For the past four years on Christmas Day, fashion-savvy public relations exec and entertaining maven Amanda Shipp (formerly Amanda Puck, host of WTTW’s Check, Please!), along with her equally groovy husband, Gregg (co-owner of HiFi Personal Fitness) have opened their ’60s-inspired Wicker Park loft to about 30 of their nearest and dearest.
On the menu are three varieties of chili, a snappy signature punch, and a whole lot of style. “We’re traditional in that we love Christmas and we love to share this time with our family and friends, but we live a modern lifestyle, and the way we entertain is an extension of that,” Amanda says. Here is a look at the Shipps’ hip-meets-homey Chili-Chili Bang-Bang party-broken down to its essential parts.
Amanda sets her table with Missoni floral china and limited-edition D.L. & Co. black porcelain plates emblazoned in silver with a 19th-century illustration of a human skull, custom-ordered through Jake. “It’s a tough and pretty look,” she explains. “And of course we love our Chilewich blue placemats from Barneys New York and our Saint-Louis Cristal colored wine glasses from Bernardaud.” The centerpieces consist of crimson and white Gerber daisies from Alice’s Garden, arranged in low vases. “We also set out several of my mom’s crystal candleholders from the ’70s and wrap tinsel around all of it.”
As their guests scurry in from the cold, the Shipps greet them with shot glasses full of hot soup-tasty butternut squash and apple bisque.
Growing up Italian on Staten Island, Amanda recalls that whenever her huge extended family gathered, “the antipasto platter was always insane.” It’s no surprise, then, that the adult Amanda is a diehard proponent of large spreads-or that she married a man with similar leanings. While their main course is chili, the Shipps don’t stop there; they also set out copious hors d’oeuvres, including:
Mini BLT sandwiches on bread from Red Hen Bread
As for the chili part of the bang-bang, the Shipps offer vegetarian, meat, and house-special options, all of which they leave in big pots on the stove throughout the day, so guests can serve themselves. Last year, the special was a spicy Moroccan-style vegetable chili (see recipe).
After every holiday party, the Shipps order a photo album from shutterfly.com and turn it into a little scrapbook, recording that year’s blowout for posterity.
The Shipps are passionate about their punch. Every year, they create their own recipe and name it. They make it in advance, making sure the fridge is stocked with refills, and set it out on the kitchen island along with other serve-yourself options. “This way, no one has to tend bar,” explains Amanda. On the cocktail menu this year is a festive mix involving blood orange juice, pomegranate cinnamon syrup, and Snow Queen vodka (see recipe). Naturally, as a punch lover, Amanda loves her punch bowl-a wedding gift, from Crate & Barrel. “It looks like a disco ball and I got these cute little glasses from CB2 to go with it. They were like 99 cents,” she says.