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Dinner Party Ideas - Need Help Thinking Of ...


hey_brookie
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Hello all-

I was hoping you might be able to help me out of this one. My best friend from college is coming to visit me this weekend--she is moving here, so I thought it might be nice to have some people over for cocktails and food so that she has a chance to get to know some of my friends in advance. I've told people to come hungry, though my small one bedroom apartment isn't really conducive to a sit-down multi-course meal, so we'll be going for more of a very heavy hors d'ouvres table accompanied by lots of wine type of thing.

My best friend and I love to cook, and we're pretty adventurous, so we thought we'd take an inventory of my fridge (which I supplemented last night with a trip to the shop), and try our hands at a market-basket type of thing, with an Italian theme. Hearty foods that people can put on a small plate and eat standing up is what I have in mind.

I figure if anyone would have any great ideas, it would be you guys. Have at it, if you like!

So, here's what we got:

Proteins
A bunch of very thin slices of very tasty proscuitto
Thinly sliced home-made pepperoni from my neighbor
A pork tenderloin
Lots of shrimp
Bacon!

Veg/fruits
Baby portabellas
Broccoli
Butternut squash (already peeled and diced, but still raw)
Dates! Thousands of them, also from my neighbor
2 large sweet Vidalia onions
Shallots
cherry tomatoes
Frozen peaches left over from the summer
Thousands of Yukon gold potatoes
A couple of sweet potatoes

Breads
Lavash breads (I thought for roll-up type sandwiches)
Phylo dough
Italian herbed pizza dough from Trader Joe's (I know! My boyfriend bought it)
Will buy crusty bread the day of

Sauces I make and keep stocked
Pesto
Vodka marinara (just need to add the cream and reheat)
Bruscetta? (uncooked, finely chopped tomatoes, onions, eggplant, oregano basil and lots of garlic with lots of good olive oil)
Uber-reduced beef stock and red wine

Cheeses
Mascarpone
Fresh mozzarella in salted water from the farmer's market
Chevre
Smoked Gouda
Fresh ricotta from the farmer's market

Other
Home-made artichoke and mushroom and ricotta ravioli (again, from the neighbor)
Just about every type of pasta shape

What would you serve?


N.B.- We love to cook because we love to eat, and have both been told we're good at it, but we are by no means as good as most of you. Given a mission, though, I think we can deliver.

My tiny kitchen is stocked with all the basics, including fresh and dried spices, butter, flour and oils and vinegars. I'm not opposed to buying a couple of things at the last minute.

Edited by DonRocks
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An obvious one would be making a pizza with the trader joe's pizza crust with pesto, cherry tomatoes, and little globs of ricotta cheese (or other toppings of choice)

cheese plate with the prosciutto and various cheeses

butternut squash soup served in little shot glasses, buy some creme fraishe and drizzle a little on top

buy some bacon and do some bacon wrapped dates, tapas style

if you wanted to do one dish that was a "main course" roast the pork tenderloin, caramalize the onions, make mash potatoes and do a reduced red wine/stock pan sauce.

cook down the mushrooms with the shallots and any fresh herbs and mix with the chevre and then make little phyllo dough pouches, little egg wash bake in oven until golden brown.

peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream

Edited by Tweaked
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Good ideas, thanks!

For the bacon-wrapped dates, can I bake them?  Do I fry them? 

Also, will the pork tenderloin be good at room temperature?

I believe the bacon-wrapped dates are baked in the oven...you should be able to find a recipe pretty easy on the internet.

the pork tenderloin would be good at room temp, but then I would serve it more as a sandwich or roll up type thing like JPW suggested...although I'd still do the caramalized onions as a topping they would still be good. perhaps a drizzle of the pesto...yum!

Edited by Tweaked
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Pit the dates and stuff them with mascarpone and sprinkle with fleur de sel.

Make a white bean (canned are ok) spread with roasted garlic, olive oil and a little lemon juice and zest for crostini or crusty bread. If you pre-spread on toasts, add some roasted red pepper strips and chiffonade of fresh basil on top.

Consider making a bagna cauda as a dip for crudites.

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Pit the dates and stuff them with mascarpone and sprinkle with fleur de sel.

I haven't had these Komi dates that are getting raves, but are they baked at all? (I think the term 'caramelized' was used to describe them) I'm wondering how mascarpone doesn't ooze out of a warm date, though.

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Wrapping a chunk of peach with proscuitto and sticking a toothpick through it could be a fun starter. Possibly with a little of that fresh mozz. Or skip the peach and just serve the proscuitto and mozz already bound together somehow. Room temp.

I would stuff the dates with the mascarpone and serve them warm, and save the bacon for wrapping the shrimp. Bacon-wrapped shrimp are very easy in the oven.

Depending on how many shallots you have, there's a recipe for shallot confit in the All About Braising cookbook that I could PM you -- apparently it comes out jammy-flavored and would therefore be really nice on the crusty bread with a smear of cheese. Bet that would be good with chevre.

As a main-ish dish, you can brown the butternut squash cubes in butter with shallots and serve them over buttered pasta with a dollop of ricotta.

Lots to work with here! Best of luck!

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You can make some stuffed phyllo triangles (for lack of a better word)*. Make some fillings with the cheeses, potatoes, squash, etc. You can also line small cupcake tins with squares of phyllo, fill them, and bake them off. These are both good for finger food.

*Cut the phyllo in strips and put some filling on one end and then wrap up like those paper footballs from Junior High. It is like folding a flag.

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Chevre, bacon, breadcrumb, herb stuffed baby portobellos?

And maybe fry the ravioli (boil to al dente, dredge w/ egg and breadcrumbs and pan fry until brown and crispy) and serve w/ a toothpick to make them easier to eat standing up.

Edited by AlliK
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The Komi dates are served warm, but I don't believe they're cooked. They're also drizzled with evoo.

Wrap the shrimp in some bacon and broil. Skewer with toothpicks and serve with a homemade aioli, which would also make a great dip for oven roasted potato chunks. And the cherry tomatoes. And the baby portobellos...

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Ok, so this is my normal pre-big event freak out.  I always do this, but I have found that the loving information given to me by everyone on this forum really helps calm me down and makes sense of everything for me.

I am having a big Valentine's Day Party with some live music from a couple really cool people I love- the Honey Dewdrops and Caleb Stine.  We don't know exactly how many people are going to attend yet because well getting RSVPs from people is like pulling teeth.  I want the food to be not extremely tough to prepare but nice and pretty.  We will probably cater from the Italian Store some items for the main course.  So some thoughts and I would like input.

I will probably buy a big box of salad and make a homemade dressing for it, I will probably leave it simple in case of anyone with allergies- no nuts, etc.  I was going to make some loaves of a really quick homemade foccacia bread I like, and have olive oil and balsamic at the tables for dipping.  Main entrees:  I am debating on these, I thought about the sage penne, chicken marsala, and then either ordering sauteed veggies or making grilled veggies myself, and can't think what else would be good paired with that for variety- maybe veal parmigana that just sounds so heavy.  I like the idea of the clam pasta.  I could also go red sauce, get veggie lasagna, meatballs, spaghetti.

I will make capresse skewers too.  I was trying to think of some other good easy, and pretty appetizers that I could either make or buy.  I really like the spinach, kale balls from Trader Joes.

I have a small gluten free cake in the freezer, I could order a dessert tray or just some cannolis.  I thought about making heart sugar cookies with a thin glaze icing or rice crispy treats dipped in pink icing, but that isn't very Italian... but does the dessert need to be Italian themed?  Maybe some amaretto cake pops?  I would like to do a few different desserts for variety.

What are your thoughts.  If you were having a big party on Valentine's Day that you wanted to be special for people, not be really expensive and something that wouldn't take days to prepare, what would you make?

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You leave the contours of your party somewhat indistinct. Will there be a people-standing-around-with-drinks-and-finger-food phase to it? If so, an obvious and perennial favorite is deviled eggs, which almost everyone loves. For a main course that's not very much work but again almost everyone loves, roast chicken. Marinate or not, but spatch-cock and roast as many chickens as you think your guests will eat. Disjoint before serving. The key is buying excellent chickens, which you can do pretty easily now, just not at Safeway.

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Thanks for the other thread, I didn't see that in the index before, don't know how I missed it.  We have tables and chairs- the event is in the community room of my condo, so I suspect people will sit to eat the main course, but may stand and nibble at other things, especially while the band plays.  

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I'd think chocolate truffles would be a good dessert offering for an Italian Valentine's Day party.  Giada de Laurentis has this recipe that includes a little balsamic.

As far as other items, what about some polenta?  Say, cheesy polenta squares.

ETA:  What about antipasto, either a platter or a salad with olives, artichokes, etc.?  If you don't want a lot of add-ins for the basic salad, one that's designed to be all "add-ins" might be good as a contrast.

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I just came across this recipe for an antipasto/buffet dish on a blog that features Italian home cooking. It should be able to be scaled upward to feed a crowd without too much trouble and shouldn't be too time intensive to make.  It looks like a good alternative to deviled eggs, so long as the sauce isn't too sloppy.  

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I just came across this recipe for an antipasto/buffet dish on a blog that features Italian home cooking. It should be able to be scaled upward to feed a crowd without too much trouble and shouldn't be too time intensive to make.  It looks like a good alternative to deviled eggs, so long as the sauce isn't too sloppy.  

I want a couple of those. Now.

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Aww, I love looking back on my other event freak outs.  Thanks guys for the support.  Ok, so new challenge.  Tomorrow night is birthday dinner for my Mom.  I am in charge of bringing dinner for all.  It will be at my brother's house as they just had a new baby.  I can cook stuff there if I have to do so.  My SIL eats GF, I thought about cross posting there.  My Mom is trying to eat really healthy so low carb/starch.  She said she wanted a nice salad.  But also something others would like healthy chicken or fish she said.  I have a board meeting tonight, but have some time before my meeting, so might stop into Society Fair or Baluduccis to peruse.  I also work in Reston tomorrow super close to the Whole Foods.  I will have a little time tomorrow and can do some stuff tonight after my board meeting.

I thought about putting together some salmon cakes, and then doing a big salad?  Anyone have a good recipe for gf salmon cakes or a recipe in general they like (I can adapt it)?  Or any other ideas? I have a lot going on and the creativity level is down.  If worst comes to worst I can pick up some chicken or salmon at Whole Foods.  I was going to put the big salad together there. For dessert I thought I could do fresh berries.  I thought about making gf shortcake biscuits.  I can't do whip cream, but they could, I thought about say a zabaglione sauce instead of shortcake?   I need simple, but good.

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Would you have access to a grill at your brother's so you could just do some simple grilled chicken and/or salmon to top the salads?  Pick up both tonight and marinate them (or even get something that is already in a marinade to save time). I was looking at this tandoori salmon recipe earlier today and thought it looked good. It's supposed to be pretty warm tomorrow; a nice big salad with some grilled protein sounds great!

For dessert, strawberries macerated with a bit of sugar and balsamic vinegar would be a simple topping for some ice cream, biscuits, or angel food cake, or just good on their own.

(I can't help you with salmon cakes - childhood trauma during Lent has kept them off my list for many years ;) )

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Would you have access to a grill at your brother's so you could just do some simple grilled chicken and/or salmon to top the salads?  Pick up both tonight and marinate them (or even get something that is already in a marinade to save time). I was looking at this tandoori salmon recipe earlier today and thought it looked good. It's supposed to be pretty warm tomorrow; a nice big salad with some grilled protein sounds great!

For dessert, strawberries macerated with a bit of sugar and balsamic vinegar would be a simple topping for some ice cream, biscuits, or angel food cake, or just good on their own.

(I can't help you with salmon cakes - childhood trauma during Lent has kept them off my list for many years ;) )

Unfortunately he just went through a big house remodel and the backyard is all torn up and they are now working there to finalize everything in the backyard, so no grill.  In the future it will be really nice he is building an outdoor pit/rotisserie/caja china which is pretty good size.  Balducci's in Old Town was horribly disappointing and I have to say I was a little surprised Society Fair looked a little slim, although it was Monday night.  I wish you could get gluten free bread there any night of the week.  I had never been to Balducci's before but it seems horribly worthless as a store to me, next time I will go to Whole Foods or Trader Joe's instead, live and learn.  I picked up strawberries and they are macerating.  I will go to Whole Foods soon and see what looks good and figure the rest out.  I have everything for GF shortcakes.

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Went to Whole Foods, picked up salmon and put together a big salad.  I also got some of their quinoa, zucchini and chickpeas salad and some salmon.  Came home poached the salmon, cut and macerated strawberries.  Then I made gluten free bisquick shortcakes with lavender.  I wish I had some rose water syrup as they are a tiny bit dry, but the strawberries will hopefully get pretty juicy.  Then I put together the ingredients for the Cooking Light classic salmon cakes subbing panko for gluten free bread crumbs and pan fried them.  Made a vinaigrette for the salad.  Will warm up everything when I get to the brothers house.  I also picked up some soy whip cream, we will see how that tastes (yay Whole Foods), I will subjugate my family to it once.  Also will bring for those who can eat gluten some sourdough from Boudin Bakery. Hopefully will be tasty. 

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OK, DR friends need some serious help here. I am attending a family reunion in Taos in a month. I will have to cook dinner for about 35 people (adventurous eaters, some vegetarians, some diabetic, no little kids) one night. These dinners get quite competitive with each cook trying to out do the last. Menu plans so far include grilled platters; biryanis; a home style Indian feast; and tagines.

I had planned to do a sort of a bahn mi bar -- bolillos standing in for baguettes and fillings that include lemongrass tofu; eggplant meatballs; caramelized pork and some sort of chicken. I figured the diabetics and carb-haters can always make a "bowl" out of the offerings. Plus a couple of salads, including the amazing Crunchy Ginger Salad from Naomi Daguid's Burma.

Problem: I am wondering if the bahn mi bar will be too reminiscent of lunch... sandwiches, after all.

Any thoughts? Also, I am stumped for ideas for aps and dessert. Please help me save my culinary honor.

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OK, DR friends need some serious help here. I am attending a family reunion in Taos in a month. I will have to cook dinner for about 35 people (adventurous eaters, some vegetarians, some diabetic, no little kids) one night. These dinners get quite competitive with each cook trying to out do the last. Menu plans so far include grilled platters; biryanis; a home style Indian feast; and tagines.

I had planned to do a sort of a bahn mi bar -- bolillos standing in for baguettes and fillings that include lemongrass tofu; eggplant meatballs; caramelized pork and some sort of chicken. I figured the diabetics and carb-haters can always make a "bowl" out of the offerings. Plus a couple of salads, including the amazing Crunchy Ginger Salad from Naomi Daguid's Burma.

Problem: I am wondering if the bahn mi bar will be too reminiscent of lunch... sandwiches, after all.

Any thoughts? Also, I am stumped for ideas for aps and dessert. Please help me save my culinary honor.

Question: Are you set on the banh mi bar?

Because if the answer is "no," I think it should be yes.

What a wonderful time you could have with this. Go with rich meats and pátés, plum sauce to make one reminiscent of pho, etc.

Hell, go to Red Apron and buy your meats.

And for a starch (other than bread?), a cross between Matchbox's shoestring fries and Durkee O&C Potato Sticks, except use carrots and turnips, and put them on the sandwiches. :)

Everything you list here sounds amazing. Do it! And serve nothing cold; everything at room temperature. It'll be a smash!

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I like the idea of the banh mi bar.  Only some of it will be sandwiches (i.e., there's the bowl option), and there's no reason you can't have sandwiches for dinner anyway  :) .

For dessert, I'd go with something creamy--maybe a vanilla pudding or rice pudding (though that might not work for diabetics) with some fruit.  Or you could do yogurt and berries.  Could you do a soup as an appetizer/first course?  It doesn't have to be pho or pho-like, but that would certainly fit.  A cold avocado soup would be excellent if you want to go that direction.  I have a reliable recipe for that if you want it.

Or what about something like these crab filled mini wonton cups for an app?

I guess if you've got family there, you're familiar with the shopping options and availability.  Last time I was there, I found shopping options fairly limited, at least for what I was searching for.

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I like the bahn mi bar too!  Or instead of the bowl get big pieces of lettuce for lettuce wrap sandwiches.  The pickled veg for that is so easy to make and so tasty.  I love Pat's idea for the avocado soup to go with it.  What about like mango or passionfruit pudding or something that seems exotic for dessert?  You could do garden rolls or spring rolls as apps if you wanted to step up the game a bit too or a nice papaya salad.

I think if you have a central vision, go with it.  We could all think of other full dinners, but I think this idea sounds lovely.

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I like the idea of the banh mi bar.  Only some of it will be sandwiches (i.e., there's the bowl option), and there's no reason you can't have sandwiches for dinner anyway  :) .

For dessert, I'd go with something creamy--maybe a vanilla pudding or rice pudding (though that might not work for diabetics) with some fruit.  Or you could do yogurt and berries.  Could you do a soup as an appetizer/first course?  It doesn't have to be pho or pho-like, but that would certainly fit.  A cold avocado soup would be excellent if you want to go that direction.  I have a reliable recipe for that if you want it.

Or what about something like these crab filled mini wonton cups for an app?

I guess if you've got family there, you're familiar with the shopping options and availability.  Last time I was there, I found shopping options fairly limited, at least for what I was searching for.

Thanks all. I will stick with the idea.

Pat, I would love the recipe for avocado soup. Also, thanks for the heads up about slim shopping options. I don't have family there. We are just going to descend upon Taos and stay in 3 rented houses. We have does this to several other unsuspecting communities... the best reaction to seeing a bunch of  Indians and a few white folk came from the folks in Snowshoe, WVA. Especially, when we started an impromptu cricket match in a vacant lot next to a gas station.

I will be sure to let you know how it goes over. Until then, any other ideas are still welcome.

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So, I have this weird situation where my fridge isn't full, but it isn't empty, but it has weird things in it.  I also need a few things from the grocery store, but don't want to go all out because we are going away this weekend for a long weekend, to a rental house, where I also probably should bring a few things for our house and my families houses (2) that are hosting Autumn Glory parties. But I will have limited time Friday night/Saturday morning to cook before those parties on Saturday.

I have a TON of carrots, green peppers, potatoes and grape tomatoes in the fridge that need to be used. I will use some for dinner and lunches this week, but probably not a ton.   The houses that there will be parties likely will already get veg platters and hummus, etc, so trying to be more creative.

Additionally, I have some very thin cracker like flatbreads that I thought might be good to take into one of the parties, but am trying to figure out some good toppings, ideally I could bake them, find a way to transport, and then set out, so toppings that wouldn't create a mushy flatbread after transportation would be good or that I could add raw at the end once I get them were they are going would be ideal.  At home I have Parmesan, chevre and shredded mozz cheese, garlic, olive tapenade, pepperoni, apples, pesto, red sauce, cooked sausage I could crumble.  I can also buy something to work with some of this.  And good ideas for tasty combos?

I also have a lot of pickled vegetables (different cucumber pickles, pickled carrots), and a few meat items and could make bring them up to make a charcuterie board, but I don't know how well that would go over.  I don't know if the people that come to our houses to party are charcuterie people.

There are always a lot of sweets, so I don't really want to bring sweets and I ideally want to use some of the weird stuff in my house because it bothers me when things go to waste. But I am not opposed to going out and buying some stuff, as I do need to do a grocery run, but if I could do that at a small Giant, Whole Foods or TJs then I could do it on the way home from work, which I would prefer.  

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You could make stuffed baked potato halves with the crumbled sausage or pepperoni, peppers, garlic, tomatoes mixed with some cheese and perhaps pesto and/or red sauce...pizza taters. Pre-cook the sausage so that when the potatoes are stuffed, they just need to be warmed at the venue.

What about a vinaigrette based potato salad using the peppers and some of the pickled vegetables or tapenade? Maybe the pesto in the mix?

Red sauce poured over a log of chèvre, and then baked till bubbly, is divine spread any bread or cracker. I've never added pesto, but assume that would just be more divine.

What about a sort of cold "muffaletta" topping for the flatbreads? Diced carrots and peppers, tapenade, diced meats, some of that shredded cheese, pickled vegetables...if everything is finely diced it wouldn't be too messy and the topping would taste better after hours of marination.

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So... I am going to make a cheese ball tonight with some of the cheese I have, I really have a lot of cheese.  I managed to use a lot of carrots this week in dinner, but bought some good Cava hummus at Whole Foods.  Bringing for the flatbreads: tapenade, chevre AND muffaletta idea stuff AND pesto, sausage, some sort of cheese and some thinly sliced apple.  I really think the potato skins will be a hit so I might make those too, with the sausage/apple/pesto/cheese or muffaletta toppings those are perfect.  We will see how much time I have... If not, we will have baked potato wedges some night with dinner or breakfast potatoes.

I feel like I am terrible at making potato salad which would be easier than the stuffed potatoes, but I just don't have a good recipe for, any favorites?

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I made a birthday dinner for 9 adults and 2 kids this weekend-

Appetizers: Whipped feta dip (feta, EVOO, herbs, salt, pepper), hummus, crudite, pita (The kiddos love- a bread, and raw veggies and hummus)

Main Menu: Hubby smoked a full rack of ribs and grilled the chicken, steak and veggie kabobs I made.  I made rice in the instant pot. Big Greek salad with homemade Greek dressing. (Kiddos picked at a skewer, at some chicken and rice)

Dessert: Tres Leches cake from PanAmerica Bakery (Of course the kiddos ate this...)

It could be- vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, low carb, dairy free depending on what you ate... I had no idea some of the guests eating restrictions so I just tried to go as neutral as I could.  We ended up with pretty much no leftovers, but I don't think anyone left hungry, so I think we did good.

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