They say friends are the family you’ve chosen for yourself, which is why “Friendsgiving” is basically Thanksgiving without anyone fighting about politics or your nosy aunt quizzing you about when you’re planning to tie the knot. It’s an excuse to get everyone you love around the same, crowded table to spend a few hours remembering how lucky you are to be in each other’s lives.
For Eliza Clark and Tim Trojian, founders of Foxfire Mountain House in Mount Tremper, NY, gathering around a harvest table with their nearest and dearest is just another day in the life. They host “Sunday Suppers” at their lodge in the Catskills—whose intimate, chic-in-the-country vibe has made it a favorite of New York City brides—so they’re pretty much the experts on how to pull off a friendly dinner party without a hitch. Read on for their tips on how they host a truly extraordinary affair.
Keep scrolling for hosting tips from the owners of Foxfire Mountain House.
Leave the guest list wide open
When it comes to a big, potluck dinner with your friends, the more really is the merrier. “Friendsgiving is all about fun without the obligation of inherited traditions, so invite as many people as your space permits,” says Clark. “If space is limited, a buffet table can be a great way to fit more people. Allow your guests to perch with a plate on their laps anywhere from the sofa to a comfy pillow on the floor.” If you want to try to fit everyone at a table, don’t worry if it’s a tight squeeze—real friends don’t care if you elbow them in the face while fighting over the last drumstick.
Use what you’ve got for table decor
When it comes to creating the perfect Thanksgiving table, natural materials are key. “Seasonal flowers with foraged branches can be amazing, you can go really tall with them for drama and because they’re high, your guests can still see each other across the table underneath the leaves.” says Clark. “Fall harvest is about bounty and so we like to decorate the center of the table with figs, persimmons, artichokes, grapes—really whatever appeals to you at the market.” This gives the table a rustic feel, while still feeling earthy.
You don’t have to serve turkey
Chances are, most of your guests have turkey penciled in for November 23, so consider a less traditional option such as pheasant, duck, or fish as the main course instead. “Any of these choices have a perfectly festive feel, aren’t hard to cook, and can help jumpstart a new tradition,” Clark says.
Ask your friends to bring something easy to prepare (and more importantly) easy to transport. Some of Clark and Trojian’s old-fashioned faves include roasted acorn squash with brown sugar and orange, stewed cranberries, mashed potatoes, or steamed cauliflower. “To change things up, consider dishes like farrow and barley risotto, a warm spaghetti squash salad with sun dried tomatoes, herb-crusted eggplant, mashed rutabaga with roasted apple, garlic and sesame oil-fired Chinese long beans, or a pilaf of lentils and wild rice.” Plan to have enough of each side dish to account for half of the people at the party, but if you know something will be a hit (looking at you, mashed potatoes), it’s good to plan to have enough for everyone.
Make a batch of cocktails
“We like to make a big batch of a delicious punch served in a large bowl,” says Clark, who recommends this Winter Sangria created by Foxfire’s bartender, Michelle Elise. Here’s her recipe to copy:
1. Mix all ingredients except the cider in a punch bowl or large pitcher.
2. Serve a half cup of the mixture in a wine glass, and top with 2oz of the cider.
3. Garnish with a cinnamon stick, a sprig of rosemary, some star anise, cranberries, or all of the above.
Celebrate each other
Clark and Trojian are basically the queen and king of having friends over for dinner, but they make their turkey day celebration extra special in one way. “We like to do something called ‘highlights,’ where we ask that one at a time each person around the table says three highlights from their past year,” says Clark. “It’s a variation of being thankful, but highlights are about joys and successes, little or large victories that are all significant nonetheless. It feels so good to be able to celebrate the high moments for each guest and it’s a sweet peek into what matters most to each of them. The whole table becomes closer and more bonded as a result.”
Throw on a playlist (but please, no holiday tunes yet), pour yourself a glass of sangria, and remind yourself how lucky you are that you chose this particular family (who hopefully all know how to make a decent side dish).