This post is more about concept than specific recipes. No surprise there, right? I tend to shy from telling you how much salt (or whatever) to put in your food. I don’t know how many people you’re cooking for, what their likes and dislikes are — and, based on the comments I receive, most of my readers are pretty damn good cooks. So, if you’ve been following FOODalogue for a while, you know I tend to tell you the ingredients and technique and let you do the math based on your palate.
Perhaps this post will give you some ideas for your next cocktail party.
The Party. My niece and I have partnered up before to throw a party, like when we did the Drunken Turkey Party a couple of months ago. Her house works really well for a party because of the ebb and flow of inside/outside (and places for children to play). Plus she loves to decorate and to use her chocolate fountain. So, she was in charge of decorations and desserts (which included a chocolate martini bar.) I handled food and wine.
Oh, and did I mention she is into Asian art?
My vision for the cocktail party was individual bite-size items that flowed in waves and, in the end, would equal a full dinner. This would give people an opportunity to move from space to space and mingle. I planned the menu so that each course would require only one utensil at a time — one’s fingers, a cocktail fork or a mini spoon.
We started with a welcome champagne cocktail or I guess you might call it a champagne punch. White cranberry juice was laced with Triple Sec, fresh raspberries and mint were floated in that handy dispenser, and we had bottles of Spanish Cava at the ready. As each guest arrived, we put a little of ‘punch’ in the bottom of a flute glass and then poured the chilled champagne over it. Sort of a ratio of 3-to-1 (the 3 being the champagne).
We also had the bar lined with things to pick on until the wave of ‘bites’ were served.
This, in effect, was the first course.
Warm white bean + roasted garlic, pea + mint pesto, smoked salmon spreads; crostini + bread sticks; sliced chorizo, fresh mozzarella; pickled string beans; seasoned toasted almonds and fresh Castelvetrano olives that were in my goodie bag from the FoodBuzz Festival (finger food)
I also had a pastry pinwheel planned for this course which I made with caramelized onions, mashed anchovies and brie…but, alas, ‘stuff’ happens. I couldn’t get them off the baking sheet easily so, in frustration, I left them home. They actually tasted yummy when I finally pried them up the next day. Good concept, poor execution.
I originally planned on gazpacho and ceviche as 2 separate items, but then decided their flavor profiles were too similar — so I married them and made them one.
Ropa Vieja (braised and shredded flank steak) served with black beans and plantain salsa (served in expresso coffee cups with cocktail forks).
I’m officially (and now publicly) mortified at the messy cups and even gave pause about publishing this event because of the photo…but the concept and flavor were great and won over. In a perfect world I would have filled the cups to the top to obviate an unattractive serving or taken the time to actually look at what I was serving instead of rushing. We are foodies, right? And bloggers. It should be about taste and presentation. Mea culpa.
Pork, sopressata and turkey meatballs served with mojo rojo made with piquillo peppers, almonds, garlic, olive oil and a dash of sherry vinegar and a date-prune sauce with fennel feeds and red pepper flakes (served with cocktail picks).
What is it about a chocolate fountain that gets people really primitive? I know everyone enjoyed the food I prepared and the manner in which I served it — but I think they equally (or more) enjoyed getting down and dirty with the chocolate fountain, especially the kids. I didn’t get to the table to take photos until it was pretty well devoured, but I know there were mini cream puffs, cubed pound cake, ginger cookies, pretzels, potato chips, bananas, strawberries, etc.
I leave you with a couple of happy chocolate faces.
A perfect meal has multiple levels of flavor and textures, bright colors and tastes, and healthy(ish) choices. It's all about enjoyment. Enjoy the process, the presentation and the just rewards...eating!
I've always been a culinary improvisor which means I get my kicks out of recipe development. In the FOODalogue kitchen each meal is an adventure and the journey is as exciting as the destination. My favorite kitchen tools are imagination and intuition. I rarely look at a recipe, not even my own!
On these pages, I suggest food pairings and techniques to be experimented with...in your own kitchen...to your own spice levels...and to your preferred portion sizes.