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Jan 9, 2011 09:45 AM

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 (
)*Caramelized Onion Dip with William Poll Potato Thins (
)*Gougères (
)*Spinach dip & Stacy's Pita Chips
*Ham & Pineapple Skewers (
)*Shrimp Summer Rolls (


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!