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Feeling lazy and uninspired -- need idea/theme for simple cocktail party

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We're having around 12 of my husband's co-workers over on Sunday afternoon for a casual cocktail party. I used to be so good at planning this type of thing, but somewhere along the way I lost my mojo. I'm worried that if I don't give it a little thought, it will end up a mish mash of things -- trader joe's finger food here, cheese plate there, focaccia over here, hard sausage and olives in the corner. You get the idea. I'll make it as complicated and expensive as possible for myself, when if I'd given it a little thought, I could have done something more thematically pleasing for less time and money. Care to help me think? I live in Brooklyn, so I could do something loosely middle eastern or even Indian. Not necessarily looking for a strict theme, of course, just food that matches in some way. What have you done that's worked well for you? Thanks in advance for giving my lazy brain and taste buds a break.

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  1. One of my most requested theme parties (The Kilted Cook is a Personal Chef) is a Night in Old Bali. I do a Riijsttafl - "rice table". Each of the toppings is simple and easy; and if you have a rice cooker, making the rice is a snap too.

    Make three rice "mountains" - white, saffron and "Forbidden" Black rice if you can find it (or Brown if you can't). Then make at least half a dozen toppings - in small amounts. Some are spicy, some sweet, some savory toppings.

    Plate the mountains on a large platter in the center of the table and place bowls of the toppings around the edges. Give each guest a "rice bowl", a fork and a napkin. Diners scoop up some rice(s) and a little of this and a little of that. Eat standing for more fun mingling.

    Some toppings:
    1. Hot-Sweet - tropical fruit cocktail mixed with hot chili powder or cayenne
    2. Chopped shrimp in a mango-basil puree (chilled)
    3. Catfish (Basa or Sutchi) nuggets in lemon coconut sauce
    4. Vegetable Sambal (sambal is like a salsa)
    5. Pork and Yam Cubes in orange sauce
    6. Beef strips stirfried in soy and ginger

    1. or a nice bruschetta bar (or is is crostini - not sure I knowthe diff). there are some wonderful and very diff. toppings that you could set up as kilted cook mentioned above. I did a recent new one that was fanstic: steakhouse bruschetta with the base being a mix of blue cheese, mayo, white vinagar and mustard then to that with diced tomatoes, steak (diced), olive oil, and basil chopped. It was fantastic.

      1. I love Trader Joes, and they have all the things you need to put together a Mexican Fiesta that is fun and upbeat. You can have a taco bar using mini tortillas. Make your own beef & chicken fillings in advance and you can have quick to assemble toppings like shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, shredded cheese, sliced radishes, trimmed green onions. Add pickeled jalepeno/carrot mix and some salsas and chips. Trader Joes has carne asada that's quick to grill and chop, or carnitas that's just heat and serve. They also have guacamole kits that come with everything you need to make fresh guacamole: avocados, chilis, shallot, tomatoes. In the freezer section, they have tacquitos and empanadas that are heat and serve and very delicious. Serve with Margaritas, Sangria and Mexican beer and it's a PARTY

        1 Reply
        1. re: janetms383

          To me cocktail parties can be more hectic than just dinner. I always work off of a theme for inspiration. It just depends on how motivated you are, and what to balance as far as pre-fab and work. Any ideas on what direction you want to take? Then it will be much easier to brain storm items that will fall into work or not category.

        2. You could do a South Beach, Miami theme -- good jewish deli food in bright-bright containers. Since so many NYC citizens retired there, it's known for corned beef, knishes and the like. Serve it up with pink parasol drinks, plastic flamingos traipsing across the buffet table, etc.

          1. How about modernized 50's comfort food--deviled eggs, pigs in blanket, ambrosia salad, meatballs,...

            4 Replies
            1. re: chowser

              I LOVE this, but then again, that was my era! LOL!

              1. re: chowser

                I agree with this idea! 50's cocktail party, not even modernized! Fun, simple, themed Oh so retro!

                fairways in RedHook for shopping.

                1. re: Quine

                  Thanks to everyone for the terrific ideas! I feel inspired. I think the 50s cocktail party is especially good since my husband was a bartender for years and prides himself on his martinis. Thanks to all! PS -- the rice party sounds amazing and I plan on stealing it in the future. Just don't think I'm feeling quite that ambitious this weekend!

                  1. re: vvv03

                    If you are modernizing the 50s theme, there is an interesting recipe for lamb meatballs here on chow, I have not tried it, but plan to make it for xmas. I would also add the small cocktail 'weenies' in spicy ketchup, and don't forget the plastic toothpicks!