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New Years Party Menu - please critique!

A very good friend and neighbor has is hosting a New Year's Party and I volunteered to do the food. I'm planning the menu, helping with the shopping, and will do the preparation; he and his co-host will assist final preparations and fund it. I love cooking and when he told me he wanted to do something different this year (this is the 3rd year he's had his party) I offered my help - they do a great party, but neither of them can cook!

I figure there will be at least 50 people dropping in over the course of the night, maybe more. The party is casual dress although I'm sure some will come dressed up. We want it to be elegant but we'd all like to enjoy ourselves during the party and not worry about cooking once it's started. Furthermore, his house is fairly small and the party generally centers around the baby grand piano (the hosts and their friends are musicians) - which is right next to the kitchen area. In prior years running the oven to heat up the horderves has been annoying since it heats up the area where folks are mixing drinks and hanging out - we could do it again, but I think it'd be best to avoid

In prior years he's had a hodgepodge assortment of dips, spreads, salsas etc bought pre-made, boiled shrimp, mini eggrolls. My thought was to have a big crockpot with a savory stew that the guests can dip into when they need something hearty and warm, plus an assortment of cold appetizers that we can prepare in advance. I didn't want to have too many dishes nor too much variety - both to keep the preparation more simple and because there isn't a tremendous amount of serving space. This is my tentative menu... please tell me what you think. Is a beef stew really appropriate for this setting? Is there enough variety in the offerings?

Assorted cracker tray
Cheese balls/logs - I thought we would prepare 3, one with blue cheese, one with a little smokey/spicy flavor, and one "classic"
1-2 seafood spreads or dips

Relish tray with assorted olives, various kinds of little pickles, pepperocini, celery, radishes

Beef stew made with potatoes, carrots, shallots, wine

Candied nuts
Assorted cookies
Coffee

There will be an open bar

Any suggestions are appreciated. Thanks!

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  1. Perhaps a charcuterie platter, several cheeses and interesting mustards with cocktail size rye bread. Also, maybe Boston clam chowder rather than stew. These with the veggie relish tray and some dips would all be easy and should satisfy all guests.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Gail

      I'd thought about a bisque or chowder, but how well would that hold up in the crock pot throughout the course of the night?

      If it works, that definitely sounds better.

      1. re: Helvella

        I'm not a frequent crock pot user, so maybe others could answer that. I have kept chowder hot on my lowest burner heat for at least 2 hrs and will do so again this Friday for a company dinner. I would think it would work fine in the c p on low with occasional stirring.

      2. re: Gail

        If you do that you need to adjust the amount of seafood you have going on the cold side. I like the charcuterie and cheese idea. Put your little pickles and olives along side that. make two smaller plates so you can have carry by hand food at other places besides the gathering place. 50 people all at the gather zone is no good. Crab bisque might be ever so lovely. If you have two pots (and for 50...) you could do something non creamy and non seafood like tomato with yummy things to top it with like super crispy crouton, basil, parm, fried prosciutto nibs. You could do small cups - disposable or compostable if you want - for easy clean up. Litle roll or bread bites to go with the soup would be nice. Or like cheddar or angel biscuits or sweet potato rolls. Yum.

        Don't forget the PILES of ice, using your tub (for ice and drinks/ champagne storage (since the place is small) and making sure to have plenty of trash bind available.

        1. re: Sal Vanilla

          like Sal and just_M I too was thinking cups so a spoon isn't required, although that rules out most chunky things in the soup it does make it so much more wieldy and cuts down on splatter. I always lay out the spread with a drink in hand in mind, so I scatter the cold nibbles around the room as much as possible so there's always something within a few feet. and if it's a buffet setting, I put the napkins and utensils at the end of the line after the food (why mess with carrying stuff you don't know if you'll need - if you're a guy in a sports jacket you can use the breast pocket, but not everyone wears those)

        2. re: Gail

          Don't forget that there a likely to be a few folks who cannot eat seafood. I'm always awarre of that since one of my daughters is highly allergic to seafood. (can you say epi pen??).

        3. How about chili for your hot/hearty item? Chili will hold up fine in a crock pot. It seems easier to eat than beef stew. A nice array of toppings on the side could make it more festive!

          1. I really like beef stew and the other suggestions made up thread and (depending on the type of chowder) they should all hold well in a crockpot. My concern is in serving 50+ people and some might like seconds. Are you planning bowls w/spoons or ? To me a bisque or something that could be sipped out of a cup would be easier then juggling a bowl. Also the scent of fish or clam might become too strong over that length of time.

            With the lovely cheese balls, spreads and relish tray it reminds me of a 50's ish cocktail party with martinis around the grand piano :-) With that in mind I'm thinking a tomato bisque and perhaps a spiral sliced ham with those little party breads or a platter of rolled thin deli meats w/toothpick centerpiece. On the other hand, Sweedish meatballs would be great fun and do very well in a crock. Have a great party and New Year!

            3 Replies
            1. re: just_M

              Yes, a ham and small rolls or biscuits and good mustard so people can make little sandwiches. And some warm mulled cider.

              1. re: Pia

                mmm, mulled wine is nice too, but mulled cider has the advantage of being able to add a little something or not ;->

              2. No raw oysters? ~~~ No spicy "boiled" shrimp??????

                1. Your one-dish main is a good idea; anything consumable standing or on your lap, one utensil to heft, etc. Beware things that drip. For chowder of any sort, leave out the seafood until the final reheating, or it will be tough. And I think a big pot of upscale vegetarian minestrone would be a good provision. I'd also make one of your dips vegetarian (spinach dip, or carmelized onion dip) or even vegan, like an oil/vinegar/herb dip for dipping chunks of French Bread in.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: mamachef

                    i heartily second mamachef's suggestion (as always!) for a vegetarian dip...and i'll simply add that you should really consider offering crudites in addition to crackers/bread for dipping in case some guests can't have gluten or would just prefer something lighter or less starchy.