3 days ahead:
• Shop for food.
• Make roasted red pepper-tomato soup.
2 days ahead:
• Make white bean dip.
• Cook onions for pear and blue-cheese pastry triangles, then cover and chill.
1 day ahead:
• Set the table. Set up the bar. Chill wines.
• Prepare and bake pear and blue-cheese pastry triangles.
• Make the rosemary olive oil for bean dip.
• Reheat roasted red pepper-tomato soup.
• Garnish dishes and serve.
• Use the white bean dip as the foundation for an abundant tray of store-bought snacks, including hummus and baba ghanoush, olive tapenade, carrot sticks, and other vegetables. Serve with breadsticks, pita chips, and a thinly sliced baguette.
• Hosting a bigger crowd? Buy extra puff pastry and get creative with toppings. Try sliced mushrooms and fontina cheese, or thinly sliced cooked red potatoes, thyme, and sea salt.
• If your guests tend to congregate in the kitchen, leave the roasted red pepper soup over a low flame on the stove and set cups, ladle, and toppings nearby (that's one fewer dish to wash).
• Forget about homemade desserts. Serve a store-bought tart or holiday cake, or encourage guests to bring cookies.