May 29, 2012

Antipasti. Alfresco. Amour.

My first apartment was on Tenth Street, between 1st & A, in the East Village.  In that studio, I threw my first solo dinner parties.  There were theme parties (my first Oscar party was a potluck, each guest was assigned a movie to inspire a dish), plenty of Sex and the City marathons with take-out and my first 'baby shower' when I got George (miniature dachshund).  But my go-to party was to run around the corner to Russo's Mozzarella and Pasta, and pick out some real-deal Italian meats & cheese.  What else does one need for a party?  Maybe some cannolis from Veniero's next door and good friends to bring the wine.  I loved sampling their selections and got addicted to the rush of bringing my packages home and unwrapping them onto newly purchased Martha Stewart for Kmart dishes (a cooler girl might reference flea market finds, but I wasn't there yet!).  Then the good friends came and the fun was had.  Fast forward a few years and the formula remains tried & true.  People love to snack and Italians make the best snacks.  Assembling meat & cheese platters with fresh & pickled vegetables, and plenty of good breadsticks and bread, is a solid spread for a cocktail party.  On this night, we continued the festivities to dinner:  a spaghetti & meatball feed.  The ultimate comfort food.  I've been craving spumoni so we created our version with cups of pistachio, black cherry & chocolate gelatos.  Better than a cannoli!  Some things never change, while others get better with age...
The Menu


sweet vermouth, campari, gin, orange peel

snacks...aka antipasti

meat & cheese boards:

cherry tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, castelvetrano olives & stuffed peppers

pecorino, parmigiano reggiano & gorgonzola cheeses

fennel salami, spicy salami, mortadella, soppressata & breseola

crostini board:
sardine, capers & lemon
basil pesto, burrata & red pepper flakes
fava beans & mint

to share

spaghetti & grass-fed meatballs with spicy tomato basil sauce

sauteed zucchini & squash blossoms

grilled asparagus with pecorino & mint

radicchio, arugula & bitter lettuces with extra virgin olive oil & lemon

olive oil bread


pistachio, black cherry & chocolate gelatos

May 18, 2012

Out of Africa

Apres-fete means after party.  The best kind of after party is the morning after: leftovers, debriefing & rehashing.  Our 'Out of Africa' party made for the best apres-fete to date.  Greg, Amy and I reminisced the entire next day (with plenty of bird's eye margaritas.)  There was a lot to discuss: the guests, the food, the psychic, the henna, the photo booth, the fire pit, the dancing, the tents, the booze.  The celebration was a 30th birthday for our friend who had the trip of a lifetime--a luxury African safari--at Jack's Camp.  That memorable vacation, coupled with the film, became our inspiration for the theme party.  The look was Ralph Lauren, rustic luxury in a garden setting.  Guests arrived to the front lawn, greeted by a roaring bonfire.  We rented luxury camping tents from Shelter Co. and set up our bar in one, and a psychic in another.  Just as Meryl Streep's character brings her china & crystal to her farm in Africa, we brought out the good stuff into the fresh air.  Beautiful whiskey bottles on silver trays, set on dark wood tables, created a cozy, lush bar.  The cocktail "sundowners" menu (see below) gave enough options to get the party going.  Between visits to the raw bar, henna artist & psychic healer, guests enjoyed hors d'oeuvres passed by our linen-clad servers.  My favorite appetizer was a biltong (South African beef jerky) crostini with ricotta, jalapeno rhubarb jam & cilantro.  After cocktail hour, the party moved into the big tent for a four course sit-down dinner & dancing.  We couldn't have been more excited when we discovered Zephyr Tents, who have gorgeous tents made of sail cloth (forget the shiny vinyl!).  Amy created the world of Jack's Camp, and the spirit of the movie, inside of the tent.  Dozens of gorgeous palm trees were brought in and she placed even more leaves down the long table set for eighty.  Antique lanterns and hundreds of votives created a sense of mystery through lighting.  Table sections were assigned different animals--elephant, giraffe, lions, etc.--and Amy labeled them all with gold-embossed stamped signs.  This menu was a true pleasure to plan and prepare.  The birthday boy had shared a story with me about an ostrich sighting while on safari.  That memory inspired a course of scrambled ostrich eggs, served in their shells, accompanied by arctic char gravlax, sourdough toast soldiers, creme fraiche & chives.  Another highlight of the family-style meal was roast suckling pig, which paired perfectly with a hominy & green chili souffle.  After dinner there was plenty of dancing (think Jay Z & Kanye's Welcome to the Jungle) and then it was back to the bonfire for s'mores (and more of the brown stuff).  I hope the party was as much of a fantasy to attend as it was to create.  The greater the theme, the greater the party and the greater the party, the greater the apres-fete.  This was a great one.

The Menu


the hemingway
gin & tonic

bird's eye margarita
silver tequila, lime, mint, african bird's eye chili

the meerkat
vodka, ginger beer, lime

the redford
bourbon, cherry bitters, orange

the meryl
vodka or gin, dirty sue olive juice, up

jack's camp
liquor of choice, house sour


raw bar

minted english peas, burrata & chili oil crostini

biltong (south african beef jerkey), jalapeno rhubarb compote, ricotta & cilantro crostini

buffalo bone marrow, capers, lemon & parsley crostini

alligator sausage skewers with spicy mustard & curried ketchup

sit style

arctic char gravlax

sourdough soldiers

letttuces. vinaigrette

ostrich eggs.  creme fraiche.  chives

suckling pig

hominy.  green chilis.  sharp cheddar

lobster.  pele pele ho ho butter

rib-eye.  chimichurri

french leeks

asparagus.  lemon


beignets & chicory coffee

banana pudding cups

fireside s'mores