I know I must be getting older because I no longer care about going to an all-inclusive rager for New Years Eve. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the excuse to get hammered in a party dress, but I don’t need to spend $150 to do so with strangers. That’s what we call maturity.
This year, I hosted a party at my apartment that migrated to a karaoke bar shortly after the ball dropped. We still got wild, but on our own terms. And my #1 term was that this party would be easy to pull together considering I was just getting back from a week-long ski trip with the fam. The best way to make sure a party comes together with little effort is to take some help from the store. More than half the food was homemade but I supplemented the spread with cheese wafers from my hometown’s Byrd Cookie Company as well as 5-layer Mexican dip, mini chicken pot pies, sea salt brownies, and doughnut holes from Trader Joe’s.
Now for the stuff I made myself:
First, I whipped up a cocktail because a signature drink always sets the party mood. I mixed vodka with grapefruit soda and then added frozen blueberries. The blueberries kept the drink cold without watering it down and also added some crazy color.
Because New York has gotten quite chilly (I finally broke out the puffy coat), I thought everyone would love for the first thing they see as they walk in from the cold to be warm soup. I bought tomato bisque from Trader Joe’s but then made it my own by adding fresh basil and a homemade cheesy crouton. For the crouton, I had the bakery counter slice up a baguette for me and then I just topped it with shredded gruyere and stuck it in the oven until it was nice and toasty. The toppings took as much time to prepare as it took for the soup to warm (about 5 minutes).
Next, I took a cue from my Mom. My mother has thrown plenty of parties and no one ever leaves disappointed. One of the ways she ensures such a result is by serving baked salami. Mix brown sugar and mustard (dijon or whole grain) – there are no proportions, just mix it til it tastes right. Pierce a salami (Oscar Mayer, Hebrew National) and then spoon the sauce over the top, reserving some, and bake in a 325 oven for 30-45 minutes. Baste midway through with more sauce. When it’s done. slice it and then quarter each slice. You don’t even get your hands dirty and every piece will be gone by the end of the party. My Mom made this every time my Daddy had poker night and now my brother makes it for his cigar club so in a world of mini quiches, this app is definitely dude-approved.
Caprese skewers have become a big hit over the last few years (I make them all the time), but I would like to recommend miniaturizing another Italian salad, prosciutto and melon. Just crumple up some prosciutto and skewer it on a toothpick with a cube of cantaloupe. This one was also gone by the end of the party, I think because it’s so refreshing.
When I saw a sale on phyllo cups at the grocery store, I bought three packages. They take no time to thaw and if you pick an easy filling, the entire appetizer will be complete in five minutes. I stuck a piece of brie inside each cup and placed them in the oven for a couple minutes – just until the brie melted. When they came out of the oven, I topped each one with a candied walnut. It looks much fancier than it is.
You know what else will make anything look fancy? Caviar. Caviar and champagne go hand in hand when you’re rich and famous. Since it was New Years, I knew there would be champagne so I seized the opportunity to pretend I was one such rich and famous person and got some caviar. Robin Leach would be so proud…until he learned I bought the cheap caviar instead of the good stuff. How bougie. Anyway, I found blinis (mini savory pancakes) at the grocery store that required nothing more than three minutes in the oven and topped those with a little crème fraîche and the caviar and I had a lovely, festive appetizer. The hardest part about that dish was opening the caviar jar.
Champagne wishes and caviar dreams to all of you in 2014!