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Straight from the Hostess’ Mouth
by Mary Richter Surdyk’s Cheese Shop
Photo Provided by Sarah Nelson
When throwing a cocktail party, I judge its success or failure based on how much fun I had. I, being the hostess, that is. If your parties leave you frantic, harried and exhausted, it’s time to get some tips from the pros. The following is a checklist that will insure you throw the perfect party. (Sparkling personality not included.)
1. Decide to have a party.
2. Compile a guest list.
3. Get your house in perfect shape for entertaining
(by having it professionally cleaned so you can focus on the food and drink.)
4. Focus on the food and drink.
I like a menu that combines some of my personal favorite recipes with items I can purchase ready-made. Create a menu that is user friendly so guests will be able to serve themselves. (If you prefer, you can always get a neighbor, relative or professional server to help out.)
Once you’ve chosen a menu visualize how it will be served, held and eaten. If it makes a mess all over the table, your guests or the floor, re-think that menu item. (Picture yourself cleaning the mess for extra motivation).
If you’re pressed for time, keep it really simple. Remember you’re having a party to spend time with friends and family, make contacts, and have fun. If you want to impress your guests with fancy, intricate hors d’oeuvre, make sure you’ve got plenty of time to bake, whip, stir and assemble.
Be sure to plan for garnishing your hors d’oeurve trays and platters. I set up a bowl of ice with bunches of fresh herbs, edible flowers, leaves, sesame seeds, chopped nuts and things to add color and flavor to finish my platters. A simple bunch of thyme or a few sprigs of cilantro can do wonders.
Take a copy of your menu along when you shop for your wines and beverages. (Surdyk’s wine consultants will pair the perfect wines for your menu and can recommend wines that please a variety of palates.)
Set up a separate table for beverages with an ice bucket, corkscrews and other chilled beverages on ice with plenty of clean stemware. You don’t want to be washing dishes half way through the evening.
5. Create a menu that is hostess and guest friendly.
6. Visualize how the menu items will be served, held and eaten.
7. Keep it simple.
8. Leave time for finishing touches like garnishing.
9. Bring your menu along when shopping for beverages.
10. Set up a separate table for beverages.
11. Bask in the adoration of your guests.
Easy Party Menu
Here is a menu I love. It includes my favorites, like spring rolls and roast pork. And many of these items can be purchased or easily assembled.
Asian spring rolls with peanut dipping sauce
Smoked salmon or prosciutto with breadsticks and arugula
American Artisan Cheeses
Egg salad stuffed radicchio leaves
Roast pork loin with onion confit on crostini
> Order the spring rolls from your favorite Asian restaurant, cut them in halves or thirds.
> Buy a box of long breadsticks, wrap with sliced prosciutto or smoked salmon
> Buy a pound of egg salad at the deli, Spoon into small radicchio or butter lettuce cups
> Buy a pork loin, stud with slivers of garlic and roll in rosemary, salt and pepper. Roast, slice and serve on a platter with toasted baguette slices and onion confit (you can buy this or make it from scratch).
> Select 3-5 artisan cheeses from Surdyk’s cheese counter (we’ll be happy to advise you on the selection). Arrange on your favorite platter with knives and spreaders. Have a basket of crackers near by.
> Buy small, cherry tomatoes and cherry sized fresh mozzarella balls. Skewer one of each on a toothpick and top with a basil leaf. Drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt.