take the day off and cater in some fantastic food from some great local restaurants. Most options are a little pricy—but consider that a Christmas present to yourself.
If Italian is your weakness, Girasole has you covered. This Italian restaurant with a twist offers off-site catering on any day of the week for any number of guests. Girasole presents a bunch of different packages from luncheons to dinners and cocktail parties. For Christmas, stick to the dinner package, which ranges from $20-$29 per guest. The packages operate as base menus, but you’re free to personalize it as much as possible. If you’re planning ahead for New Year’s, Girasole is also a great option for your party. They provide cocktail party packages for after-dinner hours, ranging from $13.50-$22 per guest. If the pricing is still a little out of your range and you want some Italian charm at your party, order one of their delectable desserts which range from an affordable $18-$30, depending on the size you need.
Dinner package example: Assorted cheese platter, miniature crab cakes, Girasole salad, baked ziti, sautéed vegetables and a filet with red wine reduction ($29/guest).
Cocktail party package example: Antipasto platter, olive and goat cheese crostini, miniature crab cakes and marinated beef skewers ($13.50/guest).
Dessert highlights: Lemon cake, tiramisu, strawberry whipped cream cake, chocolate mousse cake
Extra touch: Servers and bartenders can be provided with advance notice.
Double Wide Grill is a terrific option for BBQ fiends and party hosts looking for a cheaper holiday catering option. DWG has a terrific catering menu, which caters to every type of party possible. One popular option is the party packs, which offers serving sizes of 6, 12 and 18 guests. There are some great BBQ options, ranging from wood grilled chorizo, beef brisket and pulled pork, while more moderate barbeque eaters can choose the wood grilled chicken breast. And if you’re looking for some starters, they’ve got that too, with 50 pieces per order—wings ($54.99), brie and spinach portabella ($49.99), crab and black bean fritters ($54.99).
Party pack example: St. Louis Style Ribs, slow cooked, wood grilled with tangy Carolina sauce. Choice of two sides: creamy cherry slaw, garlic vinegar slaw, garlic and herb mashies, cilantro rice with caramelized onions, fruit cup, lug nut potatoes. Served with corn bread or Kaiser rolls. ($84.99-$254.99)
Party appetizers example: Mini taco bar with your choice of pulled pork of BBQ pulled seitan ($89.99)
Extra touch: Offers BBQ pulled seitan and seitan wings for your vegan friends and family.
For party hosts looking to stay more on the American side of things, Avenue B offers catering for any kind of event you have in mind—from a small and intimate Christmas dinner to a cocktail reception. What’s even more special is that you can create a custom menu, specifically catered to your event. Since there is no concrete catering menu, this American bistro’s menu may give you a little taste of what kind of refined food Executive Chef Chris Bonfili and friends are serving up.
Beef: Kobe flank steak, served with sweet potato pierogies, creamed spinach, bourbon demi
Pork: Crispy pork belly, apple and endive slaw, maple bourbon glaze or the Berkshire pork chop, served with spaghetti squash and ground cherry and radicchio slaw.
Fish: Day boat scallops and smoked trout, served with Israeli cous cous, spinach and roasted cauliflower, tobiko vinaigrette
Extra touch: Offers a customized menu for your event.
If you love Japanese food and entertainment, then consider treating yourself and your guests to catering from Nakama. For parties of 10 or more guests, Nakama is all about bringing the restaurant to your event. The staff can bring tables, chairs, hibachi or sushi, along with their trained personal chefs whose main goal is to entertain you and your guests. Also, if you want your holiday even easier, they can bring coolers, heaters or fans, plates, utensils, beverages cups and ice. They even have recommendations on hand for linens, chair covers, bakeries, magicians and more. Nakama is a great option for your party if you’re looking for something a little more than just food. Take a look at some of their hibachi and sushi items from their restaurant menu to see if Nakama is the best fit for you.
Hibachi: Day boat scallops, shrimp, strip steak, sesame chicken
Sushi: Signature and inside out rolls; California roll, spicy yellow tuna roll, red dragon maki (spicy tuna and cucumber topped with fresh ahi tuna)
Extra touch: With Nakama catering, your package includes an event coordinator. A wait staff is also available for hire.
Big Burrito Restaurant group offers the area some of the best restaurants in the city—such as Kaya, Eleven, Soba, Mad Mex and, of course, Casbah. And they offer even better catering with so many options and different cuisines for ten to as many as 500 guests. Because Big Burrito Restaurant group owns all of these restaurants, the party host can certainly mix and match their catered food from any of the above restaurants. But they also have options for each specific restaurant. Casbah features a Mediterranean menu, with French, Italian, Spanish and North African influences. Their staff of chefs, planners and coordinators will work closely with you to make sure you event is what you want it to be. They can even help with linens, flowers, menu design and more. The service can provide either drop off catering, set up and serve or full service, depending on your budget. They can serve hors ‘oeuvres ($1-$3/guest), antipasto tables, pasta stations and more.
Hors d’oeuvres samples: Smoked salmon mini tacos with saved radish ($2.50/guest), crème fraiche and dill; lamb loin bruschetta with oven dried tomatoes ($3/guest).
Casbah pasta station: Mesclun salad with dried cranberries, bread and butter, short rib ravioli, Swiss chard, oyster mushrooms, roasted shallots ($10/person).
Pittsburgh station: Pierogies (cheddar and truffle, potato and goat cheese), stuffed cabbage and garlic mashed potatoes, kielbasa and sauerkraut, sausage and peppers, pickled vegetables (add Pittsburgh salad with fries for $5)
Extra touch: They can provide a bar and service with your alcohol.
For some hosts, cooking up a large holiday feast is much easier than creating delicate desserts. And if you want to do some kind of catering this year, you can’t go wrong with this French bakery—the prices are reasonable and the desserts are divine. They offer 20 different kinds of cakes and tarts, mignardises (mini pastries, $0.85), petit fours (savory items, $0.85) and more. All desserts must be picked up at their quaint little shop in Lawrenceville.
Perfect Pastries: Éclairs au chocolat (long thin pastry filled with cocoa custard and topped with chocolate fondant), tart aux framboises (tart filled with almond paste, covered with fresh raspberries), choux a la crème (choux dough cut in half, filled with vanilla whipped cream).
Cakes & tarts: Opera cake (almond sponge cake layered with coffee and chocolate mousse, topped with chocolate ganache), tarte tatin (upside down caramelized apple tart), Frasier (syrup dampened cake, split and filled with fresh sliced strawberries, pastry cream and buttercream).
Extra touch: Just for the holidays, they serve the traditional Buche de Noel (log cake) and the Kings Cake.
The Taj Mahal has a great reputation for full-service catering that’s sure to turn the usual holiday party into an entertaining bash. If you’re an Indian cuisine lover, then you’ll be pleased with their offerings. They’re willing to make everything from exotic curries, chutneys and fresh baked naan to Tandoori meats, soups and long grain basmati rice. They’ll bring a grill and a Tandoor (Indian oven) to make fresh breads, kebabs and dosas. For this catering option, you’re not just getting great food—you’re getting a terrific atmosphere and a little entertainment.
Extra touch: They can provide imaginative vegetarian dishes and salads.
Christine Mouser is currently living in the Pittsburgh area, where she is an editorial intern for Pittsburgh Magazine. She is set to graduate from Penn State University this summer, with a degree in print journalism. She has written for HappyValley.com, Town&Gown magazine and Penn State’s Valley magazine.