Holiday Meal Etiquette

Dinner party professionals share their modern-day perspective on pleasing any guest or host

Say you were asked to design a fiercely well-mannered avatar for a dinner-party-themed video game. You might well borrow some qualities from Martha Stewart — exacting standards, disarmingly good hygiene — and some tips from Danny Meyer, who has built his business as much on personal warmth as on ridiculously good food.

But, chances are better that you’ll be asked to participate in a shared meal this holiday season. To get some advice on how to win at modern etiquette, where so many people have so many sensitivities, we talked with husband and wife Paul Molokides and Jennifer Aaronson, former operatives of the aforementioned heads of hospitality, and owners of Boro6, a new enoteca in Hastings-on-Hudson.

Molokides, previously deemed “the face of hospitality,” admits that as a kid, he would take a midday break from cops and robbers to set a table and serve lunch to his best friend. Now, he and his wife Aaronson, former Editorial Director of Food and Entertaining for the Martha Stewart brands, love to have dinner parties. 

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Their philosophy is strong but simple: “If you’ve invited people over, you’ve obligated yourself to take care of them,” Molokides explains. That means accommodating people who don’t eat meat or gluten by having a variety of dishes. It also means taking special care of people who may not be drinking when others are.

“We love alcohol,” laughs Molokides, but they have a beloved friend who doesn’t drink. “We always create a special drink for him. Which is so easy: you make simple syrup, take whatever is in season, carbonate, boom, you’re done. We want him to have a drink that’s as special as ours are, every time.”

What if someone brings along a bottle and you’ve planned the menu? “If people don’t tell us to save it for ourselves for later, we’re opening it.” The main goal is to keep everyone happy and comfortable.

And if you’re a guest? “Never come empty-handed!” exclaims Aaronson. “This doesn’t mean that you make a side dish. You bring them a little something. Something they can serve then or not; something that doesn’t infringe on the plan that they had.”

And if you’ve called to ask what you can contribute and they tell you not to bring anything? “Well, in this case, ‘no means yes,’” states Molokides. “Never come empty-handed!”

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