Sunday, December 7, 2008

Cocktail Open House Wrap Up: What I have learned

This weekend's party was big and well attended but was intended to be even larger: Twelve people begged off the night before or day of. We won't even discuss those who neither called nor attended. The invite was "regrets only" since the party was an open house which anticipates people coming and going throughout the afternoon. Regrets. As in: If I don't hear from you, I'll see you there. I won't make mention again of how very much I detest waste...

In any event, we have not sent a regrets-only invite in many years around here, and I while I love the concept, we probably will not do this again. We have a couple of other fabulous invites to great annual holiday parties on the fridge and they all require an RSVP by the week before. While none are open houses, the potential for waste in food, set ups, liquor, and space is an equal danger and I would prefer to have these be more accurate at future events.

The subject of whether the culture has ventured too far from good manners to issue a regrets-only invite is beyond the scope of this post but I genuinely hope this is not the case. I know one regimented Navy-spouse hostess who does not fool around on this point: She said she keeps a scrapbook of all her gatherings with her guest lists, menus, photos, and notes. She told me that she returns to her notes on old guest lists and does not reinvites those who have not RSVP'd or showed, "Life is too short," she said, "not to concentrate on inviting those who really would enjoy attending." I find it difficult to disagree but I am still thinking this over. It will take some time to speak to other hostesses and service people and get their feelings on the subject.

We had several passed hors d'oeuvres which found different fates:

1. Pulled pork tostones: The pork shoulder and ten plantains yielded about 8 dozen which was far more than I needed and still left half the pork shoulder unused.

2. Mini antipasto on rosemary skewers: Beautiful and extremely frustrating. They did not thread easily, could not hold both the sopresseta and the cheese causing the cheese which was far too crumbly to need real toothpicks. Myself and several other vinegar lovers really liked the marinade, those who do not care for pickled items did not. This is unavoidable: Not all foods at a party will cater to every palate.

3. Lobster stuffed mushrooms: Were a great hit with guests and yours truly. They were easy to make and freeze, tasty, and perfectly bite sized.

4. Salmon and creme fraiche on buckwheat blini: I just ran out of time on these and did not have the counter space in the two hours before the party to execute this item. I do not feel they were missed. I will probably make these into a great pot luck item for something I am going to this weekend.

In hindsight, I would keep the mushrooms and would certainly make the tostones again for an even larger party. For this number I will reduce the passed items to three items and continue to test recipes for something people enjoyed as much as the mushrooms.

We also had a small-bite buffet on the dining room table intended to be safe at room temperature over several hours:

1. Grilled tenderloin with horseradish sauce and caper toast: Was popular and I thought, delicious. These two peeled tenderloin cuts came from Stew Leonards butcher and I would recommend them to you. The will remove the silver skin and tie them for you.

2. Spiral sliced brown sugar ham with buttermilk biscuits and mustard assortment: There was a lot of discussion in the family before hand as to whether sliced or whole hams have more flavor. It may very well be true the solid ham is the better of the two, however: I am seven months pregnant with a lot of guests to think of, an ambitious labor-intensive menu, and another infant to care for. I no more want to slice up a ten pound hunk of pork than I wanted to make individual souffles for 70! I was okay with the pre-sliced ham and in the end people enjoyed it.
The cheddar and parm biscuits were the most popular and a significant investment in mustard was not at all necessary and I will pass on it the next time.

3. Grilled pineapple display: I thought it was a great food display item and it was tasty but I think it was too intimidating for people who had not seen this method before (very popular in the 1950's and not really since) and they did not know how to approach it. I still love it and will try to put this big crazy thing back in vogue single-handedly.

4. Bread stick and palmier display: Different venues than ones own home can mean different priorities. There was a lot that needed dealt with in the two days before the party which were not food related. Bread sticks and palmiers need to be made the same day and this became impossible. We went with Grissini Bread sticks and a cracker assortment from Balducci's who choose their items painstakingly. They worked fine.

5. Cheese station: One of the issues we had logistically was that we needed to reduce the size of the dining/ buffet table to accommodate more sitting space. We had to pull two large leaves from the table causing us to reduce the space allotment for the two largest space concerns: cheeses and dips. Beautiful displays for these gems require multiple bowls or vessels and eat up space. I was forced to pull the delicious shallot thyme cheese cake and the liver mousse altogether. Margaret suggested I label the cheeses in the future: This goes to the Hostesses own sensitivity to cheese types in the end and I do not have one. I am an equal opportunity cheese consumer and will try anything, I continue to be hopeful others feel likewise.

6. The bar: The punch worked out well and everyone returned for seconds. There was a good deal of booze in the punch but it was not discernible evidently. We had stocked a lot of hard liquor which was not as popular by far as wine and punch, as we suspected. Nonetheless, Mom is a believer that one should always have a stocked bar and mixers on hand and is not comfortable with the concept of well drinks. I have to agree that if you can afford it it is the only way to cover all the booze bases.

That is a brief bit of my thoughts. Tomorrow I will discuss the issue with the rental items once I know the end of the story.

Check in at Blushing Hostess over the next few days for the pictures. Happy party planning, ya'll.

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