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I need validation

Hey there!

So, I am having a birthday cocktail party this coming weekend for my friend. There will probably be 15-20 people here and the time is eight o'clock, so I am assuming that most will have eaten dinner before. Also, the guests are all in their mid-to-late 20's (grad students) so I am also counting on this crowd being more interested in the spirits than the chow.

The crux of my dilemma is a trifecta of: not stressing out over doing everything myself -/- cooking for people that are not foodies -/- and wanting to still have a cocktail menu I am personally pleased with.

I guess I need validation that this is okay. :-) Any advice/proposed changes are welcome!

[RE: the summer rolls - how soon in advance can I make them?]

*Dolmades (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ty...
)*Caramelized Onion Dip with William Poll Potato Thins (http://www.thenibble.com/marketplace/...
)*Gougères (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/th...
)*Spinach dip & Stacy's Pita Chips
*Ham & Pineapple Skewers (http://www.rachaelraymag.com/Recipes/...
)*Shrimp Summer Rolls (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ty...


Dessert: Lemon Bar Squares and Petit Fours

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  1. Sounds like a trip to Costco is in order, they can pretty much fill your bill with, if not identical, similar items. Just put the food in your own dishes and garnish with parsley, watercress, etc. And don't put the food out until everyone has either on their second drink or, given the crowd, snuck out into the backyard for a couple of minutes. They'll eat what you serve with compliments.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Scary Bill

      "out into the backyard for a couple of minutes"

      hilarious! :-) love it!

      great advice all the way around!

    2. Lucky guests! Your menu sounds great for your crowd. Nice variety and smart thinking with the majority of your menu (dips, dolmades, skewers, and rolls) made ahead and served room temperature, which is how I like to entertain. It takes the stress out of last-minute cooking so you can enjoy cocktails with your guests. Good idea to use simple composed apps too like the chips topped w/onion dip, and the pineapple and ham skewers. You can do a lot a day or two in advance too if you wanted - especially the dipping sauces and dips - putting skewers together, make dolmades, prep vegetables for the summer rolls, etc. I make summer rolls about 2 hours in advance. Remember to cover with a damp paper/kitchen towel and then the plastic wrap.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Rubee

        I agree on the summer rolls. Love them and put them together about 2-3 hours in advance, but you can prep all veggies the day before to save time. Also have a couple of different sauces to go with. Our favorite is a Sweet Chili Thai Sauce.


        1. re: boyzoma

          Thank you both! I do love summer rolls, and I know they're work and have to do them close to serving, but they are so much fun and tasty! I figured it would be the one item I would devote some time and energy to!

          Awesome advice - thank you both!

          1. re: boyzoma

            I agree! I also like the inclusion of all the vegetarian options. Very smart considering a lot of vegetarian options are something of an after thought, which can make guests feel less welcome than their meat eating peers.

            However, as a current grad student, I can assure you that if I were to go to a party at 8, I would probably not have eaten dinner with the assumption that I will be eating (probably a large amount of snacks) at the party.

        2. If you want to walk the line between Costco and doing it all yourself, I would spend my time making the easy dishes and coming up with tasty dipping sauces for some of the ones you can buy. Personally, I would skip the summer rolls altogether since it is winter and they are a lot of work. Why not have a couple of "platters" based on different cuisines? You could have a Greek section with store-bought dolmas, homemade baba ganoush (sp?), pita, lemon yogurt and tahini dips--you could even add the spinach dip here. Then do an American section with the onion dip, potato chips (I would get good store ones because the fresh ones do not hold at all), your ham skewers (yes, Hawaii is a state) and maybe something beef like meatballs. Gougeres are wonderful, but they are a lot of work and like the chips are best warm. I think the lemon squares sound great but maybe the petit fours could be replaced with wonderful brownies. Come up with a signature cocktail and have fun!

          2 Replies
          1. re: escondido123

            You know - you are exactly right; the gougeres wouldn't be *as* good at room temp. I think I will sub them out with one of your suggestions. Many thanks!

            1. re: Tehama

              Two things about gougeres: first, you can make and refrigerate the dough a day or more in advance. Bring it out several hours before you'll want them, pipe (or spoon) the dough balls onto the cookie sheet and bake them last thing. Second: although everyone says these MUST be fresh out of the oven, I've kept them around for days by way of experiment and found them (to my taste) perfectly palatable. Re-crisping them in the oven works just fine, owing to the high butter content.

          2. Looks a lot like my menu for parties - only I ditched the gougeres last time since they're best hot and I like to have everything done well before the first person arrives. Also, I made a caramelized onion dip for my last party, and if I were doing over again, I'd just throw a package of seasoning in with sour cream and fresh herbs, or something like that. (I just looked at the recipe and see that yours are actually more like plated crisped potato rounds topped with creme fraiche - I'd swap that out for a good quality bag of chips and the sort of dip I mentioned, just to save myself the effort). I'd add a crudite tray also - people appreciate something they can mindlessly snack on without worry, and maybe a few cheeses.

            I think your summer rolls will be the big hit. Nice pick!

            1 Reply
            1. I wonder if it will be a lot of work for you at the last minute. If everyone will have eaten, how about a dessert party that includes a fruit/cheese platter? Dessert is eminently buyable these days, and fruit and cheese are easy.

              5 Replies
              1. re: Jay F

                I have to agree here--how about fruit, cheese, good-quality store-bought (or bakery) cookies, and maybe one or two items from your menu?

                1. re: Jay F

                  That had been my first thought. Glad I read a little farther. A "cocktail party" after dinnertime, IMO, doesn't work as well as a "dessert party." And, yes, fruits, cheeses, single bite dessert things.

                  1. re: Jay F

                    I really like this thought, too. There will be a lot of guys there; and I always thing of desserts as being more for chicks like me, and heartier/savory fare for the boys. Guys - thoughts?

                    1. re: Tehama

                      I'm a guy. Dessert is one of my favorite meals, second only to homemade pasta, really. What can I say? I _love_ the carbohydrates.

                      I've done dessert buffets at least 25 times in the past, and as long as I served fruit and cheese, and crudites with dips for diabetics, no one ever said, "Gee, I wish you had made hors d'oeuvres."

                      I've even had all-chocolate parties.

                      If you don't want to do the work yourself, do you have a bakery in your neighborhood that would do exactly what you want? That's really the easiest, and it can turn out to be not much more expensive.

                      Some of my favorite things include:
                      a smashingly fabulous white chocolate cake
                      flourless chocolate torte
                      madeleines made with orange zest and dipped in chocolate
                      mini-tarts with lemon curd
                      mini-tarts with seasonal fruit on top of creme patissiere (btw, how many of you spell the substance "patissiere," and how many "patisserie?)
                      a cookie tray (c.c., Oatmeal, lemon, pecan, something caramel)
                      creme brulee
                      old-fashioned chocolate buttermilk cake.

                      Of course, you can make them (or have them made) in full-size or bite-size. I think it's nice to do two full-sized and four finger-food sized desserts. There's just something about a nice thick slab of cake on a plate that doesn't come across in a mini.

                      and I forgot all about chocolate/raspberry something

                      and strawberries dipped in chocolate and white chocolate.

                      and fondue

                      1. re: Jay F

                        After reading that I am rummaging for every sweet thing in my house from Ghirardelli squares to cookies I should have thrown away .... thank you! What amazing ideas. FAB-u-lous!

                  2. You don't need validation.

                    You need luck, or lots of elves helping you.

                    That's an ambitious menu.

                    Good luck, my friend, good luck.

                    1. I'll just say that I wouldn't be surpised if several if not most people will not have already eaten dinner and will be using your party as dinner. I don't think it would hurt to throw a big protein in there somewhere. Pork roasts are $1.99 at costco . . .

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: Rick

                        From the menu, I assumed the OP was trying to avoid having too many meat items ( the chicken stock could be swapped for vegetable stock in the dolmades and they would also be vegetarian), but if not, you can't really go wrong with frozen meatballs + really good BBQ sauce + crockpot.

                        But, in my experience, people don't really like to conspicuously chow down at parties and even the crudite tray will disappear before the protein-in-a-pot.

                        1. re: Raids

                          I've had opposite experience at parties. People seem to chow down at my parties. I made a 7 pound bone in pork roast for New Years, 14 people and there was barely any meat left on the bone after we were done. This was in addition to appetizers, side dishes, and salad.

                          1. re: Rick

                            I would agreed with you in intent Rick, which is - don't assume people would have eaten beforehand. But in terms of execution, I'd do something more in lines of a cocktail party. Sausages in puff pastry. (you can cut up the vegetarian sausages) or chicken and tofu satay. You can just marinate extra firm tofu in lime juice and thai curry paste and sear on both sides. Just serve both the chicken and tofu on skewers to dip on the tofu.

                            1. re: Dcfoodblog

                              Yes, your suggestions are definitely better than my pork loin suggestion considering the type of party lol! I just think that especially with a bunch of grad students, and an 8pm party time, I'm thinking a lot of people won't have already had dinner

                              1. re: Rick

                                Yep. The 8pm time would be dinner for those of us with job-jobs. Thinking about getting home from work, changing and getting to the party, I wouldn't have time to eat a meal beforehand. When you mentioned pork, a great thing I did was to do pork loin and chutney sandwiches on little brioche rolls. Like sliders.

                            2. re: Rick

                              Oh no, people chow down, just not conspicuously, i.e. they'll repeatedly grab things off of a plate, but won't lift a lid 12 times in one night.

                              So maybe you've got the right idea - who would bother taking a small serving of pork roast? One heaping plate each for 14 people = stripped bones and no leftovers. :-)

                        2. Just a thought...

                          Sloppy Joes... Kept hot in a crockpot... With nice buns, not the kind that get soggy...


                          1. Grad students, huh? I think they will scarf it all down as dinner, too. I would do as folks are saying - wait to put food out - have simple stuff and only a few time-consuming dishes - augment your favs with store-bought quality items. My only addition is that, if it's to be a late party, bring out some platters of small breads/rolls and meats at the end of the party. It's thoughtful to people who've been drinking to bring out "sober-up" food (even if they've only had a few cocktails). And, when you do, turn up a light or two. It's a signal that all parties end, and this one's gonna, too.

                            1. Perhaps my friends are not well versed in entertaining, but the most they've done was homemade latkes and spinach-onion dip. Tons of chips and booze. I was stressing out when I entertained this summer as it was my 1st time; I made sandwiches on crusty bread with olive spread, homemade guac and several other snacks... it was more than enough food and the guests loved it. Most people want good company and some drinkies/munchies; anything else is icing on the cake. Your menu sounds awesome.

                              1. my last post never made it, so i'll try to remember...
                                grad students + after dark = dinner :)
                                -if you decide to go savory, and want a meaty option, i love making satay skewers... whatever meat is on sale. and i did a riff on bittman's satay sauce for a wedding and it was gone. they hold well to and easy to prep ahead.
                                -i'd also consider doing something that provides inherent variations with same basic prep i.e. pinwheel - layer, roll, slice and vary the insides. prolly not what you want to serve but potato skins are the same way (could go gourmet-er and use sweet potatoes and nice fillings).
                                -i also find a tray of roasted veggies goes a long way as well. and/or sliced roasted sweet potatoes and/or beets with goat or feta cheese and rosemary and chives.
                                -as others have suggested, i think fruit is a nice option, either a platter or a salad tossed with a nice lime and honey drizzle

                                if you do decide to go dessert-y, make a bunch of bars to go with the bar ;)

                                good luck - sure your friend will have a wonderful birthday!

                                1. If meat is still an option, how about a muffeletta? Hearty, and gets better as the flavors meld.

                                  3 Replies
                                    1. re: Tehama

                                      Tehama, please let us know what menu you decided upon this for your celebration.

                                      1. re: KatoK

                                        Hey Kato! Judging from the amount of recycling I have been cleaning up today, I think the party was a success. I took some great photos I was going to post, but my camera has gone MIA... hmmmm? Under a lampshade?

                                        From a bakery I ordered petit fours and dessert sliders (similar to: http://www.chow.com/recipes/12130-sho...) and I made the Chow lemon squares which were really delish! (http://www.chow.com/recipes/12130-sho...


                                        For the menu, I actually stuck to menu I had originally posted above, except I took the advice about not making the Gougères. The Summer Rolls and the Ham & Pineapple Skewers were easily the biggest hits of the night from what I cooked. One of my friends also brought cajun chicken salad and fried turkey tenderloin with super-soft rolls for sandwiches and those were AWESOME! I'm loving the leftovers.

                                        All in all - a very successful party and I appreciate your asking and everyone's help above.

                                        THANKS AGAIN! Happy Chowing! :-)