When we moved to Florida from New York 15 years ago, we quickly learned that cold weather and snow are not really the criteria for the holiday season…and we happily dropped that notion! Goodbye boots, hello flip-flops.
Now, it’s Christmas trees and palm trees, house lights and boat lights, and sandmen instead of a snowmen; but, most importantly, it’s family, friends, good wine…and great menus! It’s a joyous time of year wherever you are.
In celebration of the holiday season, various cities in FL that border the Intracoastal Waterway host boat parades. Led by a fireworks barge, festively-decorated boats make their way up or down the canal and residents line the docks and cheer the parade…and some, like us, use it as an excuse to party! Who doesn’t love a party?
My sister and brother-in-law (Mary + Nick) live on the canal in Boca Raton and have a good view of the parade route so several years ago they threw a ‘holiday boat parade party’. It was such fun that it became an annual event. We even have friends who fly in from New York year-after-year. They swear they wouldn’t miss it! And, this party is ‘adults’ only. We love our offspring and their little ones but this night we dedicate to socializing with friends.
Mary and Nick’s house is always festively-decorated, as is Mary (more on that later), and the festivities begin with a gabby and long cocktail hour in the ‘Florida Room’. (Florida rooms, for your information, are common in most dwellings here and are usually located at the back end of the house facing the landscape, pool, or some waterway). That’s where we start with drinks and appetizers.
At this party, I’m a guest and kitchen aide. I also contribute to the desserts (store bought and home-made). Mary is the Chef-in-Charge and, this year, she planned a really fun and delicious party menu…a meatball party (5 international varieties and accompanying side dishes).
Greek Meatballs: Lamb with calamata olives, garlic, feta cheese and mint; served with a tsatsiki sauce on the side and a lemony Greek salad.
Italian Meatballs: A blend of beef and veal with the traditional mixture of breadcrumbs, garlic, parmesan and parsley. This was served over sauteed broccoli rabe and cannelini beans, with a marinara side sauce.
Asian Meatballs: Pork mixed with fresh ginger, shallots, water chestnuts, soy sauce, and cilantro served over an Asian-flavored cole slaw with crispy wonton noodles.
Mexican Meatballs: Chicken mixed with black beans, chile powder, cumin and a little cooked rice to bind it. This was served over a corn + black bean salad with a citrus dressing.
Spanish Meatballs: Cod fish (salted + desalted) mixed with boiled potatoes, bread crumbs, parsley and garlic. Served over stewed garbanzo + pepperoni.
This side dish is a family favorite. To clarify how long it’s been around, pepperoni is used to substitute for chorizo which used to be a speciality item and was not so readily available. Mary says the ratio she uses is 3 cans of beans to an 8″ stick of pepperoni (diced small). She cautions that you don’t want the flavor of the pepperoni to overwhelm the garbanzos but, rather, enhance them. The only seasoning is dried oregano. Saute pepperoni, add 3 cans of garbanzo with 1 can of the liquid (reserve the rest in case you need it) and just simmer until it cooks down.
Note: All meatballs were baked with the exception of the Spanish Meatballs which were fried.
Dessert: I love the concept of presenting things in unusual and unexpected ways so I fell in love with these ‘mini cannoli bites’ when Big Red Kitchen posted them on October 2. In fact, we’ve made them twice! I like the look of the pastry cups Robin used better, but this was all I could find. Chocolate chips and orange zest provide the yum factor and we finished ours with cocoa powder. (You can see how ‘mini’ they are in the second photo where they are placed next to chocolate covered cherries.)
Remember I told you that Mary likes to decorate herself as well as the house? Well, for Easter, she wears a funny bonnet and on Thanksgiving, it’s a plush turkey that looks like her head is up its butt. For the boat parade party, it was reindeer ears with hanging Christmas balls. I couldn’t resist getting everyone involved for a photo memento.
We ended the evening with Christmas carols and people taking turns on the player piano. If you’re not familiar with a player piano, the panel behind the music book moves, the piano rolls get inserted, the legs get pumping and the keys “miraculously” play the tune.
The Boat Parade Party is just the first of our traditional holiday get-togethers. You’ll be seeing more as we whiz through the season.
Happy Holidays to All from FOODalogue and family!
Special thanks to FoodBuzz, the organization and the team, for inviting FOODalogue to share this holiday tradition with readers. You folks are the best!
Remember, our “South-of-the-Border Culinary Tour starts January 11 (itinerary in sidebar).
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.