Monday, November 7, 2016

An Old Hollywood Cocktail Party: Testing the Art of Food and Cocktail Pairing

We finally did it! (Hear me clapping?)

After years of talking about having an honest-to-goodness, old-fashioned, get-dressed-up cocktail party, we finally pulled one off. To help steer the dressing-up into a common vein, we themed the evening "Old Hollywood" and invited a smattering of our friends who love to drink great cocktails as much as we do with a glamorous, homemade invitation (love you, Paper Source! And, yes, I Photoshopped out our address!).

An Old Hollywood Cocktail Party invite

I had no idea how much our friends would get into it. One gentleman grew in a PERFECT Clark Gable mustache. His wife got a new haircut just for the party. Satin gloves, Murray's pomade, red lipstick, mink, feathers...they were everywhere! It was a scream.

A flapper ready to start the party!

A couple starlets enjoying the night

Chef Reiton could not look more dapper with his Negroni in hand

Sock garters make the outfit complete!

My husband, three hours before the party, made personalized tags for the coupe glasses with each person's initials letterpressed into the brass. (I wasn't even going to THINK about using plastic coupe glasses, are you kidding me??? I actually ordered a case of Libbey's retro coupe glasses from Webstaurantstore.com for a great price! You do have to pay shipping, but I think you will find so many amazingly cheap things on that site that you want, it won't matter! )

Personalized cocktail glass charms for each guest

The atmosphere was easy: dimmed lights, lots of candles, a fire in the fireplace, flowers everywhere, Frank Sinatra serenading.

The food and cocktails? That, my friends, took some serious research. We had to plan this baby out. I didn't want to have a cocktail party that ended with me worrying about people driving home completely sloshed. I did want to have a cocktail party that was memorable and delicious, so here is what we did...

Thanks once again to my sister's years-old birthday gift of The Flavor Bible, Chef Reiton and I created a list of classic cocktails that we love, then I matched up the flavors in each cocktail with corresponding flavors in foods. Thanks to this amazing book, I was able to create a menu of totally old-school hors d'oeuvres that still tasted fabulous AND paired beautifully with the cocktails that we were going to be serving.

Chef Reiton then wrote a spreadsheet to figure out how much of each cocktail to make, portioning it out so everyone got to try each one but ended up only drinking about three beers' worth of alcohol over the course of the evening.

Yes, we made everything from scratch. You don't need to, but we easily prepared all of the food the day before and the day of and just threw the few hot items in the oven right before they were served (the dates and the tart). To be honest, I did get a bit mixed up once and brought the melon and tart out late. Oops. I got distracted. But the plan was mostly pulled off smoothly... So, for your amusement or guidance, here you go:

Available at Arrival: Aperol Spritzers with Everything Spice-Coated Cheddar Cheese Ball (major hit), triple-creamed bleu cheese, Sartori's rosemary asiago, a variety of crackers, figs, red pears and Macoun apples to slice, marinated olives, and chili-jelly veal and beef meatballs in the Crockpot (oh, come on...how could I not?!?!)

(When everyone arrived we explained the evening's plan, how the food and cocktails were paired, that we weren't going to get them blitzed and then send them home, that the ashtray was out on the deck, etc. And theeeeeeeeen...)

Cocktail #1: The Sidecar (NO sugar rim! Gag.) with Parsi Deviled Eggs (from The Best 150 American Recipes) and bacon-wrapped dates (buy bacon; cut the strips in half or thirds; wrap a piece around a date; spear together with a toothpick; place on a cookie sheet with space between each piece; bake in 400º oven for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through. A-MAZ-ING.)

Cocktail #2: The Last Word with prosciutto-wrapped melon slices and an apple, roasted fennel, feta and arugala tart

Cocktail #3: Sage Brown Derby with chicken liver pate and crostinis and Mini Frittatas with Wild Mushrooms (also from The Best 150...)

Cocktail #4: Negroni with Cheddar Walnut Crisps and Sweet and Spicy Nuts (both from The Best 150... Great cookbook, I'm telling you!)

Cocktail #5: The Aviation with cucumber sandwiches with hummus on rye

Cocktail #6: Corpse Reviver #3 with lime-mint guac and salt-and-peppered pita toasts

Cocktail #7: Brandy Alexander with flourless chocolate cake (from Baked) and Brown Butter Dream Cookies (from...you guessed it: The Best 150...).

What an evening! The laughter! The food love! The new friendships made! I can see why people used to throw these parties all the time! Although we don't have the Hollywood budget to do this too too often, I know for sure that we will be doing this again!

Cheers, dah-lings!!!

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