Guest Author - Beth Schreibman Gehring
I love cocktail parties and seasonally themed parties are so much fun! I tend to give a lot of them all throughout the year starting with New Years eve and ending with Christmas! Right now, everythings blooming and it's a perfect excuse to get outside and play! So I'd love to give you a few suggestions for making your next cocktail party easy and fun!
First of all....Keep it simple! You don't need a full bar to throw an amazing party, you need one signature drink like a simple martini (keep it savory, nothing too sweet!) , a red wine , a white wine and a champagne cocktail! If you have a punch bowl I've found that there's nothing more festive than creating a champagne punch. This is very simple, just chill several bottles of nice champagne, as well as a bottle of peach nectar. Pour the bottles of champagne into the bowl along with the peach nectar. Add quite a few shots of peach schnapps and Blackberry brandy and stir. Do this to taste. Now comes the pretty part. Take an old fashioned ring mold and fill it with a little bit of water and add all kinds of berries and herbs. Put it into the freezer and let it set until partially frozen. At this time add more berries, fruits and herbs and more water to the top. Freeze completely. I tend to really load up on the fruit because as it melts it's so pretty! At the time of serving, put the mold in a bit of hot water to loosen it and put the ring in the punch bowl. Beautiful and easy!
Hor's De Oeurvres for a spring themed party are really very simple. Bruschetta , that simple Italian treat with freah pesto and tomato on toast that's been brushed with a touch of olive oil is so easy to make. Also, because fresh asparagus is in season, you could easily steam the spears, wrap them with fresh rosemary ham or prosciutto and drizzle with a bit a fine olive oil and parmesan. Another easy appetizer is a baby redskin or Yukon gold potato steamed and sliced in half with each half topped with a chevron of smoked trout , fresh dill and Creme Fraiche. Right now you can get little heirloom tomatoes of all varieties at your local Whole Foods. Simply cut the tops off, scoop them out and fill them with the deviled egg salad mixture of your choice. Mine is mustard, curry and currants with a bit of mayonnaise. Put all of these good things on a lovely tray, pass them and wait for the compliments!
Then add a simple charcuterie platter with fresh cheeses, grapes, simple sausages and some fresh french bread. Don't forget to have a gluten free alternative such as a rice cracker for those who can't eat wheat!
Also, I usually make one larger thing, like a roasted pork tenderloin to slice and serve alongside of the cheese platter for simple sandwiches. This way, those who are craving something a bit more substantial are happy. Simply place a pork tenderloin in a roasting dish and cover it with salt , pepper, diced onions and a can of sliced peaches in lite syrup. Bake according to your butchers directions, let cool and then slice thinly. Arrange the tenderloin on a platter of fresh arugula and rosemary and serve with a side sauce of honey mustard mixed with a bit of mayonnaise.
Make sure that you have enough cocktail napkins for everyone, this is usually the one time that I break down and buy really pretty ones. Good paper napkins DO set a mood, but I always would prefer to use real plates for the food. If you can find pretty melamine plates, they are worth the initial investment and they will serve you well for many years. I saw some wonderful Italianate plates yesterday whilst meandering through Smith and Hawken and they would be perfect for a simple springtime soiree! I've suggested food that really needs no cutlery but have some available just in case. Set every up on a pretty patio table , pass the finger foods for a special touch and make sure that your ipod is ready and plugged into some speakers that you've strategically placed outside. How about a little Gershwin....nothing sets the mood in the spring like Gershwin! Keep the flowers simple. A monochromatic arrangement in the French style is very pretty for this sort of party and very easy to create. Choose a color and work with several different flowers in the same color family. Keep the arrangement simple , compact and sophisticated and perhaps tie the bouquet with beautiful cloth ribbon. You could also arrange your flowers in a pretty basket, so nice for spring. Either way your flowers will accentuate and not dominate, leaving the food that you've so lovingly prepared to be the star!
Now that you have everything set and ready, light the candles (low and unscented please!), place the flowers on the table and get ready to enjoy yourself. It's all done and clean up is easy!
The most important thing is to enjoy yourself and your guests! Write me and share some of your recipes and above all....Have fun!