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Dec 27, 2008 11:00 AM

New Year's Day open house -- menu ideas & critique pls

I decided it's time to meet the neighbors -- 2-1/2 years and virtually the only time I'm seen them is when my ex-husband was cutting up the limb that fell onto the front yard during the recent ice storm. Nothing says male-bonding like a man using a chain saw!

I thought I'd host an open house New Year's Day 'cause I love to cook, am eager to meet the neighbors, and heck, what does anyone do that day anyway? Might as well go to that new neighbor's house. . . . I live in the country. I was thinking 1-4 pm

I tend to go overdo it when entertaining, and want to be sure to have time to relax and chat w/ neighbors most of whom I have never met.

Here's my tentative menu (and excesses). Critique please.

Hot cider, pellegrino, tomatoey juice
spiced nuts, olives
shrimp cocktail
blue cheese dish (blue cheese blended w/ cream cheese & port -- fab); maybe just a cheese plate w/ crackers
baked ham w/ rolls
flank steak salad w/ arugula (recipe on this site)
southwestern style crab quiche w/ jalapenos
stuffed mushrooms w/ sausage
crudites w/ dill dip

chocolate cookies
apple bundt cake

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  1. NYchowcook- your open house sounds like a lot of fun. how many people do you expect? what are the ages and level of food sophistication of the guests? as a general guideline, go for 1-2 bite finger foods that will hold up well and are good regardless of temperature. is the flank steak easy to eat standing up? will you be able to keep it at serving temp for three hours or will it dry out? another consideration for an open house is labeling the food. as a picky eater, i can't tell you how many times i have not eaten something at a buffet or party because i just wasn't sure what was in it. i would create cute little tents out of white cardboard stock with the dish names for any dishes that aren't obvious by their appearance. you don't want your vegetarian neighbor eating the mushrooms or the 2 year-old neighbor eating jalapenos. also, will you be serving any alcohol? there are many hot cider cocktail recipes out there. i like butter shots, vanilla rum, and a cinnamon stick in my hot cider. good luck!

    4 Replies
    1. re: njchowgal

      My concern about an open house is "what will I do with the leftovers"....just in case the expected guests are fewer in numbers or not hungry.
      Your menu sounds wonderful, more like a buffet dinner than an open house in my part of the world. People seem to prefer food that is easy to nibble rather than something that requires forks, knives, plates.
      Alas, the picky eater will always be with us and may indeed need a personal guide to the offerings.

      1. re: joyceweath

        joyceweath- good point about the leftovers. NYchowcook should let guests know in advance that there will be lots of food and buy some disposable food storage containers to send neighbors home with leftovers, if necessary.
        also, to ensure a good turnout, try to figure out which neighbor is the most social/influential in the area, and make sure she comes! you could even ask her first, then mention that she is coming when inviting other guests. no one wants to be at a party where they don't know anyone.

        1. re: joyceweath

          Thanks for your comments. What's more open-housey vs buffet?
          What would you like to see/eat at an open house? Is my menu too much?

          I'm flexible in what to cook/serve. I'm just not into serving alcohol 'cause I don't drink.

          I'm worried that folks will come inasmuch as I don't know them! I would hope for 10-20.

          1. re: NYchowcook

            NYchowcook- i think your menu is a little like a buffet because you have apps (cheese, crudite, shrimp) as well as entrees (ham with rolls, steak salad) plus desserts. in my limited experience, an open house would consist of either apps or desserts, or both, but not etrees. also, based on the number of your selections, i would expect more like 30-40 people. for 10-20 people at an open house, i would do 4-5 apps plus 2-3 desserts, max. the hot cider is a nice touch in lieu of alcohol, since it is a 'special' drink.
            also, will you be baking the cookies and cake during the party? that would make your house smell great and people will want to stay.
            since you are doing so much work, you will want to make sure people come to enjoy it! here are some tricks- if you know any of your neighbors are friends, ask them together. invite in person. ask for input on the menu to get people invested in coming. when inviting, state the reason for the party, and tell them you really hope they can come. tell the neighbors which other neighbors are coming. allow your neighbors to bring guests. have something for kids if you expect them. follow up in the 'maybes' with a reminder.
            these are just a few suggestions. i know it sounds like a lot of work, but it will be worth it when your guests arrive!

      2. May I come? That sounds great to me. The flank steak salad - which I love, Rick Bayless has a terrific version I cook often - is the only thing that veers slightly from a 'cocktail party' type food. Even the quiche can be cut into bite sized portions. But if you have large enough plates on which for people to put food, the salad is a good addition in terms of something different. Great idea for your neighbors, I hope it is a wonderful time.

        1. I think your menu sounds delicious, but I might consider changing it a bit to allow for vegetarians (which I am not). Maybe stuff the mushrooms with a non-meat filling and fix the quiche minus the crab?? Maybe a lilttle fresh fruit too like grapes & pineapple chunks?

          1. If the main point is to meet your neighbors, I would probably simplify the menu a bit. I would try to stick to things that can be prepared in advance and then be easily plated and replenished as they get consumed.

            Also, even if you ask them not to, people will bring food.

            1 Reply
            1. re: jlafler

              Great suggestions all; thanks!
              I'm going to nix the ham and as jlafler suggests, simplify so things can just be replated. Oh maybe some heating up . . . Warm food makes people happy.
              I'll dig out some of my apps recipes from prior parties.
              Stuff the mushrooms w/ spinach (oh, maybe some w/ sausage!)
              Great ideas about invites njchow! Thanks all.
              Now about those appetizers . . . Any easy ideas that wow in taste?
              Walk around tomorrow and invite in person.
              Good idea about some fruit; I guess grapes if I can find organic. Goes great w/ cheese!