As the founder and CEO of Bird Bakery, the charming confectionery with locations in Dallas’ Highland Park Village and San Antonio, Elizabeth Chambers Hammer is no stranger to hosting hungry visitors. But it’s at home where her prowess really shines. “We entertain at least three nights a week,” she says. “We love to cook and bake and always have a full house.”
A knack for cooking for others comes naturally to the Texas native: both her sister and uncle are professional chefs; her mother, a gifted cook; and her late grandmother—Hammer’s inspiration for Bird—owned a popular catering company in San Antonio for many years. It’s something she’s instilling early in her children, Harper, who turns 4 in December, and Ford, 22 months. “Some of my fondest childhood memories took place in the kitchen, and I hope that my children can say the same one day. They love to come to the bakeries and serve treats, and they always help in the kitchen,” she says. “I think now more than ever—in a world with countless options for delivery and takeaway—it’s important for children to understand where food comes from.”
Though parenthood and a pair of successful careers keep Elizabeth and her husband, actor Armie Hammer, on the go—the day after our photo shoot, she flew home to L.A. to shepherd Harper and Ford to three birthday parties before hopping on a flight to Australia—the holiday season is one time of year the busy entrepreneur always makes time to slow down.
“The thing I love most about the holidays is tradition,” she says. “One of my favorites is our Christmas tree cutting. Each year, on the day after Thanksgiving, my husband, children, parents, brother, sister, and I drive from my family’s Colorado home to [a nearby] forest. We bring an elaborate picnic and drink hot chocolate and eggnog as we trudge through the forest in search of the perfect tree.”
As Hammer prepares for another holiday season, she swears by her go-to formula for a successful gathering: “It’s always relaxed, but I do love china, fresh flowers, and a beautifully set table.” Here, she shares her secrets for holiday hosting:
“When it comes to entertaining, my first priority is always the comfort of and consideration for my guest. Entertaining during the holidays can come with heightened emotions, so it’s important to anticipate as much as possible.”
Invitations should be informative.
“Let guests know what to expect so they can plan accordingly. Often during the holidays, there are several commitments in one evening, so it’s important to make clear what to expect in terms of food, by indicating on the invitation if you are hosting a seated dinner, open house, or casual nibbles.”
Guide your guests with proper placement.
“Create a flow in your home with food tables, bars, and seating areas to utilize the space as wisely as possible and to invite guests into the spaces you would like them to go.”
Look to lighting to create ambiance.
“I love candles and tea lights to add warmth and string lights outside. Outdoors, don’t forget to illuminate corners to create an inviting space and consider wraps or blankets if it’s cool.”
Turn off the TV and turn up the (pre-set) tunes.
“Create a playlist or Spotify station so you are present and able to enjoy your guests instead of thinking about the music.
Ditch the disposables.
“It doesn’t have to be fancy, it doesn’t have to all be the same, but please use real plates and silverware. It makes food taste better, it’s less waste, and guests will appreciate the effort.”
When it comes to food, more is more.
“I love an abundant table with additional food and dessert tables throughout the house and garden. For drinks, go with a Christmas punch or a bowl of eggnog for a vintage and festive feel.”
Don’t send guests home empty-handed.
“Whether it’s a gingerbread man in a cello bag tied with a ribbon, a small bag of homemade spiced nuts, or a Christmas sugar cookie from Bird Bakery, guests will appreciate that you thought of them up until the very last moment.”
Best holiday gift you’ve ever received?
My babies! Harper is a December baby, and Ford was born in January.
Favorite holiday song?
“All I Want for Christmas Is You.” Yes, Mariah sings my favorite Christmas song.
Favorite holiday flick?
The Holiday, Love Actually, It’s a Wonderful Life
Favorite holiday dessert?
My grandmother’s English trifle. I make it every year.
White or colored lights?
Tree: real or fake?
Real, real, real!
In addition to festive decor, Bird Bakery offers seasonal treats including salty-sweet Reindeer Crunch, gingerbread cookies, and spiced apple cider. New this year: All breakfast casseroles and popovers will be available in larger sizes for no-fuss holiday mornings.