Monday, January 14, 2013

New Year's Eve 2012: Jazz, Drinks, and Hors D'Oeuvres

New Year's Eve 2011 was a night longed to recapture throughout the entire year following it; the first party I threw on my own. So as New Year's Eve 2012 (and my birthday) rolled around again I was excited to celebrate in style and aimed to match or top last year's Moroccan fĂȘte. The Moroccan bug had bitten me hard last year. There was no turning back once I'd set the menu - full of tagines and salads. I waffled a lot over this year’s theme but finally decided on “Jazz” and opted to serve only appetizers. The idea carried through tremendously well.

This year's party was in my new apartment, which is luckily a lot bigger than my old place . Throughout the course of the night almost everyone that had been invited, plus guests of theirs showed up! My home felt full and joyous, never crowded and stuffy. Everyone brought sparkling wines, and their own beverages of choice. A few of my friends even brought a signature cocktail - the Wild Hibiscus Royale made with whole hibiscus flowers in syrup, rose water, mint and topped with sparkling wine. Floral and bubbly - just my style! As the jazz music improvised and played on a full and vibrant menu was served.... 

To start, I decided I had to have a homemade vegetable platter – done in my style. The ladies of my family always make their own vegetable platters for parties; why pay someone to breakdown and arrange raw produce? My way includes: celery and carrots (never baby carrots), red pepper (no need for gassy green or other colors), cucumber spears (better than crinkle cut rounds), green beans (a favorite of my Aunt Maureen’s vegetable tray), and finally cauliflower (a different splash of color than broccoli and one of my favorite things to eat everyday). The arrangement was done by alternating the green selections amid the rainbow of colors around a dish of homemade (but admittedly rather flavorless) yogurt and herb dip:
20121231-img_0946 Next was creating a fruit platter I’d want to see served at a party. In general I avoid fruit salads when I’m out and about in the world. So much melon! Damn filler fruit! My guests deserved a mix of luscious fresh and dried (it is winter, after all) fruits. Blood oranges made an appearance last year in the romaine and orange flower water salad so they were in, along with navel oranges. Grapes, watermelon, blueberries and strawberries are always party pleasers so they joined, too. Then I happily found cherries at Fairway so they made the cut and for dried fruit I chose apricots and cranberries. In all, it was the most colorful platter on the table:
For the main appetizers I went with a mix of hot and room temperature choices to make for easy timing throughout the evening. Last year’s planning happened quickly and organically way ahead of December 31st thanks to Paula Wolfert’s wonderful tome on Moroccan cuisine. Literally a few days before this year’s party I found myself scrambling for hors d’oeuvre ideas I could easily make without too much preparation. I hit the cookbooks hard and came out with a stellar mix of recipes from some of my go-to cookbook authors and a few creations of my own.

Cheryl Sternman Rule’s Ripe became one of my favorite cookbooks in the time it took me to get home on the 6 train from the IACP Book and Blog Festival this past April. I’d made her Watercress Butter over the summer and saw it spread on water crackers and being gobbled down by my guests. My predictions were spot on and full mouths questioned “mmm, what is this!?” The garlic and lemon laden appetizer was a total pleaser.