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May 20, 2005 11:37 AM

Cocktail Party for 30+ -- ideas needed!

  • m

Next weekend I'll be hosting a cocktail party with lots of food promised (the party starts at 7) for over 30 guests, most of them in their late 20s and more used to parties with chips & dip and maybe-- MAYBE-- store bought mini quiches. I'd like to do something classier, show off my cooking skills, try some new ideas...

BUT 1) don't want to alienate my guests too much and 2) want to stay within a reasonable budget. A VERY reasonable budget-- say $150 (on food).

Here are some of my ideas so far

--spiced nuts -- several varieties of nuts with different spices, some sweet, some hot, some savory

--cured meat tray--neighborhood butcher makes his own salumi ... delicious


--fruit skewers

--homemade cheese sticks

--white bean-sundried tomato dip w/pita chips

--prosciutto wrapped melon

--endive spoons with goat cheese


--cucumbers with thai peanut noodles

(I'll be making several cakes for dessert)

PLEASE help with any other ideas -- I need all the help I can get!

Of course, I could always just run down to Little Caesars and get 20 $5 pizzas ;)


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  1. Fun! Good luck!

    I'll take this opportunity to shamelessly show off my own photo, from a party for 15. We had a very similar idea in mind--finger foods for the mid-twenties crowd. I made all the bread a few days before, then did things like turn them into toast points, and herbed disks the day of. I cut/sliced/diced everything the night before, so I mostly had assembly the day of the party. Early-comers were happy to do things like wrap prosciutto around melon squares (although I'm sure some got eaten in the process). The presentation might leave a lot to be desired, but I was too busy manning (womanning?) the kitchen to be bothered with details, as long as everything tasted good. If your friends are anything like mine, they'll just want to inhale food (especially food that's not BBQ or pizza, for a change).

    Our menu:

    7 kinds of bread, including sticks, crackers, etc.
    7 kinds of cheese, plus pate and artichoke dip
    1 brie wheel baked in puff pastry
    endive cups with dill cream cheese and salmon
    5 crabs steamed in lemon/white wine, then cooled, cracked, and broken into sections before the party.
    berries, pears, and muscat grapes
    a HUGE meatloaf wrapped in puff pastry (my co-host's specialty)

    The photo shows only about 1/2 the food. On the other side of the room I set up my family sized Foreman grill next to trays of marinated asparagus (oil, salt, pepper) and marinated drumsticks (rosemary, onions, pepper, salt, lemon). The idea was that people would show up at different times, so the hot food could be prepared to order. It actually worked out really well, and no one had to eat cold chicken.

    13 bottles of different wines

    The big hits of the night were the meatloaf, chicken, seed crackers from Deborah Madison's book, toasted baguette disks, and the muscat grapes. People were also pleasantly surprised by how well goat cheese goes with glazed walnuts. That was probably the dark horse contender.

    My advice would be to get as much done ahead as possible. My boyfriend kept telling me I was being silly and neurotic when I started baking two days before and slicing furiously the night before. The day of the party, I was able to relax and do everything slowly. I could have rushe the day of, but I would have been pooped by dinner time.


    1. These are great ideas. I don't have anything brilliant to add, but there was a thread a while ago that included a description of something that sounded really good--dates stuffed with a Marcona almond and goat cheese, wrapped in bacon and broiled (I can't remember who posted it--maybe Carb Lover?!). I am keen to try this myself but have not yet done so.

      Also, my husband and I have a big christmas party every year (drinks, hors d'oeuvres and desserts). I slave over this event, from the invitations to the decorations and especially the sweets. My husband's only contribution is a triple recipe of "spicy meatballs" from an old Gourmet.

      Last year, I knocked myself out showing off the skills I had recently acquired at the "Pastry Boot Camp" at the Culinary Institute of America. The spread was, if I say so myself, phenomenal, including (among much else) gougeres (these would also be good for your party if it is not likely to be humid), bite-sized linzer cookies and the piece de resistance, a towering croquembouche. And yet, while guests were generally complimentary (especially of the very-cream-filled croquembouche, which WAS eaten), the spicy meatballs, as usual, garnered a disproportionate level of raves.

      If you'd like the recipe, I will dig it out and paraphrase!

      2 Replies
      1. re: LindaMc

        I'd love the spicy meatball recipe for a cocktail party I'm having in August. Would you mind posting? Thanks.

        1. re: Samantha

          This will make about 3 dozen meatballs.


          3/4 cup ketchup
          1/2 cup water
          1/4 cup cider vinegar
          2 T brown sugar (firmly packed)
          2 T minced onion
          2 T Worcestshire sauce
          1 t dry mustard (although I like to use a little bit more)
          Hot pepper sauce (eg Tabasco) and cayenne to taste (be bold!)


          3/4 lb ground beef
          3/4 c fine, dry bread crumbs
          3/4 t salt
          3/4 t pepper
          2 T minced onion
          1 1/2 t horseradish (drained)
          2 large eggs, lightly beaten

          2 T butter for browning

          To make the sauce, whisk everything together.

          To make the meatballs, gently mix (best to do this with your hands) everything else (except the butter!). Form mixture into meatballs, using about 1 (level) T of mix per meatball. Brown meatballs well in a large, heavy skillet in two batches, using 1 T butter for each batch (with the mass production, my husband does this in a Dutch oven). Remove meatballs, as they are browned, with a slotted spoon and drain them on paper towels. Add the sauce to the skillet/Dutch oven and simmer it, stirring, for a minute or 2. Add back the meatballs and simmer until they are heated through.


      2. For easy and inexpensive you can get a big tin of vegetarian stuffed grape leaves, drain, platter and squeeze lemon over and some chopped dill.

        Something to make ahead - stuffed Phyllo triangles - I recently made some filled with a mixture of black beans, green onion, chipotle, and cumin, add a slice of/shredded cheese of your choice and freeze until you are ready to bake them.

        1. You can make these (link below) a day ahead and reheat them in the oven for 15 minutes. They are utterly delish!

          You can also cut up a nice crusty baguette in slices, place thin slices of brie on top, bake in the oven until brie melts and add a little bit of really good quality sour cherry preserve on top. Lingonberry preserve or good quality cranberry relish (home made, not the canned stuff) on top. People really do like a few warm things to nibble on. Have fun!


          1. Last night I broiled sliced polenta rounds with a little shaved pecorino. Then, plopped a little store bought sundried tomato pesto on top. You could make the polenta and pesto ahead of time, or buy them already prepared.
            Very easy, and they still taste good at room temp.
            And, with the polenta, you can add ANYTHING on top, salsa and creme fraiche, veggies, etc.