PARTY ALL THE TIME :
How To Throw the Perfect Party
by ThePartyGrl (Selicia Kennedy-Ross)
No matter what time of year it is, I love to play hostess. I’m all about entertaining, whether I’m throwing an intimate cocktail party or a game day get-together. Oprah.com suggests setting aside cash ahead of time for your soiree, big or small. Then creating a menu and sticking to the budget, which should also include drinks.
Super Bowl Sunday is one of my favorite occasions to throw a party. This is one of the easiest types of parties to throw since it’s completely casual. A few bowls of pretzels and chips, a few beers and sodas in a cooler, a vegetable tray with some ranch for dipping and some fresh guacamole. And don’t forget a batch of my special Brown Sugar Blackberry Jack Barbecue Wings, which you can keep warm in a slow cooker or chafing dish. Don’t be afraid to ask guests to bring their favorite party dish and make it a potluck! Serve the food buffet-style and allow guests to graze at their leisure. Then gather around the flatscreen to enjoy the game.
I also enjoy throwing birthday parties. Festive paper cups and plates add to the fun. Save room at the serving table by placing brightly colored napkins and utensils in a large basket so that guests can easily find them next to the cups and plates. Add a few balloons, some bright tablecloths and sprinkle of glittery confetti on the tabletops. If you don’t have enough seating or tables, borrow some from family and friends or rent them, if need be. For those on a budget, livefabuless.com suggests sending free online invitations like www.evite.com, which makes it easier to keep track of otherwise errant RSVPs. Other fun ideas Livefabuless suggests are renting a DVD with a 3-D title and providing 3-D glasses or organizing games like a treasure/scavenger hunt for your guests.
If possible, consider having the meal catered so that you can mingle with your guests, even if that means just calling your local pizza place. And nothing will please the birthday boy or girl like a Sparkling Pink Champagne Cake with a pink champagne custard filling and adorned with real buttercream icing. That is the specialty of the oven at the Brazilian-owned Noyes Bakery in San Bernardino www.noyesbakery.com. It is truly a unique cake – literally like a party in your mouth!
Feel more like an afternoon tea? These gatherings are great for bridal and baby showers. High tea serves as a light supper or an elegant snack, generally taking place in the late afternoon and features savory and sweet items like pastries and tiny tea sandwiches, according to theteapartyclub.com. Keep your guest list small and intimate, no more than 10 people. Set the table with some lovely china, no need to worry whether it’s mismatched as long as you have some tea cups, saucers and silver spoons. All you need to serve are a couple dozen cucumber sandwiches. These simple sandwiches are just white bread with a thin layer of cream cheese or sweet unsalted butter and paper-thin cucumber slices. Cut these dainty sandwiches into fun shapes with cookie cutters to eliminate the crust. Put out a platter of bite-sized fresh fruit like grapes, berries and melon cubes and a couple dozen scones from your local bakery or grocer. Be sure to brew at least two different pots of tea, usually a simple black tea like English Breakfast and something else a bit more exotic. I like Revolution’s Earl Grey Lavender tea. Set out fresh cream, sugar and butter and let your guests serve themselves and enjoy.
Perhaps you’d prefer an intimate evening soiree, instead?
Cocktail parties are meant for appetizers and little black dresses, a symbol of a bygone era of martinis and elegant eats. Think tapas, or “small bites” rather than a full meal. Set out several bottles of one white wine like a crisp Riesling or Chardonnay and one red such as a nice Pinot Noir or mellow Merlot along with clean wine glasses. Serve with crackers or a crusty French bread along with an array of cheeses like gouda, baby Swiss and havarti. Or may be even my Orange-Cranberry Baked Brie. Marinated olives, grapes, pears and strawberries are also a lovely accompaniment. Place the refreshments on a table out of the way to clear space for your crowd to mix and mingle.
Celebrations.com suggests throwing a “Cupcakes and Cocktails” party, a slightly more contemporary, if not sweeter, version of the traditional cocktail soiree. This would also be a good occasion to serve champagne cocktails along with Sparkling Pink Champagne cupcakes as well.
Also, consider serving one or two signature drinks instead of several different cocktails, so you can mingle among your guests, especially if there is no one to host the bar. A signature drink can be the height of haute when your soiree gets into full swing. You could always go retro and bring back the classic gin and vermouth martini, shaken not stirred, served either dry or dirty with an olive. More modern martinis can be mixed with vodka and something sweet like an exotic liqueur or a splash of fruit juice. Try celebrations.com’s Blood Orange Cosmopolitan for something different to wow your guests. www.celebrations.com/content/blood-orange-cosmo Sugared rim, anyone?
Above all, don’t forget to set the mood. Arrange for music, either hire a DJ or program your playlist to serve up a wide range of light or sophisticated tunes. The good host also never underestimates the importance of lighting during an evening event. It can provide drama and mystery. Tea lights are a must. Haul out those holiday lights, the clear white kind and if you have sheer curtains hang them behind the fabric, light the candles, turn down the main houselights and – voila! Atmosphere!
So go ahead. Throw your party. Then mingle. You might even run into The PartyGrl there.
- Set aside cash for your soiree.
- Plan your menu and shop accordingly, so there’s less chance of going over-budget.
- Use electronic invitations like www.evite.com to make it easier to keep track of RSVPs.
- Serve the food buffet-style, if possible. Always make as much room as you can for your guests to meet and mingle.
- Throw a “Cupcakes and Cocktails” party, a sweeter version of the traditional cocktail soiree. Also, consider serving one or two signature drinks instead of several different cocktails, especially if there is no one to host the bar.
- Set the mood. Atmosphere is everything. Turn on some soft music, dim the lights and see what a difference a few candles can make.
SUPER BOWL SNACKS
Game Day Guacamole
2 large ripe avocados, peeled, pitted
3 fresh limes
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
½ tsp minced fresh jalapeno peppers (optional)
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
Dash of garlic salt, adjust according to taste
Mash the avocados with a large spoon and add squeezed lime juice from all three limes and blend well. Mix in the cilantro, onion and add just a dash of garlic salt. Serve immediately or chill for at least one hour.
Brown Sugar Blackberry Jack Barbecue Wings
20 fresh chicken wings
Juice of 1 small lime
Juice of 2 lemons
Dash of Worcestershire black pepper
Dash of garlic salt, adjust according to taste
Dash of brown sugar
½ cup melted butter
1 10 oz. bottle of Blackberry Jack liquor
1 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce
Preheat oven to 450°F. Place wings in a single layer on foil-covered 13×9” glass baking dish. Mix lime juice, lemon juice, garlic salt, Worcestershire pepper, melted butter, Blackberry Jack, Worcestershire sauce and barbecue sauce in a bowl. Coat and cover wings in sauce mixture, sprinkle with brown sugar and one final dash of garlic salt and bake for 45 min. Temp the meat to make sure it has reached 165 degrees before serving. Serve immediately or keep warm in a slow-cooker with ranch dressing on the side for dipping.
Orange-Cranberry Baked Brie
1 round Brie cheese (8 oz.)
½ cup orange-cranberry sauce
½ cup dried pomegranate-flavored cranberries
¼ chopped pecans
1 egg, beaten
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease cookie sheet. Unroll phyllo dough and cut into two squares. Place one dough square on cookie sheet. Slice cheese round in half, through the middle so that there is a top and bottom half. Place lower half of cheese in the middle of dough. Spread orange-cranberry sauce over cheese. Top with dried cranberries and pecans and a light sprinkle of sugar. Cover with the other cheese half. Place the other dough square on top of cheese round and press dough firmly down around cheese then bring the lower dough square up over the covered cheese round and tie like a bundle. Brush dough with beaten egg. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until bundle turns golden brown. Cool 10 minutes. Serve.