Real Parties

5 Tips for Being a Good Host

With several successful restaurants and “Friendsgivings” under their belt, Angela Houska and Joshua Widner know how to do hospitality right. Heather Kane uncovers their secrets just in time for Thanksgiving.

by Heather Kane

Nov 15 2019 at 8 a.m.

Angela Houska with her dog Hank
Photo by Heather KaneAngela Houska poses with good boy Hank in her kitchen.

Entertaining is what husband-wife duo, Angela Houska and Joshua Widner, do best. With several successful restaurants and “Friendsgivings” under their belt, they know how to do hospitality right. 417 Home Editor-at-Large, Heather Kane, sat down with Angela to uncover her entertaining secrets just in time for the holidays.

1. Greet Every Guest

Angela Houska believes that making people feel comfortable is one of the most important things to keep in mind when hosting. “It’s our goal to make people feel welcome and taken care of,” says Houska. “It’s a simple gesture, but it’s so important that either myself or my husband greet each guest at the door and offer them a drink.” For quick serving, Houska and husband Joshua Widner like to make at least one batch cocktail ahead of time to serve guests. They also always offer a non-alcoholic option that feels special. “For a winter cocktail, we love to make Ponche Navideño. It’s a flavorful hot Christmas punch that’s easily made to be alcoholic or not.” You can find the recipe here.

German bitters on a plate
Angela Houska's home decor
Photos by Heather Kane Create the perfect ambiance for your crowd.

2. Create An Inviting and Cozy Ambiance

Low wattage bulbs, twinkling lights, and taper candles add warm light and create just the right mood in the couple’s cozy dining room. Houska likes to set the table a few hours before guests arrive so she has time to enjoy the process. “Setting the table is one of my favorite parts of hosting, a ritual of sorts. It’s a time for me to get creative and enjoy some moments of solitude before guests arrive.” Layering vintage elements like blue willow dishes and brass candle holders, along with natural elements like fresh greens, flowers and produce create an inviting vibe that feels artisanal but not fussy.  Music is another key to ambience in their household. “Jazz is always a safe option, but we also like a little soul and pop, like Leon Bridges or the Alabama Shakes.” A record player sits in the dining room as well where guest can get interactive and play a record they pick out.

Angela Houska with house guests
Angela Houska hosting guests
Photos by Heather Kane Know your crowd and tailor the experience.

3. Know Your Crowd

How you entertain is determined by one major factor: the size of your group. For small parties, Houska makes dishes like frittatas and pulls out her hand-wash only vintage dishes. They definitely don’t shy away from hosting larger groups in their home though. “The comforts of the Danish lifestyle, Hygge, appeals to us. We love hosting large groups in our small home and hope for people to feel connected and cozy.” Houska uses recyclable palm leaf plates and usually serves family-style dishes for larger groups.

Angela Houska's grazing board
Angela Houska's favorite local honey
Photos by Heather Kane Grazing boards are a must for any host.

4. Grazing Boards Are a Must

Not only do Houska’s plentiful grazing boards look beautiful, but they taste amazing, too. Houska advises that guests always appreciate a snack before the main dishes are served. She sources her produce, cheeses and other goodies locally and always likes to add hummus and veggies for a vegan option. “One of the many things my grandmother taught me was, ‘Never serve anything in the container it came in.’” She follows this rule by pouring her honey into small jars and the hummus into bowls before adding them to her boards.

Underberg German bitters
Table display with Underberg in the background
Photos by Heather Kane Angela Houska's own unique tradition is toasting before a meal with Underberg, a German bitter.

5. Make Your Own Traditions 

Houska and Widner have their own twist on global traditions; like serving Underberg, a digestive bitter produced in Germany made from 43 aromatic herbs from 43 countries, for just one example. “Typically, Underberg is served after a meal to aid digestion and refresh your spirit,” says Houska. “But we’re not ones to follow strict rules or traditions. We love to make a toast with Underberg before our meal and take that as an opportunity to thank our guests for coming.” They both believe that taking time out for your guests and showing gratitude is what being a good host is all about.