Food & Drink

Ask A Charlotte Expert: Compiling The Perfect Holiday Menu

December 4, 2013 7:00 AM

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Putting together a holiday meal, whether for six guests or 60, can seem like a daunting task. You want it to be easy, yet memorable and traditional, yet creative. Sometimes the best thing to do is call in some professional help. We asked La-tea-da’s Catering, a firm with a long history in Charlotte event planning, for tips on how to put together a holiday meal. Headed by the dynamic mother-daughter team of Chrys and Janet Woodson, La-tea-da’s excels at events of all sizes and is the winner of numerous awards presented by event planning organizations, including the 2013 EVIE (Events in Excellence) trophies for Best Food Presentation and Most Creative Menu.
Janet Woodson
La-tea-da’s Catering
115 W. 7th St.
Charlotte, NC 28202
(704) 338-6864

La-tea-da’s has been a Charlotte favorite since the early 1990s, when it began as a combination antique store and teashop in a charming old house on E. 7th Street. It soon became famous for its elaborate catered tea parties as well as for its broad front porch, a favorite gathering spot in the Elizabeth neighborhood. The catering business eventually outgrew the teashop and La-tea-da’s moved uptown, morphing into one of the city’s top caterers. Today, it is the exclusive caterer at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church’s Parish Hall, and a preferred partner at venues ranging from the elegant Foundation for the Carolinas to rustic halls on the Ann Springs Greenway, as well as area wineries, breweries and galleries. Following her motto of “Small Bites and Big Flavor,” Janet Woodson shares some tips on planning your holiday meal.
Tip 1: Plan the menu to optimize your time.

Janet suggests planning a meal that allows you prepare most things in advance. “The sign of a great hostess is wonderful food, presented in a wonderful, casual atmosphere that will ‘Wow!’ your guests,” she says. “Too many times we over-extend and do not get to enjoy our guests. Many items can be prepared in advance and finished off right before guests arrive. And have some type of help …whether it’s a close friend or family member, if your guest list is more than a half-dozen.”

Related: Best Florists In Charlotte To Get A Holiday Poinsettia

Tip 2: Add modern twists to your presentation.

“Guests love to see something different during this time of year. Go for unexpected flavors and unexpected pairings!” Janet suggests. “Take familiar flavors and put a fun twist on them! For example, take your sweet potato casserole and turn it into ‘single servings’ by layering your old standby casserole into individual glasses or soufflé cups for a nice presentation. Take the turkey or holiday ham and do individual cocktail sandwiches or a biscuit bar. Complement this with an array of fall and winter chutneys and local honey. We love to serve a meal on what we call walk-around plates, with bites of dinner and unique desserts on a small plate. Your guests will expect wine but bring in some of the fall beers to pair with menu items. Or begin with a sparkling wine and go through a progression of spirits and foods.”
Tip 3: Go local as much as possible.

“We incorporate lots of root vegetables, winter squash, pumpkin, apples, pears and mushrooms into our seasonal menus this time of year,” Janet says. “The summer has come and gone, but the farmers’ markets are still full of local products. The Yorkmont and Mathews markets are bursting at the seams and will provide lots of ‘sparks’ for your menu. Locally sourced beef, root vegetables, honey, mushrooms and much more await you at the market.”

Related: A Guide To Charlotte Area Farmers Markets

“A holiday event is the true expression of you,” Janet adds. “Be brave and do something unique. Plan, work your plan and you will be successful!” Here’s one of her favorite recipes to add to your holiday menu.

Cheese Slaw

  • 3 cups of shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 cups of shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup of shredded Swiss cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/4 cup banana peppers

Mix with 1 cup of mayo or enough to bind ingredients together. Serve with flatbreads, pita points or table wafers. Add lobster or crab for a fancier dish.

With 15 years of experience covering restaurants in Charlotte and the Carolinas, and two regional guidebooks under her belt, Renee Wright examines the dining scene with enthusiasm plus a deep knowledge of food trends and outstanding local eating ops. Her work can be found at

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