Food + Wine

The Party That Isn’t

So I had a Christmas party planned for later this month – my annual cocktail party where I wine and dine a few of my closest friends and together we celebrate all that needs to be celebrated. Mostly we celebrate each other…It’s hard finding the time to get together! And it’s been my job every year to be the ring leader in getting us all under one roof. I love it. I look forward to it. I plan it for months.


This year I had to cancel. It’s the first year I’ve ever had to cancel. And it’s tough to get over, I’m not gonna lie. But this post is not about how hard that’s been (how boring would that be?) This post is about all the things I would have done and served if I WERE having the party. I figure- I planned it, I sketched it, I thought about it, dreamed about it, so let’s not waste it!! (A lot of my inspiration this year came from my recent culinary trip to NYC and I was super excited to be able to share it all with my NC friends!)So…if you’re thinking about planning a cocktail party this year, by all means rip me off.

I’d be honored.Here we go…

*My guests would be greeted with a glass of my favorite Crémant de BourgogneParigot and Richard. It’s a rose and it’s beautiful. I feel it’s always important to have your guests walk right in to the fun. Sets the entire tone of the party. They immediately feel special and know they’re about to have a good time.  I’d put the glasses out on a festive linen-lined silver tray right at the front door so they can help themselves then head on in to mingle.
And I was going to have pairing stations this year.  Various foods paired with a particular beverage.  I was super stoked about this part.  And I like to set the food out, with food labels and descriptions and just let everyone eat at their own pace, they can chat and graze around the table or fix a plate and sit down.  There are no rules when it comes to my parties.  I do a ton of work in advance to make sure that my guests don’t have to.So, here were the stations…

*Spicy Thai Meatballs with a Mango-Avocado Relish paired with one of my favorite IPA‘s- Hop Drop ‘n Roll from NoDa Brewing Company.

*House-made Shoestring French Fries seasoned with Himalayan Pink Sea Salt with a Roasted Garlic Aioli paired with the Berberana Cava.

*Whipped Sage and Allspice Lardo* Crostinis paired with the 2013 Bonterra Pinot Noir.

*Charred Pork Shoulder with Mint Pea Puree and Israeli Feta paired with the 2010 Jaboulet Cotes du Rhone ‘Parallele 45’ Rouge.

*I was going to make a big, purty cheeseball made solely out of my Pimento Cheese and pair it with the Goudenhop Belgian Pale Ale from Ommegang.

*There would be various sizes of wide mouth vases and carafes spread about with my husband’s famous Kettle Corn and others with my equally famous Spicy-Rosemary Nuts.  I chose to use the vases and carafes to hold them because, 1) It’s pretty and helps decorate the tables and 2) you can just pour some into your hand or onto your plate instead of reaching your hands into a bowl and therefore spreading those unwanted holiday germs.

And I always like to have something interactive at my parties…

*I usually set out a Hot Chocolate Station (I make my own mix**) on my stovetop equipped with various liqueurs, mini marshmallows, cinnamon sticks and those straw-like Pirouline cookies to be used as stirrers.

*But…this year I also wanted to have a S’more Station at the fireplace, or if the weather was cooperating, at our back yard fire-pit.  This would force the guests to spread around and not be jumbled in the kitchen and dining room.

And here was my fun idea…

*There would be not only dark and milk chocolate bars set out with the graham crackers and giant marshmallows, but there would also be…wait for it… Reese’s cups.  And Caramello candy bars…with Maldon Sea Salt for sprinkling. Come on, now.  How incredible is that?

And…since we’re on the subject of sweets, I like to have prepared sweet bites for the people who don’t wanna be involved in their food-making…

*Dark chocolate and sea-salted caramel truffles paired with Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout.

*And none of my Christmas parties are complete without my Chocolate Peppermint Brownies that I still haven’t posted the recipe for yet…perhaps I’m holding it hostage.  And I was going to pair those with the 2012 Root1 Cabernet Sauvignon.

*And there would have been buckets and buckets of Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale – my favorite house-beer this time of year mixed with their Torpedo Extra IPA (one of our year-round house-beers) simply because mingled together amongst the ice, one red and one green, they are beautifully festive and cheery.

*And carafes of both the 2010 Pillar Box Red and the Simply Naked Unoaked Sauvignon Blanc, both excellent wines at a low enough price to keep ’em flowin’.

*And since it’s my party, there would be plenty of extra bottles of the bubbly.  It always comes back to the bubbles for me.

*Music would be playing…twinkle lights twinkling…old and new friends laughing, as they would have forgotten about the holiday stress they were carrying before they walked through my door, bellies and hearts fun of love…and each guest would leave with a tiny package of my gingerbread scones (recipe to come!) as a token of my appreciation before they left to spend the rest of the evening with their children.  A couple of my favorite people would stick around (always the same ones) and we would sit back on the couch, shoes off, feet up, and talk about how successful it all was before we cleaned up whatever remained.

So that’s it!  That was my party.  We would have had a great time, I know it.  And I can still be a little sad about it, that’s allowed.  But it simply wasn’t meant to be.  As much as I think I do sometimes, I do not have actual super powers.  So even the ones I may have couldn’t make this work this year.  There were clearly far too many obstacles that kept this from happening and I can only hope that next year everyone I love, all the people with whom I wanted to share all of this, each and every one of them, will be able to attend, they will be happy and healthy and the party will be better than ever.

…that lardo though


(*for those of you cooks out there who are wondering, I was going to render the fat from cooking the pork shoulder and use that to make my lardo)

(**Three years ago I posted my recipe for Mexican Hot Cocoa and Cinnamon Agave Marshmallowscheck it out!)

Got any questions about any of this?  For all my email subscribers, head on over to the website and shoot me an email under the ‘contact me’ section or just comment on this post once you’re there.  And if you’re looking for recipes for any of the above items, I can certainly write out how I cooked them all in my head…

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